From Ambivalence to Betrayal – Fini

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Left vs. Right

There are two types of problematical reaction from two different audiences when confronted with information like the history presented in Robert Wistrich’s From Ambivalence to Betrayal.

The first reaction comes from those whose political disposition is liberal or otherwise left-leaning who might acknowledge this history but relegate it to the past or to a non-mainstream fringe that has little to nothing to do with them.

For those who primarily label themselves “liberal” or “progressive,” this is a problem for “The Left.” And for Israel supporters who consider themselves “Of the Left,” the history outlined in Wistrich’s book is something you might encounter on the “Far Left,” a marginal group that they claim no one listens to or cares about.

Paired with these attitude is the suspicion that attempts to brand liberals and Leftists as anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic is really just a tactic of the real enemy of the Left: the Right (or, more frequently, the “Far Right”) which is just interested in cherry picking facts and stories from the darker side of the Leftist political tradition in order to smear progressives in front of Jewish and non-Jewish Israel-supporting audiences.

This suspicion is nurtured by genuine anti-Israel Leftists who insist that anyone who not doesn’t hew to their agenda is not just a “Progressive for Everything but Palestine” (i.e., a traitor to Progressive values), but probably a closet conservative/reactionary/Republican/Likudnik just posing as a liberal in order to make “true liberals” like themselves look bad (claims which basically accuse liberal critics of the Israel bashers as being not just hypocrites, but liars and frauds).

But while we can dismiss the self-serving positioning of the Israel haters, we cannot pretend that conservatives do not try to draw political advantage by portraying anti-Israel opinion within the Left as being more widespread than it actually is.  And then there is the phenomenon of lifelong liberals who justifiably lash out against anti-Jewish attitudes within their own tradition who, unable to get genuine Israel-haters to respond to their accusations, turn their wrath on more moderate liberal voices that should be seen as friends, rather than foes.

So where to begin to untangle such a mess of accusation, divisiveness and suspicion and is there a solution that can lead to genuine understanding (not to mention constructive interaction leading to successful action)?

Well first off, we need to acknowledge that diminishing suspicion between Left and Right involves coming to grips with the Left-Right paradigm that defines (and, in my opinion) over-defines nearly every aspect of our political discourse.  I say “coming to grips with” vs. “eliminating” since it’s unrealistic to expect a framework so widespread to be put aside after nearly two-and-a-half centuries of use.  Especially since this Left-Right framework is useful, providing as it does a meaningful way to fit positions on a range of political subjects into a belief system imbued with important human values.

But while acknowledging that the Left-Right axis we use is meaningful, we need to avoid shaping every issue in a way that focuses entirely on our most extreme differences, especially with regard to subjects containing large areas of agreement (such as support for Israel).

And even with this even-handed backdrop, I need to point out that those embracing a left-leaning worldview have the most heavy lifting to do since, for better or for worse, it is their tradition that is being co-opted and corrupted by ruthless totalitarians.

Claiming that Wistrich’s history of ambivalence and hostility towards the Jews and their state is part of the Left’s DNA (and thus unchangeable) is both inaccurate and unfair.  But denying that it has been part of the Left’s tradition since the birth of that tradition would be equally inaccurate.  And denying its relevance to the current debate (or relegating it to a marginal fringe) is not going to stop the totalitarians from continuing to use the language of the Left to continue to attack the Jewish state on the way to their real goal: The dictatorship of themselves.

These would-be totalitarians have their heroes and stories (the revolutionists of yore who used the language of progress to pave the way for their own total rule) which propels their world view and dictates their actions (which explains why they can ignore their own illiberal behavior and allies, since such questioning is of no concern to a revolutionary vanguard whose only goal is power).

But Progressive Zionists have their own heroes and stories to turn to: including those courageous liberals who stood against Communism, even while being accused of hypocrisy, class treason and every other imaginable crime.  And then there are the founders of the Jewish state itself who were as much creatures of the labor movement as they were committed Jews and Zionists, commitments that provided them the faith and courage to overcome enemies far more ruthless than the lame, faux-liberal BDSers we confront today.

And as the many liberal Zionists it has been my pleasure to work with (and the many more I have never met) come to this understanding and fight this fight, it is the obligation of those not holding a liberal world view to distinguish friend from foe and support progressive allies (or, at least not denigrate them), in their fight for the soul of the Left.  For it is the huge overlap between Left and Right with regard to belief in and support of the Jewish state that defines our strength, not the shrill and self-serving arguments of those who fall outside this consensus.

And to give us all some perspective (and perhaps an ounce of humility); consider other traditions that have historically grappled with their own relationship to Jews, Judaism and – most recently – Zionism.  Christianity, for example, is now split between growing Evangelical churches whose devotion to Israel is second only to that of American Jews and dying Mainline Protestantism (Methodists, Presbyterians, etc.) who maintain – at best – an ambivalent attitude towards the Jewish state which frequently descends into hostility (although not yet outright betrayal).

Or look at America’s mainstream conservatives dedicated to Israel’s safety, security and success who can win at the ballot box vs. the “Blame Israel First” Buchannanist Right that can barely manage to maintain itself as a cult of personality.

And even within the Progressive tradition, who would you rather associate with: the Israel-loving American industrial Labor movement that gave us safety and fair wages for workers (not to mention the weekend) or the self-righteous, ends-justify-the-means tradition represented today by pro-BDS “Leftists” which has spent much of the last two centuries delivering nothing but tyranny, death and despair?

From Ambivalence to Betrayal – 4

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Left vs. Right

An obvious objection to all this talk about Karl Marx (and the Bolshevik revolutionaries who did so much damage in his name) in the context of a discussion of Left-wing anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is that it continues to allow current inheritors of this ideology to claim to speak for the Left as a whole.

This is actually not just a strong, but a profound argument which I plan to get to shortly.  But not before covering the Betrayal portion of the story described so well in Robert Wistrich’s From Ambivalence to Betrayal.

Wistrich traces the ambivalence theme in the first two sections of his book (which covers the hundred years between Marx’s On the Jewish Question and the birth of the Jewish state) through a series of stories of the people who set the agenda for these ideological and political disputes.

Through brief intellectual histories of people such as Franz Mehring, Bernard Lazare, and Karl Kautsky (not to mention more well known names such as Karl Marx, Rose Luxmburg and Leon Trotsky) we can see how different individuals and groups grappled with Jews insisting on expressing their political aspirations by carving out their own portion of the labor movement (the Jewish Bund) or by  developing a national consciousness (the Zionists), rather than just folding themselves into a theoretical classless society through assimilation.

Many (although by no means all) of these revolutionaries were, like Marx, estranged Jews which might explain the extreme hostility they displayed when having to confront specific Jewish concerns.  But simple politics can explain other elements of Left-wing hostility to Jewish particularism, such as Lenin’s willingness to entertain the national rights of Czechs  and Poles (but not Jews) since national agitation among the former could help him achieve his goal of overthrowing the Russian Czarist state, while the later were more useful providing assimilated foot soldiers for the Revolution.

The fact that almost all the Jews who threw their lot in with Communism were murdered either before, during or after the Soviet takeover of Russia (mostly by their Comrades) demonstrates just how wrong they were with regard to the fate of the Jews after the Revolution.  But while Stalin relied as much on Russian nationalism (which included deep rooted anti-Semitism) to force industrialize the USSR and get the nation through World War II, there was a brief window where state-sponsored anti-Jewish bigotry was not allowed to impact the Soviet Union’s Machiavellian geopolitics.

This is why the Soviets supported creation of the State of Israel in 1948 (and allowed their emerging satellite of Czechoslovakia to provide the Jewish state with its few arms).  For at the time, the Jews seem most poised to disrupt the status quo in the region, a status quo that involved an exhausted Britain trying to hold onto an Empire it no longer had the power, resources or will to continue controlling.

To a large extent, this bet paid off.  For while Zionism is no longer talked about as a revolutionary movement amongst the Left, it was the example of Israel throwing off the yoke of imperial rule (while Arab opponents such as Jordan continued to ally themselves with the fading British Empire) that inspired other Third World peoples to similarly reject European rule and form their own nations.

The irony is that once those nations were formed, many threw their lot in with the new empire on the block: a Soviet Union that had mastered the ability to propagandize about creating a worker’s paradise at home and liberating people abroad, while they were actually building the world’s largest prison camp internally and exporting their soldier’s, propagandists and secret police forces around the globe to create a new imperial holdings.

It was during this post-war period that we get to what Wistrich refers to as “Betrayal.”  For once they had pocketed their gains by exploiting Israel’s usefulness in cracking British rule in the region, the Soviets quickly switched their allegiance to Israel’s Arab foes (as well as many other emerging states) to create the world we know today where cynical exploitation of the language of human rights and freedom is coupled with brutal repression at home and aggression abroad.

For the first two decades after 1948, the language of hostility was still driven by the fading monarchs and emerging military dictators of the Arab world who insisted their goal was to “throw the Jews into the sea.”  But after the 1967 Six Day War, the propaganda we see today took full flower as the real issues in the region (human rights abusing Arab tyrannies refusing to allow a Jewish presence to exist in the Middle East) was turned on its head to claim that it was the Jews who were refusing to allow an Arab (Palestinian) presence in their midst.

Given that discussion of Palestinian and general Arab responsibility for their own fate is now off limits in discussion of the Middle East within far-left circles (a mode of discussion that has, to a certain extent, gone mainstream), we can see how successful this new propaganda message has been.

But the sheer vehemence of hostility towards the Jewish state expressed by the Soviets, their allies and (today) the post-Soviet far Left, cannot entirely be explained by opportunism or realpolitik.  Annual condemnations of Israel in a Soviet (and now Arab League/OIC) dominated UN are one thing.  But turning such condemnations into an hourly ritual, and coupling these with political language and imagery that would have found a home in Der Stermer represents something else entirely.

This something else might simply be the mutation of the anti-Semitic virus which once condemned Jews as a religion then as a race, now turning on them as a nation.

But as the core of the Communist belief system (the imminence of world revolution driven by the working classes) vanished as those working classes refused to budge (or – as in Germany – joined decidedly un-Marxist mass movements), something had to fill this void.

For a while, there were attempts to have the masses of the Third World take over the role that was originally to be played by the industrial proletariat (even if this meant turning that industrial proletariat from the engine of progressive revolution to part of the machinery of global repression).

But as even this hope evaporated with the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was little left for Marxist believers to actually believe in.  Which may explain why a certain vanguard continues to deny so much objective reality and use the aggressive and ruthless tactics that emerged during the Age of Ideologies to propel forward the only thing left of their once eternal and global agenda: that Israel Must Go.

Concluded…

From Ambivalence to Betrayal – 3

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Left vs. Right

Most of the kids marching against Israel on college campuses today were not even born in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, meaning they have little to no idea how much their rhetoric and actions are built on nearly 150 years of political tactics honed during the near 150 year “Age of Ideology” that began in the mid-19th century and ended with the demise of the USSR.

But the behaviors we see among anti-Israel activists today did not emerge from thin air.  For just as current Students-for-Justice-in-Palestine types insist that any true liberal must embrace their agenda  (the PEP argument noted previously), Marxist ideologues in previous eras scoffed at progressives who “merely” wanted to improve the lives of workers or solve pressing social issues, rather than replace the entire capitalist system through a spasm of revolutionary violence.

And once it turned out that the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” was only ever going to be a dictatorship, the ruthlessness of Soviet action was matched by a ruthlessness of language in which their every crime was denied and every accusation against it buried in a mountain of rhetoric insisting that the Marxist cause by judged solely by its theoretical goal of creating heaven on earth.

In service to the cause, nothing was off limits: not civic society within the USSR and not multi-national institutions outside of it, which is why tyrannies allied with the “movement” were so successful in corrupting virtually every organization dedicated to human rights and international law, turning them from potential moderating influences in an increasingly interconnected world to weapons of war.

Accusing those that created and perpetuated this system of cynicisms would be an error, for the people who split progressive and labor movements for their own ends, who ardently rejected any criticism of their crimes (while perpetually attacking their opponents) were driven by fanaticism that more resembled religious fervor than rational calculation.

The Jews played an unusual set of roles during this Age of Ideologies.  While Medieval religious anti-Semitism was still rife when the political terms “Left” and “Right” were first coined (they applied to which side of the king one sat at the National Assembly at the time of the French revolution, BTW), by the time Karl Marx was writing what would become the sacred texts of the Marxist faith, negative reaction to Jews were being cast in economic and political vs. religious terms.

To Marx (a German who had long ago abandoned his own Jewish heritage), the continuation of the Jews for nearly two Millennia after the fall of the Jewish state was a political aberration growing out the need of powerful Christian elites for a class of moneylenders, rent collectors and economic middlemen to do their financial dirty work.  This allowed kings and clerics to gather their rents and borrow the cash needed for their lifestyles and wars.  And when their own loans came due, they could always sick the mob on these despised Jewish landlords and “loansharks,” and begin the cycle again with a new set of Jews ready to play the game of politically powerless financial middlemen.

This novel description of Jewish history was fleshed out in Marx’s famous essay On the Jewish Question, a work that today seems rife with anti-Semitic stereotypes, portraying Jews as congenial “hucksters” whose One God is actually Mammon.  But when he wrote it, Marx had a different agenda in mind.  For, according to the theories he was developing, the capitalist system was in the process of replacing the Jewish middlemen of antiquity with a class of capitalist (consisting of people of all faiths) which (according to Marx) meant the economic deformities once managed by a persecuted Jewish minority was now becoming the cornerstone of the modern political/economic system.

Thus his call to free Europe from the Jew was really a call to free society from the “hucksterism” represented originally by the Jews but which now infested all of capitalist society.  And what of actual Jews who (like Marx’s parents and grandparents) were not simply economic abstractions?  As with most human beings, they had a role to play within Marx’s developing theoretical framework.  In this case, they (meaning the Jews as a distinct people) were meant to disappear once their economic role became irrelevant as man passed into a new post-capitalist era.

To someone like Marx, this proposition was not entirely fanciful.  For hadn’t many people born into Jewish families (including Marx himself) shed their religious identity once they encountered European enlightenment?  And if Marx and others he traveled with were able to successfully toss aside their Jewishness, wasn’t that the ultimate solution to “The Jewish Problem” once a classless society freed from capitalism eliminated the need for Jewish middlemen and Jewish “husksterism” (whether practiced by Jews or Christians) entirely?

The reason Robert Wistrich’s From Ambivalence to Betrayal starts its narrative with “ambivalence,” is that the historic inevitability of Jewish assimilation and disappearance predicted by Marx meant that outright hostility towards Jews as Jews did not need to play a role in the political movements inspired by his works.

But this also meant that that actually defending Jews against the racism being directed against them (especially by purely anti-Semitic political parties emerging in countries Germany and France in the decades following Marx’s death) was equally irrelevant to the Marxist-informed Left.  Which is why you began to see condemnations of anti-Semitism (insults and violence directed at the Jews) balanced by equally vehement condemnations of “philo-Semitism” (attempts to defend Jews from these racist attacks), with arguments that Jews defending their own interests were guilty of parochialism and selfishness echoing to today.

As already noted, Marx’s theories about the redemptive power of Jewish assimilation and disappearance were confirmed by his own experience, as well as the experience of other hyper-assimilated Jews attracted to various Socialist movements.  But as these “enlightened” Jewish and non-Jewish Socialist began to encounter unassimilated Jews (especially those of Eastern Europe) and as Eastern and even Western Jews began to advocate for distinct Jewish political and even national rights, ambivalence turned to hostility which became more and more virulent as the “inevitable” world revolution never materialized, shaking Communist faith to its core.

And like so many disappointed millennialists, the revolutionary Left had someone to blame and a new cause to believe in (hostility to the Jews and their state) once their original Messiah failed to appear.

Continued…

From Ambivalence to Betrayal – 2

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Left vs. Right

One of the reasons why fights over the Middle East (whether they involve BDS or some other propaganda effort) tend to immediately be cast in terms of Left vs. Right is because the majority of attacks on the Jewish state these days come wrapped in Left-leaning vocabulary.

This is not to say that card-carrying right wingers like Pat Buchannan or outright fascists like David Duke don’t also hurl thunderbolts at the Jews and their state on a regular basis.  But even they tend to use terminology that has long become familiar to both Israel’s defenders and defamers.

For instance, with a few exceptions you will no longer even hear Israel’s most ardent foes talk about throwing the Jews into the sea or readying for a massacre that would rival the Mongols (language Israel’s hostile neighbors used repeatedly during the first two decades of the state’s existence).  Instead, complaints (which range from reasonable-sounding to hysterical) draw upon the language of human rights and international law to make the case that Israel is the world’s greatest violator of both.

In fact, individuals and groups who use this terminology to make their case against the Jewish state do not simply see themselves as Progressives but insist that their issue defines who does and who does not deserve this label.

This is why those traveling under the BDS banner routinely accuse liberals who do not follow their lead of being PEPs (“Progressives for Everything but Palestine”), encapsulating in a single inelegant phrase the assumption that support for anything other than Palestinian demands (whatever they happen to be this week) represents an abandonment of liberal principles.

The key to understanding this phenomenon is seeing how ineffective it is trying to use this same accusation in reverse.  For instance, I don’t think I’ve met a single Israel supporter who, at one time or another, has not expressed the notion that Progressives who claim to champion the rights of women and gays (for example) can possibly favor the Arabs (who crush the rights of both) as opposed to Israel (which probably has the best record with regard to gender and sexual equality in the world).

Activists with this mindset (which I once had and still possess to some degree) are perpetually shocked to find out how ineffective such “reverse-PEP” arguments are when directed against Israel’s most ardent foes.

Gay rights is the perfect example of an issue that should demonstrate both the yawning chasm between Israel’s approach to human rights vs. its opponents, and the hypocrisy of anyone claiming to champion liberal values who fights to expand the territory in which the murder of gays is politically and religiously sanctioned.

But try to bring this contradiction to the attention of self-styled, pro-Palestinian, “progressive” groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and you will soon find yourself being accused (and accused and accused and accused) of “Pinkwashing,” a fake phenomenon invented by JVP types to avoid this issue entirely by casting it as part of an evil plot by Israel’s friends to “change the subject” from whatever it is the Israel-dislikers insist is the only thing we’re allowed to talk about.

The reason behind this strategy of avoidance (as well as the shrillness that accompanies it) is that Israel’s foes (who have no answer regarding the glaring contradictions of their claimed ideology) assume that if they simply ignore their opponents and shriek their own accusations ever louder, eventually others will tire of trying to get a response out of them, leaving the field open for debate to continue on the Israel-haters own terms.

The behaviors we see from Israel’s loudest accusers (dividing the Left into “true Progressives” who toe the BDS party line and “false” ones who do not, ignoring all facts and arguments that they cannot respond to, and never relenting from perpetual attack mode) all have precedent in the argument which framed the Left during the last century as much as hostility to Israel defines it for this one: the role of the Soviet Union (and support thereof) as the touchstone for commitment to revolutionary change.

It is to this subject that Wistrich turns to first in From Ambivalence and Betrayal, and I shall turn to next.

Continued…

From Ambivalence to Betrayal – 1

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Left vs. Right

From Ambivalence to Betrayal book cover

Well I finished reading Robert Wistrich’s From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel.  And, as expected from a scholar of Wistrich’s impeccable talents, the book is not just masterful but is likely to represent the seminal work on the subject of Left-Right anti-Semitism for decades to come.

My first instinct was to keep thoughts on Wistrich’s new book to myself, given the arguments that tend to break out among friends when Left vs. Right political issues make an appearance on this blog.  After all, despite considerable differences on almost every single issue, among the mainstream Left and Right (at least in the US) there is general consensus with regard to support for the Jewish state and near universal revulsion at everything BDS is, does and stands for.

Sure, support for the Jewish state might hue closer to 2:1 among liberal audiences vs. 3:1 or 4:1 in more conservative circles.  But even with these stats, I can’t think of any other concrete issue (certainly not one dealing with foreign policy) that unites the political spectrum as much as its ongoing favorable disposition towards Israel.

And given that every BDS battle I’ve ever been involved with included Left-leaning and Right-leaning persons working side-by-side to hand the boycotters their head (again), it’s tempting to leave well enough alone and just move forward with the assumption that, when needed, members across the political spectrum will unite again to fight off the next BDS threat.

But as those of you who follow Divest This should know by now, avoiding controversy (even for the sake of comity) is not my thing, especially when discussion of a topic so close to the surface might help us achieve a new level of understanding that can only help us as we prepare for the next fight.

I’m also hoping that, now that the US election season has finally ended, we can discuss these matters without the interference of an agenda regarding whom the Jews should vote for last November.  Not that Jewish voting patterns aren’t worth a discussion once the next election looms.  But given that we’ve got a few years to go until this issue becomes significant again, this seems like the perfect time to delve deeper into a subject that has traditionally divided, but has the potential to unite.

Because of the depth of this topic, my thoughts on From Ambivalence to Betrayal are likely to bother several friends over the course of what will likely be a 4-5 part series that I hope to complete this week.  And while I’ll make no changes in comment policy during this period, all I ask is that readers offended by any particular piece reserve judgment (and your best arguments) for after the series is complete and you can see the entire scope of what I’ve learned from Professor Wistrich.

And with that, I’ll kick off tomorrow with something I think we call can agree on: why alleged “progressive” groups (like Jewish Voice for Peace) are nothing of the kind.

Continued…

A response to Mike

As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, some obligations in the second half of the year have left me with limited time to, among other thing, post or respond as frequently to comments as I would like.

But one of our visitors (Mike who runs the excellent site Israel Thrives) was taken enough with the debates that have been going on in the comments section (particularly debates over where BDS and anti-Zionism fit into left-leaning political culture) that he has continued that discussion on his own site and his new blog on the Times of Israel site (BTW – congrats on the new gig, Mike!).

The author’s key argument is that there is no question that BDS and anti-Zionist (and even anti-Semitic politics) has found a home on the political Left and that anyone who ignores this has his “head buried in the sand” (possibly over conflicting identities as both a supporter of Israel and of liberal causes).

Now Mike goes out of his way to not attribute those attitudes to me.  Which is just as well since with regard to his first argument (that anti-Israel politics has a home on the Left), I would not only agree with him but would go much further.  For my understanding of this issue comes from reading the works of Robert Wistrich who has not only documented the phenomena of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic themes evolving in Left-wing politics, but has traced the phenomena to its origins in the works of Marx and specific anti-Zionist Soviet propaganda programs of the 20s and 60s that still provide the foundation for most left-wing anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism today.  (BTW – Wistrich has just come out with a new book that I’ve not read yet, but I predict will be the seminal work on this subject.)

Obviously ignoring this problem would be akin to ignoring how anti-Semitism first grafted itself onto nationalist politics in the 19th century (which many of the Jews of Europe did do, with disastrous consequences).  But I differ with Mike with regard to his characterization of many left-leaning friends of Israel as having their “heads buried” (i.e., as intentionally ignoring the obvious due to partisan blindness).

My difference with Mike over this question centers on the definition of a single word.  Not the obvious ones you would think of (such as “Left,” “anti-Zionism” or “anti-Semitism”) but over the humbler word “home.”

For in talking about BDS and other anti-Israel activities and attitudes having a home on the Left, it makes a difference whether we’re talking about the home you offer a beloved family member or the home set up by a virus or other disease in a body that it was never invited into.

If we define home in the family-member sense, then we would be making the argument that anti-Zionism (and even anti-Semitism) are an intrinsic component of Left-wing ideology, much like eyes are intrinsic to human beings, which would lead us to very different conclusions than if we treated anti-Semitism on the Left as the same kind of infection that permeated nationalist and Right-leaning politics in the first half of the 20th century.

Because political ideologies (Left, Right or something else) are creations of man (not natural occurrences), I tend to discount theories that claim they have an intrinsic nature (good or bad).  And given that what we call the political Left is so broad that it includes everyone from former Klansman Robert Byrd to BDS cranks and the Occupy Wall Streeters, it seems just as obvious to me as Mike’s theories are to him that anti-Zionism is one of many political sub-movements vying for position within a huge coalition that roughly falls into the Left end of a Left-Right axis that I already find too broad and dualistic (a dualism we reach for far too hastily in order to explain a world that may not fall into two easily-defined camps).

But the disease definition of “home” helps explain many of the phenomena I’ve encountered in my anti-BDS work, especially with regard to the continuing broad coalition of Left-Right support for Israel in mainstream political organizations (like the Democratic and Republican parties), as well as the fact that most of the people I have fought alongside in major BDS battles have been progressive Jews and non-Jews who reject the notion that BDS be allowed to speak in their name.

We fortunately have an historic analogy we can use to understand this question: the relationship between “The Left” writ large and 20th century left-wing totalitarianism in the form of Marxist-Leninist Communism.

As with Mike’s original assertion regarding anti-Zionism, it would be folly to claim that Marxism had not found a significant home on the Left end of the political spectrum throughout the West.  But it would be just as fallacious to claim that this meant all left-leaning and progressive politics of any stripe were a front, or at least permanently tainted due to the inability of progressives to fully remove Marxists from their big tent.

This inability did not prevent Democratic Presidents (such as Truman and Kennedy) from taking just as strong a stand against Communist expansion as Right-leaning politicians (such as Eisenhower and Reagan).  Nor did it prevent thoughtful liberals from creating the intellectual antibodies needed to help institutions like the Democratic Party and US labor movement from becoming Marxist front groups (the fate of many unions and political parties in Europe).

Just as claiming Marxism to be the true face of the Left (which would leave thoughtful liberals with no choice but to abandon the movement or face charges of “burying their heads in the sand”), claiming anti-Israel politics to be the true face of today’s Left would mean that progressives (including progressive, Israel-loving Jews) are wasting their time trying to challenge anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, fight against BDS, and generally battle the infection of anti-Semitism from within.

Now it could be that Jews are deluded regarding who their true friends and enemies are, and that their only sensible choice is to abandon liberalism/progressivism/”the left” entirely and join a different political movement (conservativism/”the right”) where their only genuine supporters allegedly dwell.

But just as I tend to be suspicious of any analysis that divides the world into just two categories of Left and Right, I also prefer to think about these types of choices during a period when they will not be clouded by other political agendas (such as the play for Jewish votes during a US election).

And now to get back to some of my allies and correspondents (both Left and Right leaning) who I still owe thanks to for making 2012 the least successful year in BDS history.