In Falls Church, at Temple Rodef Shalom’s candidates’ night this spring, Corey Stewart — an ultimately unsuccessful candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, known for opposing removal of Confederate statues from public places — asserted that today’s anti-Semitism is spawned mainly by the political left, not the right. This prompted “a collective gasp and incredulous laughter from the crowd of about 400,” reported The Washington Post.
Yet Stewart was on to something. As long ago as their 1983 best-seller, “Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism,” Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin pointed out that “Marxism and Socialism, like Christianity, Islam, nationalism and the Enlightenment, were born with Jew-hatred. Their two main ideological sources, Marx and the early French socialists, developed anti-Semitic ideas which have characterized much of the Left to this day.”
This could be seen in the 1975 U.N. General Assembly vote libeling Zionism as racism. Again, Prager and Telushkin: “Whereas almost the only countries opposing the resolution were democracies, every Leftist government in the world,” with the exception of Romania, which did not vote, “declared the Jews’ national movement racist and therefore illegitimate.”
But anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are two different things, right? Less and less so, to the extent that — except for fervently Orthodox Jews unwilling to accept a Jewish state prior to the Messiah’s appearance — they ever were.
Robert Wistrich, a leading historian of anti-Semitism, noted shortly before his death in 2015 that ever since the United Nations endorsed the Soviet-inspired, Arab League-adopted Zionism-racism smear, anti-Zionism has become the leading means for the spread of anti-Semitism. Natan Sharansky, former Prisoner of Zion in the Soviet gulag, now head of the Jewish Agency for Israel, introduced the “3 D’s” test to determine when anti-Israel attacks merge into anti-Semitism: when they invoke double standards, demonization or delegitimization.
Today, most such attacks do. Though some reliably issue from the neo-Nazi right, many more come from the left, hard- or soft-core. Ask any pro-Israel college student.
So it was not surprising that one day after French President Emmanuel Macron, himself from the center-left, declared that anti-Zionism is indeed a type of anti-Semitism, he was blasted by the country’s left-wing leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon. Melenchon dismissed the anti-Zionism-is-anti-Semitism description as a “very old thesis.”
But French Jewish institutions must operate under police and military guard. They are threatened not so much by neo-Nazis but Muslim violence more or less excused by left-wing politicians as anti-Israel. French Jews continue to decry official reluctance to recognize as anti-Semitic the torture and murder in April of Sarah Halimi by a Muslim man heard reciting prayers during the killing.
The anti-Zionist anti-Semitism infesting Great Britain’s Labour Party has been oft-reported. A Jewish Labour parliamentarian required a bodyguard in the performance of her duties. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has hosted Hamas representatives to tea at Parliament.
Former California State University Professor Emeritus Victor Davis Hanson has tied today’s intellectual and moral relativism, in which “one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” and “the Palestinian narrative” cancels Jewish history, to post-World War II “French-speaking postmodern nihilists.” Knowing full well that most French did not actively resist Nazi occupation, these theorists ex post facto excused themselves and their country by declaring truth relative and facts fluid.
Such post-modernist “deconstructionists” influenced a generation of American academics, including notably Edward Said, Columbia University’s tenured anti-Zionist who died in 2003. Those professors taught today’s humanities faculty, some of whose students discount the Holocaust as a “white-on-white” crime and tar as “hate speech” defense of Zionism.
For all the rhetoric about “Islamophobia” sweeping the United States, in 2015 there were 695 reported anti-Jewish hate crimes, 257 anti-Muslim. Meanwhile, it’s not primarily the far-right that intimidates Jewish undergraduates with the temerity to defend the Jewish state. It’s not the Republican Party’s platform committee that last year included anti-Israel polemicists like Cornel West and James Zogby, but rather the Democrats’.
West has hysterically accused Israel of “massacring” Palestinian Arabs; Zogby began his rise as an Arab-American spokesman by defending a Palestinian Arab terrorist against extradition to Israel and headed groups opposed to American support for the Jewish state. They were appointed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a progressive Jew who nearly defeated Hillary Clinton for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination. One of Sanders’ special guests at the party convention was a leader of Spain’s left-wing, and anti-Semitic, Podemos Party.
Yes, Stewart was on to something at Temple Rodef Shalom. Incredulously laughing down the messenger doesn’t kill the message.
Eric Rozenman, a former editor of the Washington Jewish Week, is a communications consultant for the Jewish Policy Center. The views in this article are solely his own.