Wither the Radical Left?

In the wake of the 1903 Pogrom in Kishinev, Theodore Herzl arranged to meet with the Russian Interior Minister, an avowed anti-Semite, in the hopes of convincing him to apply pressure on the Turkish Sultan to allow Jews to immigrate to the Land of Israel. The Russian minister was surprised and impressed by the proud Jew who stood before him, and he said to Herzl: “Take the Jews out of here! More than half of the revolutionaries sitting in Russian prisons are Jews.”

Many Jews had been swept up by the speeches of the Jewish-Communist leader, Leon Trotsky, volunteering by the thousands to further the cause of revolution. These same young men and women stood out as members of the revolutionary army, and in the leadership of the Soviet-Communist government in its early years. When I was a young man living in what was then “Red Haifa,” we were told about one of the Communist committees that met in the Kremlin, which consisted of eleven members. The chairman joked that if only the single non-Jewish member would step out, they would have a quorum to daven Mincha (to pray the afternoon service).

The Russian secret service (the NKVD, and later the KGB) had many Jewish members who led the Communist witch-hunt against their fellow Jews who remained loyal to their religion and their people, including many who held Zionist ideals. The vast majority of synagogues and yeshivot in Communist Russia ceased to function. But when Joseph Stalin rose to power, the witch-hunt was turned against the very same “true-believer” Jewish Communists, who were now accused of a lack of loyalty. Most of the Jews were sent to concentration camps in Siberia, where many of them perished. Trotsky fled to Mexico where he was murdered by NKVD agents on Stalin’s orders.

But all of this had no effect on masses of Jews – even in Israel – who remained blind to the traitorous actions of the “Shining Sun” (as Stalin presented himself). The kibbutz movement in Israel split over this in the beginning of the 1950s. Some realized their error during the anti-Semitic show trial in Prague in 1952, but others remained blind to their mistake.

The young, educated elite in Europe also established the “New Left,” lifting red banners and protesting vociferously against the decay and corruption of Western capitalism, which would undoubtably collapse – and the sooner the better. Even the more mature crowd agreed; “Better Red Than Dead,” is a sentence I clearly remember hearing in my teenage years.

In the early days of Gush Emunim, after the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, we were told with certainty, that large numbers of Jews would never move to Israel – neither from Soviet Russia, nor from Capitalist America – so it would be foolhardy to establish Jewish settlements in the midst of the Palestinian population. Arab demography guaranteed their ultimate victory, so we had no choice but to return to the pre-’67 borders, dangerous as they may have been. Otherwise, the “Jewish majority” would be in danger.

But then, after 70 years of revolution, Communist Russia collapsed. The statues of Stalin and Lenin were pulled down, and a million-and-a-half Jews (and descendants of Jews), came on Aliya to Israel. The first-world Israel that we know today owes much of its success to these olim.

We naively thought that the Radical Left would realize its mistake.

No Arab army has made any attempt to wage war against Israel since the Yom Kippur War. Palestinian and Arab terror has also been unsuccessful, and it is only Iranian funding that keeps them alive. Hurried Israeli retreats from Gaza and Lebanon have given them strongholds on our borders, together with the ability to threaten us. But the economic situation in Gaza is shocking, and any honest, moral individual has no choice but to admit that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza has brought about a moral disaster. The death toll has risen sharply (in Israel, but even more on the Palestinian side), and the suffering in the Gaza Strip is terrible.

The vast majority of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, however, have a relatively good standard of living in the “Occupied Territories.” The city of Hebron, for example, is wealthier today than Nablus, thanks to its close economic ties with Israel (about 7 billion NIS annually, according to the Civilian Authority). The Radical Left and those parts of the Israeli media committed to their worldview have no interest in this.

What does interest them?

Preventing the application of Israeli law to Jewish settlements at all costs. You have to understand – uprooting and deporting Jews and demolishing their homes is the epitome of “enlightenment” and an important step in the elimination of “the occupation”, but doing the same to Palestinians is, of course, a “heinous crime.” Someone who (like me) opposes the destruction of settlements and the deportation of their residents – whether they are Arabs or Jews – is a voice that cannot be heard.

But what can they do to thwart the Trump Plan, and, in particular, keep Israeli law from being applied to the Jordan Valley?

Here are some surprisingly creative ways to do it:

  1. Arrange leaks to the Israeli media of fears and threats from anonymous security officials who warn everyone – but especially Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his colleagues – of the anticipated “collapse” of the Palestinian Authority if Bibi Netanyahu’s government dares to pass a Knesset resolution applying Israeli law on the Jordan Valley and the settlements.
  2. Ask the Jordanians and Arab “moderates” to join the choir and echo these warnings.
  3. Send appropriate messengers to Europe and to America to alert all-and-sundry that the program must be stopped.
  4. Recruit US personalities who have good relations with the Trump administration to bring about detrimental changes in the plan, while enlisting Israelis who have moved to America to make use of their connections with senior Israeli ministers in order to curb the Trump plan.
  5. Target the Christian Evangelical leaders closest to the Trump administration and explain to them (in a multi-participant zoom conversation from the Holy Land) how the Christian faith must specifically embrace the “persecuted” Palestinians. The claim is that Palestinians suffer like the blacks in America. This entirely disregards 100 years of religious Palestinian terror, to which there has been no parallel in America since the end of the Civil War.

None of these things are conjectures. Unfortunately, I can personally attest that these things are really taking place. The source of most of the objections to applying Israeli law on Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria and in the Jordan Valley is found in our midst – the Radical Left in Israel – which fears that its worldview is being threatened.

It is terribly sad that the leadership of the Radical Left has learned absolutely nothing from 120 years of serious mistakes and shocking failures. These failures have exacted a heavy price – over and over again – from the Jewish people returning to their country, from the Jewish communities in exile (mainly from Russia), and from many other nations in the world. Someone who identifies with the Left and has been unable to learn the lessons of those horrible disasters and colossal failures – what hope do we have to explain it to them?


The original Hebrew version of this essay can be found here. Translation by Shalom Berger.

About the Author
Dr. Rabbi Yoel bin Nun is one of the founders of Yeshivat Har Etzion. He received his rabbinic training at Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav and his Ph.D. from Hebrew University. In 1986, he established Michlelet Yaakov Herzog for training Jewish Studies teachers, especially in Bible instruction. Between 2000-2006 he served as the Rosh Ha-Yeshiva of Yeshivat HaKibbutz HaDati in Ein Tzurim.
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