Revisiting the Failings of the Jewish Left

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The history of the State of Israel is grounded in progressive-left Zionism and progressive-left Zionism has failed both the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

There is a reason that the Soviet Union was so quick to recognize Israel in May of 1948 and that reason is because Stalin understood that David Ben Gurion was a socialist and believed that Jewish ideals of social justice could be used in the service of the great ideological endeavor which was Soviet Communism.  In the early history of the Cold War it was up for grabs whether Israel would side with the Soviet Union or the United States in the struggle between American capitalism and its Russian and Chinese rivals.

It quickly became clear, however, that Israel, despite its socialist roots and the tradition of the kibbutzim, was not going to side with the Soviets in the Cold War.  Although Israel remains a country heavily influenced by the ideals of social democracy – more so than in the United States – it has in recent decades moved closer toward the sensibilities of competitive capitalism.  Benjamin Netanyahu, himself, is well-known for his free market economic reforms as the Israeli Finance Minister between 2003 and 2005.

Nonetheless, within diaspora Jewry, the main political strain is that of the progressive-left.

Most American Jews come out of this movement.  We tend to be heavily influenced by the rise of economic progressivism, as it emerged under Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression, as well as the rise of the Civil Rights Movement following World War II and the blatant cruelties of the Nazis and the injustices of the Jim Crow south in the United States.  Western diaspora Jews have tended to favor the rise of women’s rights and gay rights and the rights of ethnic minorities.  This is, in part, because of the Holocaust, which led the post-Holocaust Jewish community to favor the movements for social justice and universal human rights within which the progressive-left allegedly grounds itself.

The Jewish people were integral to the movements for social justice in the latter part of the twentieth century precisely because we were among the primary victims of Germany’s National Socialists.  After World War II the Jewish people throughout the west fought for liberalism, or the “progressive” view, because we saw ourselves in solidarity with the various minorities, including the African-American minority in the United States, struggling for freedom against racist persecution.

The problem, of course, is that our alleged former allies have turned against us and have targeted the Jewish state for defamation, if not annihilation.  The progressive-left, as a movement, has betrayed the Jewish people because it has accepted anti-Semitic anti-Zionism, and the BDS movement, as part of its larger coalition.  They have taken one of their foremost allies, the Jewish people, and thrown us into the gutter.  It is out of the progressive-left, and it is out of the Democratic Party, that hatred toward Israel is most prominent within the western political milieu today.

It therefore should come as surprise to no one that the majority of Democratic Party delegates, in its nominating convention for a second Obama term, booed the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state.  Barack Obama, of course, does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and neither does the western-left, in general.  In fact, it is entirely questionable if the majority of progessive-left Jews do so.

It is my contention that progressive-left western Zionism has failed the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel in a number of ways.

1)  The Jewish left generally fails to acknowledge, or seriously address, the rise of political Islam.  Given the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood and its various off-shoots, including Hamas and al-Qaeda, oppress women, kill Gay people outright, and call for the submission, if not genocide, of the Jews, this is a moral failing.  It is not a moral failing on par with the moral failing of prominent diaspora Jews during the Holocaust, such as that as the owners of the New York Times, but it comes in a close second.

2) The Jewish left justifies hatred toward their fellow Jews.  The Arabs of that part of the world are uncomfortable with the Jewish people in their midst because the Arab-Muslim Middle East is the single most racist part of the planet. Western Jews, to the extent that they excoriate the “settlers” for daring to live where neither Barack Obama, nor Mahmoud Abbas, justify that racism.

3) Progressive-left Jews continually play defense.  Throughout western-left venues, such as the various blogs and journals and newspapers, anti-Semitic anti-Zionists attack and progressive-left Jews defend.  On a daily basis, they attack and we defend.  Over and over and over again, the pattern repeats.  Perhaps it is time to throw the ball down-field.

4) Progressive-left Jews uphold the moral equivalency canard.  Because they have generally accepted the “Palestinian narrative” of perfect victim-hood, they often think that Arab violence against Jews in the Middle East is the result of Jewish misbehavior.  In this way they conjure a moral equivalency between those who seek to harm the Jewish people and their Jewish victims.

5)  Progressive-left Jews have thrown the history of the Jewish people into the garbage.  They disregard the history of their own people under al-Sharia, which is to say, under the system of dhimmitude, because it makes Muslims look bad.  This would be something akin to if black people in the United States pretended that slavery never happened.  It’s like trying to explain the history of Jim Crow without reference to slavery in the United States.

Because the Jewish left, which comprises the majority of diaspora Jews, refuses to seriously acknowledge and discuss the rise of the political Islam throughout the Middle East it endangers the Jewish people as a whole, particularly those of us who live in the Middle East.  The rise of political Islam under the misnomer “Arab Spring” was supported by American president Barack Obama who hailed it as the great upwelling of Arab democracy, despite the fact that it was nothing of the sort.  Deposed Egyptian president Muhammed Morsi even referred to the Jewish people as the children of apes and pigs and smiled through a party convention at Tahrir Square in which delegates cried out for the conquest of Jerusalem and, yet, Obama still supported the Muslim Brotherhood and American Jews still supported Obama.

“The capital of the Caliphate – the capital of the United States of the Arabs – will be Jerusalem, Allah willing.”

That is what the man above said, with Morsi in attendance during an election rally, and yet this gave the president of the United States no pause whatsoever.  Obama still pledged financial and military aid to people who despise the United States and who seek to conquer the Jews.

Furthermore, it must be noted, that diaspora-left Jewry tends to spit hatred at their co-religionists who choose to live in Judea and Samaria.  The Jews who choose to live on what is historically Jewish land suffer the hatred and the defamation of much of the Jewish left because they are accused by Mahmoud Abbas and the Obama administration of impeding the “peace process.”  Mahmoud Abbas and Barack Obama insist upon yet another Judenrein Arab state within the Jewish heartland and well-meaning American Jews go along with it.

Progressive-left Zionists always play defense and never go on the offense, but one cannot win a fight if one only takes punches.  In my observations, subjective as they are, of western Jews who engage with anti-Semitic anti-Zionists within venues such as the Huffington Post and the Guardian and Daily Kos, it is the anti-Zionists who always spit at the Jews and it is the Jews who always duck and run before an audience of non-Jewish “liberals.”  If the Jewish left wishes to develop any respect from the rest of us, they must learn to take the fight to our rivals.  So long as we remain too cowardly to do so then we can never win the war of ideas against us.

Perhaps one of the most egregious failing of the Jewish left, however, is the tendency to fall into the moral equivalency canard.  We want so badly to be treated fairly that we bend over backwards to treat others fairly even when they never even begin to return the favor.  The Arabs of the Middle East have, over many long centuries, committed genocide against the Jews in that part of the world and, yet, we constantly harp on the “hill top youth” and the “settlers” and the “price-tag” graffiti kids.

Maybe instead of beating up on our fellow Jews, we should stand up for the rights of the Jewish people on historically Jewish land.  There is no moral equivalency between those who seek to murder Jews and those Jews who are willing to fight back.  This whole notion that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter needs to be countered because it is unjust and entirely unfair to the tiny Jewish minority.

Finally, we have to place the long Arab war against the Jews in the Middle East within the context of Jewish history in that part of the world.  What Ben Gurion, and the Zionists of 1948 and earlier, did was relieve the Jewish people of dhimmitude under the boot of Arab-Muslim imperialism.  In the United States there is a general respect for the fact that African-Americans suffered centuries of persecution and oppression and no one, aside from the African-American community, shows more respect for the fact of that injustice than do American Jews.

And, yet, somehow we have no regard for thirteen centuries of Jewish persecution under Arab-Muslim rule and abuse.

The Muslim-Jewish conflict in the Middle East cannot be understood without acknowledging the long history of the Muslim persecution and genocide of the Jewish people on Jewish land.



Michael Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.

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  1. You say
    “Nonetheless, within diaspora Jewry, the main political strain is that of the progressive-left”

    That’s far from true here, the UK or France. Whilst Melbourne is the home of the Left in this country, some of it ‘loony left’, I see the majority as right thinkers. Though I am sure a few Melbournians will put me right, if I am incorrect. Certainly it is not the case here in Sydney.

    True the French Jews were in the past ‘very left’ but there was a huge swing ‘right’ some 20 years back, in fact now quite far ‘right’

    • Shirlee,

      most American Jews remain on the left and tend to serve up excuses and apologetics for the Obama administration, when they are not simply ignoring criticisms, which is most of the time.

      Here’s a question for you, though:

      Why do you think it is that Jews down under are more conservative than American Jews?

      What do you suppose explains it?

      I can tell you that, from the American side, the New Deal and the Civil Rights Movement has more or less determined Jewish political alliances since the 1930s.

      Also, of course, American insularity shields US Jews from the uglier consequences of the Jihad.

      • I find the American Jewry somewhat of an enigma altogether, to be quite honest with you.
        Especially in regards to the weird and whacky forms of the religion you have there. Most of which couldn’t be further from Judaism if they tried.

        British Jews, when newly arrived from the old Soviet bloc countries, were idealists. No doubt the same applied to the USA. They had escaped the ravages of persecution, rape, servitude and forced armed service and saw the ‘left’, mainly Communism, as an escape from this.

        We have ‘seen the light’ and our American Brothers haven’t. Though in saying that your Republican Party is so outdated in thought it’s not funny. Puritanical in fact. That certainly wouldn’t attract younger people.

        I do note whoever that the younger Jews here, mainly in Melbourne, are supporting groups a bit more like the NIF. Israel to them is a fait accompli. They haven’t grown up with the struggles of gaining our own homeland. Melbourne Jews are an issue and I plan to expand on a guest post I wrote earlier this year for the ‘Daphne Anson’ Blog.

  2. By sheer number and far greater, more intense political, ideological dialogue in America compared to Australia, Jews originating from suburban working class America, were attracted by socialist inspired ideologies. A comparatively small American communist unit was also instigated in the interbellic period, inspired by the “miracle” of the Soviet state – and, of course also financed by it -. Postwar Jews of the left, particularly in the vast media and general intellectual sphere enterprises, were populated by Jews seriously influenced by a more radical democratic approach at least in their own fields. If one looks at the American intellectuals of the left targeted by the McCarthy Commission, they did not advocate in general a revolutionary insurgent movement, but serious civil reforms. They were instrumental, indubitably, to the actual reforms America has undertaken only a few YEARS after the witch hunt dark era of McCarthy, which, in fact acted only a very short period.
    As the strict duality of the American political scene demanded, those Jews affable to civil liberties of the racial type in particular and which in the main, most ostensive part did not concern Jews but blacks, aligned themselves with the Democratic Party. “Passionate” political participation of the American kind being so deffinitory, an American Democrat will follow with imbecile obedience the Party line, leader and so on maybe in the same spirit a frumm Jew would reject almost any form of open political allegiance, least it would affect the strictness of his observance , the possibility of political practices per se being conducive to hillul haShem.
    I just witnessed recently an American Democrat Congress woman declaring her support for Obama on Syria, emphasizing that she was first a Jew, a grandmother and something not quite clear what to do with the Shoah. Thus an identity apparently un-associated with a certain political event or the general platform of the Party as such, becomes relevant, it intervenes illogically in the scheme of things. Being a Jew, therefore, becomes a “natural” symbiotic element with being a Democrat. This is how absurdities, not at all dissimilar to the Jewish support for all those anti Zionist entities, gain currency.

    In Australian there is NOTHING similar to that phenomenon at all, thank G-d.

    Western Europe is, once again, a completely different kettle of fish. We had there some of the largest communist parties in the free world !!! How many Jews were involved with them ??!!
    You tell me.

  3. Must add in haste :

    in Australia we DO have loony lefties among the Jews. Ontologically they would have had a different course to the American type, of course. This is what I meant by saying that we do not have the same kind of an origin to left views of our Jews down under. Their course of ideological development has been determined by other factors, strangely enough NOT so interesting , to be honest. Maybe because the rampant centrifugal ideological mess we witness at them is so unappealing that one needs a special disposition to treat the subject.
    There are times when talking about some of them is not quite recommended, particularly on a full stomach……………

  4. I have to say, I am finding myself proud to associate myself with Australian Jews because, from what I can tell, you seem far less likely to put up with ideological bullshit that castigates the Jews of the Middle East for various heinous sins while completely ignoring far worse, and far more extensive, sins coming out of the Arab world.

    And that I appreciate very much.

    I do not know the contours or the extent of the Australian-Jewish / American-Jewish conversation, but it clearly needs further advancement. American Jews tend to be “liberal,” by which we mean progressive or left-wing.

    The key to understanding American-Jewish politics is the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. By the time that I was growing up in the 1970s and the 1980s certain ideological imperatives were in place among the great majority of American Jews, not the least of which was (and is) support for the Democratic Party.

    From what I can tell, however, American-Jewry is in a moment of some political transition, but it is difficult, without the necessary polling and sociological data, to determine the extent of that transition. I, for one, am an apostate from the left. This does not mean that I am now right-wing on domestic issues, but it does mean that I am a political independent and am willing to criticize my former ideological comrades.

    I do not believe for one second that I am alone in this transition out of Democratic Party and progressive-left politics, you should know. Surely if I could see past those politics – in my case, due to the recognition of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism as part of the progressive-left coalition – other American Jews are doing so, as well.

    It’s going to be a long and gradual process, however, and the fight will not be an easy one.

  5. Hey Mike. There’s hope for you yet. I grew up in a Communist home. I am now considered by most to be pretty ‘far right’

    We get “liberal,” meaning progressive or left-wing. It ‘you lot’ over there that don’t get that out Liberal Party is our right.

  6. Anyone care to comment on this Blog.
    She has a few things she needs to put straight on. She left a ping back to this