Oren Gross
Oren Gross

Useful Idiots with Beards (Part II)

Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, AKA Leon Trotsky (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Part I discussed the fact that the role played by some Jews and some Jewish voices in facilitating antisemitism has often been downplayed because for too many the problem with antisemitism lies almost exclusively with right-wing expressions of it either in deed or in speech. However, that is certainly no longer the case. While right-wing antisemitism is often of the Purim version (kill all the Jews), left-wing antisemitism has mostly followed what author Dara Horn has called the Hanukkah version of antisemitism, where the ultimate goal is to eliminate Jewish civilization and tradition but to do so while, in Horn’s words, leaving “the warm, de-Jewed bodies of former practitioners intact.” It is to the success of this latter version of antisemitism that the participation of Jews is essential.

Jews who desperately want to “fit in,” to identify themselves merely as white males with a beard and who, in the process, would be ready and willing to through under the bus the Jewish people, Jewish values, Jewish tradition, the Jewish state, and Jewish pride, in order to be accepted to the “cool-kids” club or the country-club of the day, have always served as agents for the Hanukkah type of antisemitism.

Jews who wished to “fit in”—whether of the useful idiots or the cowardly variety—have always been essential to the Hannukah version of antisemitism. Critically, they would confer a veneer of legitimacy and respectability to the antisemites, granting them a sort of an immunity charm against charges of antisemitism.

The identity of those seemingly exclusive clubs would change and transform across time and space. Take but two prominent examples. Jews have played a prominent role in the Communist Party from its very early days. As the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe notes, “in early 1917, their [Jews] numbers reached just under 1,000 out of a total of 23,600. Most important (sic), they were highly overrepresented in the Bolshevik leadership. Significant figures included Iurii Kamenev, Maksim Litvinov, Karl Radek, Iakov Sverdlov, Leon Trotsky, and Grigorii Zinov’ev. This was so blatant that anti-Bolsheviks frequently associated the party with Jews in order to contaminate the party’s public image. At the party congress held in August 1917, a total of 29 out of 171 delegates were Jews, the second most represented ethnic group after the Russians; moreover, 6 of 17 Central Committee members were Jews.”

At about the same time, desirous of being fully integrated in Germany, German Jews and especially Jewish intellectuals overwhelmingly supported Germany’s World War I effort (at least during the first couple of years). As Amos Elon notes in The Pity of It All, “the number of the Jews among the intellectual war zealots was disproportionately high.” Martin Buber considered the war to be a “sacred spring,” a purification through violence; Stefan Zweig, an otherwise avowed pacifist, was ecstatic to be living “at this wonderful moment.” As Elon puts it, “All traces of Jewish ‘cosmopolitanism’ seemed to have vanished overnight. Jewish publications abounded in self-conscious tribal pride.” That pride was not a Jewish one. It was German.

some Jews would serve as detergent agents, laundering antisemitic campaigns

Jews who wished to “fit in”—whether of the useful idiots or the cowardly variety—have always been essential to the Hannukah version of antisemitism. Critically, they would confer a veneer of legitimacy and respectability to the antisemites, granting them a sort of an immunity charm against charges of antisemitism. For, after all, surely anyone who was Jewish and speaking “as a Jew,” even if their own Jewish identity was peripheral at best and did not even make it to the list of top three things that defined them, could not be an antisemite. The same would apply by an unassailable logic to the causes supported and promoted by those converts to the cause. Thus, it has always been the case that some Jews would serve as detergent agents, laundering antisemitic campaigns of the Hannukah variety. The bargain on the table for such Jews has been rather simple. As Horn puts it: “Jews publicly flush thousands of years of Jewish civilization down the toilet in exchange for the worthy prize of not being treated like dirt, or not being murdered. For a few years. Maybe.”

This very same pattern is being played out today with Jews who desperately want to be included in the “Progressive” club. There is a double irony here because, for the most part, Jews have been the founding fathers and mothers of liberal and progressive movements in almost every country and nation in which they resided, including, of course, the United States. But now, Jews find themselves excluded from the very club that they themselves have helped founding. The current state of affairs is also ironic because quite a number of the current members of the club are “progressives” only when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict but with respect to little else.

About the Author
Professor Oren Gross is the Irving Younger Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School. He is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of international law and national security law.
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