Is left wing the good side?

David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, is a marker of how left wing intellectuals think. To get your opinion published in Remnick’s highbrow journal you have to belong to the community of good. You have to be Left or your position is not enlightened. The Left is for progress. Left is for good, Right is for bad.

If it had one position statement would the Left not plump for such an amalgam? Attend to Remnick effectively saying it would — and what subject could have upset the editor more than Israel.

The political culture has shifted. In fact, Netanyahu is one of the main political forces that’s helped move the entire Israeli political spectrum to the right. Netanyahu at War

And the Right – does it concede blameworthiness? The Right is none too comfortable in its skin. We see that when thought leaders make a case to prove they’re not really on the Right – not too far anyway. Attend to Alex Safian PhD protesting on behalf of Likud and the Israeli electorate.

In fact, the opposite is true – the Israeli body politic has moved to the left. This is clear, for example from the fact that Netanyahu and his Likud party, which long opposed the creation of a Palestinian state and the two-state solution, now accepts such a state, if only it were willing to live in peace with Israel. Even Gadi Baltiansky, leader of the left-wing Geneva Initiative, asserted that the ideological map has moved left. That is, Remnick got it exactly backwards.

So – the Right, in its deep subconscious, succumbs to shame. The Left has battered it to admit that Left is the good position to occupy, after taking the heights as the champion of human progress and co-existence and all that is fair and good. Is that position deserved? Must the Right concede the moral high ground to a Left that acts honestly, or keeps to facts and tells the truth? We are schooled to believe that indeed the Left ticks all the boxes which the Right, to its eternal shame, fails to do. Remnick’s community (which boasts Barak Obama and John Kerry) gives us to understand that Israeli voters, in moving Right, have done a shameful thing. They are not for peaceful coexistence, while the leaders they voted in don’t admit facts or tell the truth.

To what extent, though, does the Left? Take the vanguard – the monitors of human rights that swell its ranks. How much co-existence do left-wing activists promote? Do they act honestly and tell the truth? The record, if you look, is as grubby as it gets. Take Israel, home to more human rights entities and activists per square mile than anywhere on earth, for the most part on the left and out to libel Israel in return for hard currency. Euros and dollars flow into the accounts of Israeli activists and entities with halo names as long as they supply Israeli crimes in endless variety and horror. Israel is the one country in the world with a price on its head. Business is brisk, the traders earnest and the money big.

Consider the sustainability factors enjoyed by the human rights industry in Israel: mountains of cheap capital on demand, global reach, well-connected stakeholders, media channels beating a path to the door, and a commodity (Jewish crimes) for which the world has a gluttonous hunger. If those are not conditions for big business what others are there? Grubby things are bound to happen. Name any industry for profit that can boast clean hands.

To understand the incentives and pressures on left wing activists to throw morality to the wind, consider two of Israel’s human rights gargoyles: the New Israel Fund (NIF) and B’Tselem. In 2013 the two leading lights in the NIF, Daniel Sokatch and a lady named Paiss, took home $344,000 and $181,000 respectively. As for B’Tselem, it would close up shop if not for Israel’s military and police force behaving badly. Hence the manufactured crimes to meet demand. Hence the lies and double standards… even criminal behaviour now and then.

Only this month, a couple of left-wing activists were caught entrapping Palestinians to horrible deaths. The Israelis set them up by posing as buyers of Palestinian land. The activists would then hand the names of would-be sellers over to the Palestinian police, widely known to punish such a “crime” by torture and execution. The leftists (with links to B’Tselem) disclosed their sting operations on camera. Israel’s Left was outraged, firing off at the messenger (for heaven sake!), the TV channel that broke the scandal. Left-wing author, A. B. Yehoshua, remarked that if the Palestinian Authority chose to execute Palestinians for selling land to Jews it was fully within its rights to do that. Other left-wingers said more of the same, or thundered that crimes committed while opposing the Israeli occupation were nothing compared to THE “crime” – Occupation – the one of more than 200 cases that keeps the left-wing  awake at night.

So morally, the human rights business is hardly better than the tobacco or the food industry. Indeed ideology on top of profit may drive it to smellier gutters than Wall Street companies are tempted to try. Greed and ideology are ingredients for the most poisonous cocktail of all.

If the heart does not direct human rights players, then equally intellect does not direct academia. It took laconic and lucid George Orwell to point out that higher learning and closed minds make a regular couple. “There are notions so foolish that only an intellectual will believe them,” wrote Orwell. The luminary of his era found that intelligent people are often gullible people. He’s a reminder that professors may lack a modicum of common sense. He warned that to parley with learned people may be to parley with fools. We don’t have to upturn rocks to uncover Orwellian types. Look no further than a fashionable cause or a conventional wisdom and there they are – fool believers clinging for dear life to nonsensical notions. Larry’ Summers, one time Harvard President, spoke out against phony course modules, grade inflation, and the pedantry of professors who know so much about so little that they can neither be contradicted, nor are worth contradicting.

Roger Kimball, Editor of the New Criterion, coined a colorful and insightful phrase: “College Crybullies.” Left-wing students and faculty combine trembling upset with ruthless mob behavior. “The crybully,” says Kimball, “has weaponized his coveted status as a victim.”  This is what makes it next to impossible to call anyone in the progressive movement anti-Semitic.

To be a progressive, hostility to Israel is a key marker. And if you are a progressive then red-flagging anti-Semitism is more problematic than anti-Semitism itself. Take Professors Judith Butler of Berkeley and Tom Paulin of Oxford. Butler, known for her Queer Theory (and also for her stupefying academic prose) can make herself the victim at a touch. When called out on her hatred of Israel Butler routinely protests – No, it is not anti-Semitic! How good Butler is at reducing her critics to spoilers who want to block academic freedom and discourse. Tom Paulin, Professor of Poetry, minces no words. In the London Review of Books Paulin wrote that settler Jews ought to be “shot dead.” This was excused by Paulin’s sponsors at Harvard and Columbia as ordinary and legitimate criticism of Israel. (“Tom Paulin’s poetic incitement,” CAMERA, April 12, 2007)

So, what is anti-Semitic?  Ah – but that’s the point. Nothing and no one is anti-Semitic. When the University of California considered adopting the State Department definition of anti-Semitism, faculty and students rebelled. The fact that they put up no alternative definition is important. JVP urged the UC Regents. The crybully Left cries foul to avoid being tied down to facts. It finds debate – over ideas or policies or (heaven forbid) anti-Semitism distasteful. It is happy to define itself as the Community of Good while sending opponents into exile. The British novelist Howard Jacobson describes the behaviour of Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, like this:

There was something ‘How very dare you’ about his temper tantrum in rebuttal of the charge that the company he kept reflected badly on him. ‘The idea that I’m some kind of racist or anti-Semitic person is beyond appalling, disgusting and deeply offensive,’ Corbyn says. When he says he doesn’t do personal what he means is that he will not deal with criticism in the normal way. He will not respond to it by means of reason or argument.

I know what irks Jacobson. I had the treatment from a professor at the University of Sydney. Faced with cogent proof that his BDS movement was racist all he did was Tweet a personal insult.

No less than Harvard and Yale have adopted ‘safe spaces’ and #blacklivesmatter and cultural relativism and stifling political correctness. Allowable discourse contracts by the day. The sanctity of facts and logic is being taken over by grievance-mongering, identity politics and sloganeering. Henry Ford had a slogan: ‘You can have any colour car you like – provided it’s black.’ So to the Left: you can argue any damn thing you like – provided you do not offend our positional totem.

If the Left stands for human progress and all that is good, maybe we should revisit Stalin.

About the Author
The writer is a prolific author of novels and non-fiction, essayist and commentator on ‘Enemies of Zion’ which happens also to be the title of his latest book. His works are The Paymaster, 1998; Hadrian’s Echo, 2012; Contributor to ‘War by other means: Israel and its detractors’, 2012; Enemies of Zion, (for publication 2017); and Balaam’s curse ( a novel in progress)