Anniversary Essay: IS THE LEFT TURNING ANTI-SEMITIC?
by Jim Trageser
American Reporter Correspondent
ESCONDIDO, Calif. -- When did it become chic to hate the Jews again? It was just a few years ago that it was still very hip and in todefend the historically beleaguered Jews. Books attacking the German populace and the Catholic hierarchy for not doing anything to stop the Holocaust were best-sellers. Jewish arts festivals sprang up in cities across the United States, the klezmer revival was in full blossom, and being a young Jew was the essence of cool.
But perhaps that was no more than our collective guilt for our ownnation's collective silence and inaction in the face of the Holocaust. As recent events have shown, anti-Semitism never sinks far from the surface - and is liable to rise again at the slightest provocation, and from every corner of the political spectrum.
For to its great shame, the Left is turning out to every bit asanti-Semitic as the Right.
To be sure, the Right has never really accepted Jews - a fact thatwas recently made clear once again when White House tapes from the Nixon era displayed evangelist Billy Graham's rather Neanderthal views on Judaism for all the world to hear. Graham, once a major political force on the American landscape, was reduced to the humiliating tack of claiming he could no longer remember saying what was very clearly said on those tapes, and that, anyway, he hadn'treally meant it.
But after years of battling the Left on social issues and politicalcauses, Graham now finds himself in good company among self-proclaimed progressives.
Of course, the difference between today's progressive anti-Semitesand normal, run-of-the-mill bigots is that your everyday variety of bigot admits to his hatred.
Your SUV-driving, NPR-supporting racist becomes highly offended when her prejudices are exposed. "But I don't hate Jews - it's just Israel's treatment of Palestinians I abhor!" is invariably the cry, not so different from Grandma's, "Some of my best friends are black."
Fortunately, it's easy enough to determine whether their antipathyis truly for Israel, or is instead a socially acceptable cover for their hatred of its Jewish character.
We simply look at the response of Israel's critics to other,similar actions by non-Jewish nations. If the outrage is consistent based on actions, then we beg their forgiveness for questioning their motives and character and shut our mouths. If not... .
Iraq, of course, is an easy example only because Saddam Husseinwears his thuggery like a badge of honor, brutishly repressing and killing religious minorities in the south (the Shi'ites) and ethnic minorities in the north (the Kurds).
Do the West's progressives - so loud and insistent in defendingPalestinian interests - speak out on military actions against the Kurds or Shi'ites?
Indeed, the answer is not only "no," but in fact the Left condemnsinternational sanctions against Iraq, and calls for full restoration of Iraq's sovereignty. This demand is almost never accompanied by any rejoinder to the Hussein regime to respect the basic human rights of Iraq'sminority populations.
What about Turkey's equally violent repression of Kurds in itssouthern region? While the Left has never been overly found of the Turks, when it comes to the repeated military actions against the Kurds, the Left is either silent or provides meager lip service to the Kurdish cause. Iran can murder its Ba'hai minorities, and again there is only deafening silence. China's ongoing efforts to remove the Tibetan culture from Tibet results in a response so tepid from the Left that we end up with Hollywood celebrity Richard Gere as the most visible defender of Tibetan autonomy.
And when the Tutsis and Hutus were busy slaughtering each other in Rwanda - where was the Left then? Well, pretty much busying themselves with smashing out the plate-glass windows of fast-food outlets and fashion boutiques in whichever city the world trade ministers were meeting in. Always safer to take a position fighting bureaucrats than it is to tackle real-world misery.
Not since the ignorant morons running the apartheid system werefinally run out of office in South Africa has any nation received the kind of venomous attacks that Israel finds itself facing from the Western Left?
It seems that it is only Israel which is to be held to this higherstandard. Not even the most repressive Arab states are to be challenged as to how they treat their peoples - this despite the fact that Arab Israelis enjoy more rights (albeit less than their Jewish neighbors) than any Arab living under Arab rule.
A pattern this clear, this unmistakable, must be called by name else we risk losing our own humanity. It is racism, and if the Left won't or can't hold itself accountable, then those of us who still care about the Left and justice for the Jews can do no less than hold a mirror up to force the Left to confront itself.
This anti-Semitism on the Left became all the more clear in lateMarch when a series of synagogue and Jewish school bombings across France were traced not to neo-Nazis or skinheads, but to students and others claiming the Left's heritage.
America's media - dominated as it is by those claiming to be liberal or leftist - is nearly unanimous in its condemnation of Israel's self-defense. As to the continued pattern of Palestinian attacks against unarmed Jewish civilians, the media contents itself with a few mewling statements about how these aren't really "acceptable," but there's nothing approaching the outcry over Israel's actions.
What's truly poisonous about the Left's public relations warfare against Judaism, though, is the deleterious effect it is having on the Left itself. To be sure, it's not fair to the Jews, and it is soaked in racism - but after two millenniam of persecution from the West, the Jews expect noless and know now they have only themselves to count on.
But in its uncritical and unquestioning embrace of the Palestinian cause, the Left is embracing the cause of fascism; what this will do to the Left cannot, of course, be known yet. But it's hard to imagine this will serve any good at all.
Three generations ago, the same great intellectual forces now battling in Israel were taking up arms in Spain. At that time, the Left backed the side of rationality and justice - taking up the cause of the Spanish Republic. In the war against Franco, the Left didn't limit itself to fighting with words, but sent in its best and brightest young men and women to defend its ideals with their blood.
The battle may have been lost in the Iberian plains and mountains, but the Left was stronger for the fight - and when Franco finally died five decades later, the war was, belatedly, won, as Spain returned to a democratic Republic, one based on the tenets of freedom and dignity that the Left stands for.
Today, the Left has switched sides, and instead of fighting forrationality and democracy is firmly entrenched with the forces of religious fanaticism and oligarchy.
When the Left is willing to turn a blind eye to the Arab culture'streatment of women, of religious diversity, of non-conformists of every stripe - well, the Left abandons every precept it stands for. But this should come as no surprise, for this is where hatred andracism invariably and inevitably lead us - to situations where those who believe in freedom and dignity find themselves instead siding with those who use their power to corral and repress.
The Left shouldn't need a reminder of where the West's hatred for the Jews leads; if we've forgotten so soon, if our cultural memory is so fleeting, then perhaps the Left truly is, as its critics charge, irrelevant.
Jim Trageser is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif. Reachhim at firstname.lastname@example.org. For other essays, reviews and columns, seehttp://www.trageser.com/music/, http://www.trageser.com/computers/, andhttp://trageser.tripod.com/.