By Frederick Krantz
The United States is witnessing today several linked phenomena of profound importance and danger for both Israel and the world. The Democratic Party risks being taken over by a faction calling itself “progressive” or “democratic socialist”, and distancing itself from Jews and from the Party’s traditional support for the State of Israel. In doing so, this faction is following a well-trodden, and dangerous, historical-political path
We are by now familiar with the anti-Israel and antisemitic positions of the new Democratic Party Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, echoed by the self-proclaimed socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We are aware of the ongoing refusal of members of this Party to dissociate themselves from the likes of the “Black Muslim” anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan and the “Reverends” Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and have witnessed Party leader Nancy Pelosi’s ignominious inability explicitly to condemn Omar’s antisemitism, instead lumping it together with “homophobia”, “Islamophobia”, and “white nationalism” in a vacuous statement disingenuously condemning a vague and fuzzy “racism”.
And we have watched as five of the leading declared Democratic Presidential candidates refused to attend the annual AIPAC meeting in D.C. They did so for politically-correct reasons, to avoid a negative association with an organization attacked by pro-Palestinian “progressives” and anti- “Jewish lobby” leftists because it supports democratic Jewish Israel. This in the Party of Harry Truman, who first recognized the Jewish State in 1948 and which once boasted such strong pro-Israel figures as Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton, and Senators Hubert Humphrey, Henry Jackson and Daniel Moynihan.
The hallmark of this “new antisemitism” is replacement of the Jew as the focus of religious or racial hatred by political hatred of Israel, the Jewish state. To be “anti-Zionist” is not antisemitic because, supposedly, one no longer hates Jews, but only their self-evidently illegitimate political expression, the State of Israel. We are asked to believe that seeking the genocidal destruction of the only Jewish state in existence (the functional Endziel or goal of the BDS campaign), is not antisemitic, but an act of righteous political virtue.
Precisely this nauseating high moral dudgeon on the part of the same old low and vulgar hatred describes the not-so-new “new” antisemitism, and its socialist proponents. The latter, wrapped in political amnesia and willful historical unknowing, ignore the long, sad, vicious and failed history of all formerly known forms of “socialism” and communism, from the early 19th c. “utopian” socialists (Fourier and St. Simon), to Marx and Engels later, through Lenin, Stalin, and Bolshevism-Communism, to Venezuela’s Maduro today.
Despite its proclaimed idealistic egalitarianism, socialism-communism everywhere has ended in unfreedom, poverty, and dictatorship. Everywhere, it has entailed human suffering, murder, and millions upon millions of Gulag victims. And everywhere it has empowered antisemitism and the repression of Judaism.
These incontrovertible facts, and the incontrovertible socialism-antisemitism nexus, are mirrored in the resurgent American avatars of progressive “democratic socialism”.
How, in the most powerful democracy in the world at the height of its material and political power, many (including advantaged campus young people) have come to this ugly pass is worth examining. But for now, let’s cut to the chase and ask a key question: Who in 2020 will seek to be the American version of Britain’s anti-Semitic radical socialist Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn?
Who will try to take over a once-great political party, vaunting the new antisemitic anti-Israelism as a sign of his (or her) egalitarian commitment? Who — dangling before a dazzled people the utopian plums of a “Green Industrial Revolution”, a guaranteed income and cheap medicine for all, abolition of the Electoral College, and a restored, virginal planet Earth — will try to lead America to the promised socialist land?
And who, ignoring the American Founding Fathers’ emphasis on freedom and liberty, and their insistence on checked and balanced government, will try to ride a distorted “progressive” emphasis on exclusionary “diversity” and abstract equality to plebiscitary power? Will it be the millionaire socialist, Bernie Sanders? The populist “Pocahontas”, Elizabeth Warren? “Spartacus” Booker? Bouncing Beto O’Rourke? Or some other as yet unheralded rough beast, already slouching to D.C.?
Whoever it is, concerned Democrats, and Americans generally, must call out and oppose this threatening “new” antisemitism and its “democratic socialist” carapace. Above all, it is crucial to remember history, and to reaffirm the “old”, and at once classical-liberal and conservative, democratic vision. It is rooted in Biblical Israel’s Judaic insistence on justice, due process, and each person’s God-given rights, and responsibilities, this vision, tested and adapted across millennia of Western history. And it came to underlay the unique American Republic, founded not upon blood and soil but on ideas and values. America is dedicated to embodying the inalienable rights and well-being not of the State or Party, but of the individual.
As we celebrate this Passover season of liberation from slavery into freedom, reborn, democratic Jewish Israel in its dangerous neighborhood successfully held an open and free election. America, Israel’s sister democracy and only reliable ally, must fight the new “progressive” socialism-antisemitism with all its intellectual, moral, and political strength. In doing so, we should all remember the title of repentant Italian communist Ignazio Silone’s eloquent 1949 collection, one of the great works of post-World War II modernity: The God That Failed.
(Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)