Philip Earl Steele

The Left’s perennial betrayal of the Jews

From a report by Ben Kawaller for The Free Press, Nov. 12, 2023
From a report by Ben Kawaller for The Free Press, Nov 12, 2023 (

Today in France, Marine Le Pen and her rightist party the National Rally (formerly the National Front) has marched in Paris against antisemitism, in support of the summons issued by the Speakers of the French Parliament’s two chambers.

However, the leftist LFI (‘France Unbowed’) refused to take part.

Who can be surprised?

Since the heinous crimes committed by Hamas just over 5 weeks ago, it should now – at long last – be clear to all that the most virulent form of antisemitism in Europe and North America is on the Left. The 300,000 anti-Israeli progressives marching in London yesterday offered decisive, mind-numbing confirmation of this.

Indeed, a new genre of blogging emerged within days of the Simchat Torah massacre, with young Jews, especially in the US, suddenly realizing that their leftist allies have abandoned them. If only those youngsters knew how long ago…

Leon Pinsker, one of the foremost Zionist thinkers in the decades before Herzl entered the stage, had entertained Zionist ideas for some twenty years when the notorious bloody pogroms broke out in 1881/82 all across Tsarist Russia’s western provinces. Yet despite his deep familiarity not only with Jewish life in the Pale of Settlement, but also with the Russian-Gentile world (he himself was thoroughly assimilated), Pinsker was blindsided: “we have found our bitterest opponents” in the press of the Russian intelligentsia, as he wrote in his foundational tract Autoemancipation! from September 1882.

Beginning in the early 1890s, Theodor Herzl began sifting for “a modern solution of the Jewish Question”, as we read in the subtitle of his seminal work The Jewish State from February 1896. In 1892 and ‘93 he was still far from his Zionist solution, and in fact tabled ideas that were altogether laughable (duels between high-profile Jews and leading antisemites/mass conversion to Catholicism). However, Herzl did then sagely discern the laughability of liberal, would-be Gentile champions – most notably, those in Vienna’s Society for Combating Antisemitism. He bluntly informed the Society that its efforts were too little, too late to stop the impending disaster. And he was right: Karl Lueger and his antisemitic party won Vienna’s municipal elections in the spring of 1895. At that point, Herzl wrote that the Society should “do us Jews one more favor and dissolve itself”.

One of the most prescient works in this matter is Professor Ruth Wisse’s If I am not for myself: the liberal betrayal of the Jews (1992). As recently as this September I would have called the book “a classic”, only that it’s since become brutally plain that The liberal betrayal of the Jews has disappeared from the canon. Nonetheless, thirty-one years ago Prof. Wisse dissected liberalism and found its nominal philosemitism to be ‘Judenrein’ – that is, it asked Jews to leave their Jewishness at the door. Just as had the fin de siècle Viennese Abwehrverein, which was universalist, no more than anti-antisemitism, and otherwise unconcerned with Jewish identity.

The liberal betrayal of the Jews also focuses stark light on the already then, in 1992, astounding inroads that Palestinian disinformation was making in America and Europe, silencing, sometimes even mesmerizing Jews themselves – some of whom are no doubt the parents and teachers of those today announcing the scales have fallen from their eyes.

This irony – that it’s not Israeli hasbara, but rather Palestinian propaganda that is winning – is impossible in 2023 to miss, what with multi-ethnic, intersectional crowds of college youths in far-away California chanting:

from LA to Gaza

globalize the intifada”.

About the Author
Philip Earl Steele is an American historian based in Poland, specializing in the history of early Zionism. His recent book on Theodor Herzl, published by the Polish Academy of Sciences, is available in Open Access:
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