We’ve all seen the headlines in the major press following Israel’s election. The coverage has been awful. Israel is demonized. Everything it does, or Netanyahu does, is interpreted in the worst possible light. In contrast, everything Israel’s opponents, or Netanyahu’s opponents do, is interpreted favorably.
Take Obama’s behavior over the Israeli elections. He tried to overthrow Netanyahu, his state department funded the opposition, Obama’s ground game general went to Israel to lead the anti-Netanyahu effort. All that is glossed over if covered at all. The bias is evident, could not be clearer. There is one set of rules for Israel; another for everyone else.
We saw this bias at play after the attack at the Paris kosher supermarket. The White House called it a random attack. The press mostly went along, as if it was a coincidence that the Islamist chose a kosher supermarket.
This pattern, of course, has long been with us, for decades, and especially since Israel stopped being run by political parties of the Left, and stopped being a member in good standing of the Socialist Internationale.
Israel’s turn to the right, and rejection of the Left, is a major reason for the unfavorable coverage that Israel has received. There have been other reasons for the press’s hostility — after the Six Day War, Israel stopped being the underdog. That was one reason. The West’s dependence on Arab oil was another.
But the biggest reason today remains Israel’s abandonment of the left. This is what makes the press go crazy. This is why Israel’s decision to stick with Netanyahu in the recent election made the press, and Obama, and leftists everywhere, go crazy.
Anti-Semitism is usually in fashion, and among reformers, the left is usually in fashion. I’m going to discuss why anti-Semitism is now in fashion.
Let’s step back to look at who hates Jews and why.
Many small-minded people hate Jews but many important thinkers do too. These important thinkers are found mainly in the West — you won’t find many in China, which was a great refuge for Jews during World II, or in Japan, which also generally treated Jews well during World War II, even though Japan was fighting alongside the Nazis and Japan was under pressure from Germany to kill Jews.
Jews aren’t threatening to Asian cultures because Asian cultures aren’t founded on Jewish thought. That’s not the case with Western cultures, which are founded on Jewish thought.
Great thinkers who were anti-Semitic may have had different reasons to be anti-Semitic but they all had something in common. They had logical reasons to be anti-Semitic. Jews and Judaism got in the way of their theories or beliefs or projects.
Initially, some of these great thinkers came from the world of religion. The Prophet Mohammed was one such thinker. Initially he tried to court the Jewish tribes, to get them to follow him and his teachings. The Jewish tribes were influential in the Arabia of the 7th century, when he lived. Mohammed tried hard to entice the Jews, incorporating into Islam the Jewish prophets and Jewish customs, such as dietary rules.
But when the Jews refused to follow him, Mohammed turned on them, correctly seeing the Jews as an impediment to his plans.
Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, also hoped to convert the Jews. Luther wanted to reform the Catholic Church, which had become corrupt, and saw Jews as allies because Jews, too, resisted the teachings of the Catholic Church.
But Jews refused to follow Luther. Worse, some disenchanted Catholics, rather than turning to Luther, converted to Judaism. So Luther, too, turned against Jews.
Christianity has given us many anti-Semites for a logical reason. Christian leaders saw Judaism as a competitor and also as an embarrassment — how could the Jews not see that Jesus, who was one of them, is the Messiah? The Jews’ repudiation of Jesus as the Messiah harmed the credibility of Christianity — it struck at the core of the Church’s credibility. Anti-Semitism is a not unexpected result.
Today, anti-Semitism coming from the Western church is a minor problem. It exists still, and in some churches, like the United Church of Canada, it thrives, as it does in spades in Islam.
But the main source of anti-Semitism in the West today comes from secular — non-religious — sources.
Even though the source is secular, the logic is quite similar. Jews and Judaism get in the way of fervently held beliefs. Socialism and Communism are such beliefs, able to stir great emotion. Socialists and Communists generally didn’t like Judaism, and often Christianity for that matter, because these religions helped establish the conditions for capitalism through the rule of law as well as through permanent institutions that encouraged the accumulation of long-term capital, wealth creation and international trade.
Maimonides, the great religious Jewish leader of the 12th century, was not only a physician and a scholar but also a merchant and a trader — he dealt in precious stones and in pharmaceuticals. The ideal in his day, in fact, was The Learned Merchant — a cultured, refined and honourable person who combined business acumen with religious erudition. The Catholic Church in the Middle Ages also promoted trade — monasteries were not only religious enterprises but businesses, often located on trade routes, sometimes conducting trade through nearby towns. Jews and Catholics both enabled trade through the institutions they established.
These Judeo-Christian traditions, which created so much wealth, stuck in the craw of many reformers. Let’s look at some of them.
The great early socialist, Charles Fourier who lived in France around 1800 and so preceded Karl Marx, was considered a radical in his lifetime but would today be considered mainstream. He vehemently rejected the institutions of Western civilization, he advocated a high minimum wage; he wanted equality for women in the workplace and coined the term “feminism;” he promoted casual sex and homosexuality and other sexual practices then deemed abnormal; and he considered trade — which he associated with Jews — to be the “source of all evil.” He also thought that “Every government having regard to good morals ought to repress the Jews.”
Pierre Leroux was another early French socialist living at the same time — Leroux is the person who coined the term “socialism.” Leroux also rejected all the institutions of power — the monarchy, the church, traditional hierarchy. He considered the traditional family, the country and private property as forms of despotism that needed to be eliminated.
He also had thoughts on the Jews, in fact he had a pre-occupation with Jews, about whom he wrote as a scholar: “When we speak of Jews, we mean the Jewish spirit, the spirit of profit, of lucre, of gain, the spirit of commerce, of speculation, in a word, the banker spirit.” Leroux saw Jews as the epitome of capitalism, the permanent worshippers of the golden calf. Christians too had Jewish greed in them but none were so venal as the Jews themselves, who selfishly worked hard to get ahead at the expense of others. As he put it, the Jews’ “individualistic and egotistical industry is destined to reign, for a time, over the ruins of any true social organization.”
Let me tell you about another great French reformer, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who was a Socialist economist and the “Father of Anarchism.” He believed that capital, property and religion enslaved people and he had a special place in his thinking for Jews, for whom he repeatedly expressed hatred: “The Jew is the enemy of the human race. One must send this race back to Asia or exterminate it.”
Reformers were enraptured by socialism and anarchism and, even more so, by communism following Karl Marx’s writings. Their passions not only burned much brighter, they lasted much longer.
Marx, of course, also detested capitalism. He called religion the “opium of the people,” something that got in the way of the changes he wanted to see which would give the masses real happiness, rather than the illusory happiness of religion. He sought the abolition of religion, to help free the proletariat and destroy the capitalist system that exploited it. Marx may also have been an anti-Semite — this is in dispute because of the context in which he made statements. What is not in dispute is what he said: “What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.”
Judaism and Christianity were impediments to Communism and Socialism because these religions were seen as pillars of capitalism. But religion also came to be seen as being responsible for impediments in other ways.
After the Communists seized power in the Russian Revolution of 1917, Marxists everywhere thought this revolution of the working classes would spread around the world, and especially to Western Europe, as Marx had predicted. When the revolution didn’t happen, they started searching for answers and decided that the culture and religion of the masses was to blame. The proletariat was too tradition bound, too fearful of change, to be receptive to enlightened thinking. As long the proletariat was influenced by culture and religion, the Marxists decided, the proletariat would not have the desire to revolt.
This thinking became common among German Marxists between the two world wars and it never died out. President Obama expressed a similar sentiment at a fundraiser when running for office in 2008 when he referred to unenlightened small town people who “cling to their guns and religion.”
Today we know the result of this thinking by a different, trivial sounding name — political correctness. Yet political correctness has been a phenomenally successful movement. It has many aspects, only one of which involves anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. And it springs from those early Marxists between the wars, long before the modern usage of the term “political correctness” was invented.
The Marxists — who became known as the Frankfurt School because they were loosely based at Goethe University in Frankfurt — decided that path to ending backward traditions required what was called a “long march through the institutions of power.“ The institutions of power that needed to be changed were universities and schools, government bureaucracies and the media. Their strategy wasn’t a grass roots strategy but a strategy of change from the top. It was an elitist strategy and necessarily so, because the masses at the bottom were the ones too stupid to realize that they were being oppressed. They were too stupid to realize that they had nothing to lose but their chains. The masses thought they had something to lose, and they needed to be disabused of their illusions.
Unfortunately for us in North America, the Marxists of the Frankfurt School moved to Columbia University in New York in the 1930s — after the Nazis came to power, they realized they could not stay in Germany, because the Frankfurt School included prominent Jews and in any case, Hitler went after Communists as well as Jews. Columbia University then became the hotbed of this elitist thinking.
The Marxists didn’t just want to change the culture in schools and universities, in government bureaucracies and in the media. In order for the culture to change, the masses also needed to be liberated from their social conventions.
Western values in toto were seen as the reasons why people are not liberated. The oppression didn’t come simply from the economic chains of capitalism but also from the social chains of the traditional family, of monogamy, of gender roles, of sexual preferences.
We don’t usually think of feminism as a Socialist or Communist project but that’s exactly what it was initially.
Betty Friedan, the author of the 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, is generally credited with launching the feminist movement in the U.S. The story behind her rise is telling.
It starts in 1920, with a letter from the American Communist Party to the Soviet Comintern. It states: “Some time ago we received word from the Comint that they wanted the names and addresses of ‘liberal’ college professors in this country, so as to be able to send them literature for college libraries. Such a list is enclosed.”
On that list was Dorothy Wolff Douglas, a Communist who became a Professor at Smith College. She became Friedan’s professor and a major influence in her life.
Friedan joined the Young Communist League (the youth branch of the Communist Party), and attempted to join the Party itself at least twice during World War II. She attempted to join in New York in 1942, when her father dissuaded her, and again in 1944, when the Communist Party turned her down because she was told she would be more valuable to the cause elsewhere.
Friedan became a labour journalist promoting Communist causes and then wrote her book, launching feminism in the general public and making it also an institution in academia.
Friedan was not an anti-Semite — to the contrary, she was a proud Jew. But she helped spawn a new variant of anti-Semitism, as she discovered in 1975 when she went to Mexico City for an International Woman’s Year World Conference hosted by the United Nations
It became what she called “one of the most painful experiences in my life.” The conference’s anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionism shocked her. The delegates weren’t interested in women’s issues — they even mocked American feminists as spoiled bourgeois elites who focussed on trivialities while ignoring pressing issues of racism, imperialism, colonialism, and poverty.
At that feminist conference, the Israeli prime minister’s wife, Leah Rabin, was booed. The “Declaration on the Equality of Women” became one of the first international documents to label Zionism as a form of racism.
Feminism is today largely anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist. Andrea Dworkin, a prominent feminist, compared the Jewish God to a Nazi and the Jewish state to a “pimp” and a “John” that used Palestinians as their “prostitutes.”
Women’s Studies programs at universities are rife with anti-Israel speakers. They don’t criticize Islam’s treatment of women, they more justify it, and they also justify terrorism if it’s directed at Israel.
As Phyllis Chesler, a feminist who is no longer welcome in what has become the new feminist mainstream, put it, “The American and European Left and feminist and gay movements have made a marriage in Hell with Islamist terrorists. The same Left that has still never expressed any guilt over their devotion to communist dictators who murdered one hundred million of their own people in the service of a Great Idea, have now fatefully joined the world Jihadic chorus in calling for the end to “racist” Zionism and to the Jewish Apartheid and “Nazi” state.
Feminism is today less about reforming society in a way that furthers equality for women than it is about reforming society by destroying the traditional institutions of Western society, Judaism being a prime target because Judaism lies at the core of Western values. The drivers behind those reforms today, as they have been for 200 years, have been elites who have disdain for Western values. And those elites today, as they have been for 200 years, are at root obsessed with Socialism and Communism.
Today we are seeing a resurgence in support of socialism and communism, although this neo-Socialism and neo-Communism uses more modern language. The capitalist exploiters are now called the 1%, the proletariat is called the 99%. The rallying cries now are for “social justice” and “income equality” — updated terms for the same old messages.
This resurgence is being fostered in the institutions of power that the Frankfurt School identified — the schools and universities, our government bureaucracies, and the media. These are overwhelmingly leftist institutions and these are the institutions to which reformers gravitate. It’s not a surprise that these reformers are dominated by anti-Semites; it’s a necessity. Jews and Judaism get in their way and, as always, need to be eliminated, one way or another.
The foregoing was a presentation at the Canadian Institute of Jewish Research’s Israel Learning Seminar, in Toronto, March 24, 2015.