Honouring Lord Balfour, Who Made Israel Possible: Barbara Kay, National Post, Oct. 24, 2017 — This coming November 2nd marks the centenary of the Balfour Declaration…
The Enemy of My Enemy: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 24, 2017— The dramatic swing to the Right in the recent Austrian elections is likely to have widespread repercussions throughout Europe.
Why Did Russian Jews Support the Bolshevik Revolution?: Michael Stanislawski, Tablet, Oct. 24, 2017 — When the Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd on Oct. 25, 1917, the vast majority of Russia’s Jews opposed that takeover.
Lenin’s Deadly Revolution: Martin Amis, New York Times, Oct. 16, 2017— It was not a good idea that somehow went wrong or withered away. It was a very bad idea from the outset, and one forced into life — or the life of the undead — with barely imaginable self-righteousness, pedantry, dynamism, and horror.
Why Do American Jews Idealize Soviet Communism?: Ruth R. Wisse, Tablet, Oct. 22, 2017
The First Totalitarian: Josef Joffe, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2017
Balfour’s Greatest of Gifts: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 27, 2017
The Balfour Declaration Was More than the Promise of One Nation: Martin Kramer, Mosaic, June 28, 2017
National Post, Oct. 24, 2017
This coming November 2nd marks the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, which with its portentous words, “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…” may be the most consequential foreign-policy statement in modern history. Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, famously said, “If you will it, it is no dream.” But without Lord James Arthur Balfour’s sympathy with Zionism, there would have been no Declaration, and more important, no British Mandate over the region of Palestine (there was then no country called Palestine). For it was the Mandate that gave the Declaration international standing, a status that cannot be legally abrogated.
In 1902, the British government, in which Lord Balfour served, had offered Zionist Jews land in East Africa (later Uganda) to found a national home as a response to murderous pogroms in Russia and eastern Europe. The offer was rejected, fully rousing Balfour’s curiosity about the Jewish question. I say “fully,” because Balfour had been happily immersed from childhood in Judaism’s sacred texts — the Bible, the psalms and the prophets.
And so, in 1906, with time on his hands after his government’s defeat, Balfour met with Israel’s future first president Chaim Weizmann, a Russian immigrant (via studies in Paris), who at the time was teaching chemistry at a Manchester university in Balfour’s constituency. This meeting was well documented in Weizmann’s memoirs. In a frequently-quoted exchange, Weizmann asked, justifying Zionists’ refusal of Uganda: “‘Mr. Balfour, supposing I were to offer you Paris instead of London, would you take it?’ He sat up, looked at me and answered: ‘But, Dr. Weizmann, we have London.’ ‘That is true,’ I said. ‘But we had Jerusalem when London was a marsh.’ He leaned back and continued to stare at me … I did not see him again till 1916.”
Weizmann’s insistence on the Jews’ legitimate moral claim for re-settlement in their ancient homeland was the right argument for Balfour. Balfour’s niece and biographer, Blanche Dugdale, wrote: “(Balfour) understood from that time forward that the Jewish form of patriotism would never be satisfied with anything less than Palestine. The more he thought about Zionism, the more his respect for it grew.” (When Balfour and Weizmann met again during the First World War, it was as though they had spoken days, not a decade, before. Balfour said to Weizmann, “You know, I was thinking of that conversation of ours and I believe that when the guns stop firing, you may get your Jerusalem.”)
Weizmann was Balfour’s first non-establishment and bullishly Zionist Jewish friend. Balfour frequently socialized with the Jewish elites of his generation, like the Rothschilds. But almost to a man, they were assimilated Reform Jews and virulently anti-Zionist. Indeed, when official negotiations with the Zionists began in 1917, high-status English Jews were incensed. The Jewish Board of Deputies, the equivalent of our Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, looked down on the Zionists from Eastern Europe as impoverished, insular and deluded. But, as Herzl noted, they at least were Jews who fully embraced their Jewish identity and “were not tortured by the idea of assimilation.”
One can see a contemporary parallel here in the division, especially on campus, between pro and anti-Israel Jews. Today, the battle lines are not drawn between rich vs. poor Jews, or smoothly integrated vs. unrefined immigrant Jews, and the stakes are not cultural acceptance or security. We are all accepted, we are all as secure as Jews have ever been. Today, the battle lines are ideological: progressive, anti-Zionist Jews vs. classically liberal, Israel-supportive Jews.
But there is one unifying theme to be found between the divided Jewish communities of 1917 and 2017. In both cases, one can see the same conceptual bright line between the two camps regarding the idea of a homeland for Jews. One thinks along social justice lines; the other along existential lines. And the two points of view cannot co-exist in harmony.
The social-justice school sees the Jews as one people amongst many, but one singled out for persecution and in need of a safe space, wherever that might be. In 1902, such Jews found no problem with Uganda as a solution to pogroms. Today’s social-justice Jews understand Israel’s rise to statehood as a response to the Holocaust (a view endorsed and articulated by former President Obama). They consider it was right and proper at that time for the world to recognize Jewish suffering with a safe space. Israel happened to be the obvious choice.
The problem with the sanctuary vision is that the national Jewish home is looked at as a gift rather than a right. What is given by others can be taken away by others. Israel’s moral legitimacy is contingent on its passing what is sometimes referred to as the Holocaust test: you Jews suffered violence, you may therefore not show violence to others, even in your own defence. The question of legitimacy is always on the progressive mind. Increasingly, Israel is perceived of as having failed that test…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Jerusalem Post, Oct. 24, 2017
The dramatic swing to the Right in the recent Austrian elections is likely to have widespread repercussions throughout Europe. It will also oblige Israel to reconsider its current approach to far Right groups. While many readers may strongly disagree with my views, I feel that the time has come to face reality.
Israel is stronger today than at any time since it was founded, but the fact remains that despite a currently friendly US administration, most of the world continues to discriminate against and apply double standards to Israel. No other nation is confronted by fanatical cultures that extol evil and death and repeatedly and publicly bay for the destruction of their neighbor – to the indifference of most of the “civilized” world, which merely watches and at best remains silent.
In this environment, it is time for us to overcome inhibitions and intensify efforts to actively seek out alliances, with nondemocratic states or even those whose viewpoints on various issues we strongly oppose. Some would condemn such an approach as hypocritical and amoral realpolitik. Yet almost all Israelis are encouraged that our leaders have forged a positive relationship with an authoritarian Russia ruled by Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent who currently displays philo-Semitic sympathies.
In general, Israelis are optimistic – and with good reason – about our relationship with Egypt headed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Yet antisemitism still dominates much of the state-controlled media as Egyptian society has been conditioned over the years to hate Israel and the Jews. This may change in time but the reason for the current rapprochement is primarily that we face common enemies.
The covert and somewhat schizophrenic new relationship with Saudi Arabia is even more bizarre. Fanatical Saudi Wahhabism is the fountainhead of Islamic terrorism and continues to promote it throughout the world. Its hatred of Israel and the Jews knows no bounds and is an integral component of the current Saudi educational curriculum, and its mullahs are notorious for calling on the faithful to murder Jews, “the descendants of apes and pigs.” Yet the emerging Iranian threat to impose regional hegemony induced the Saudi leaders to covertly cooperate with Israel. Israel has likewise been cultivating relations with India and China as well as other Asian, African and Latin American states, many of which are not even remotely democratic.
By and large, despite some of the problematic attitudes shared by these new allies, the clear majority of Israelis – across the political spectrum – consider these developments positive. However, the one region in which we seem to have made scant progress is Europe. The EU has in fact been pouring huge sums of money into NGOs that have actively undermined the Israeli government and shamelessly apply bias and double standards in all their dealings with Israel. For example, at a recent seminar in the European Parliament, a political group uniting leftists invited as one of its keynote speakers Leila Khaled, the notorious Palestinian terrorist who hijacked two civilian aircraft.
Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, some of the Baltic states and now the Czech Republic are pro-Israel and distance themselves from the EU policies. Yet these are mainly right-wing nationalist governments bitterly opposed to the flood of Muslim immigrants that Germany and the EU seek to impose upon them. Accusations have been leveled that they are supported by neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers and, in some cases, that is probably true. Likewise, in Western Europe we are now also confronted with a host of right-wing populist opposition groups that are emerging in protest to the immigration. These populists are likely to grow stronger, gain influence and may alter the entire political spectrum in Europe.
Needless to say, no responsible Jew could contemplate any association or alliance with neo-Nazis or Holocaust deniers. But the fact that a percentage of such undesirable scum support a particular party should not disqualify that party any more so than it does the US Republican Party, which is supported by some fringe racists, or the Democratic Party, which is the political home of some vicious anti-Israel and antisemitic elements. Israel cannot simply distance itself from all of these right-wing groups and must review and weigh each case individually. It is clear that if leaders of governments include apologists for Nazis or outright Holocaust deniers, we can have no truck with them. However, the reality is that despite extremists and even antisemites supporting the emerging right-wing parties, many of these groups are overall less hostile to us than leftist governments that support the Islamists and are also becoming increasingly overtly antisemitic.
In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Front achieved 34% of the vote in the recent presidential runoff; in Italy, the Northern League has 19 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 12 in the Senate; Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom became the second largest party in the Dutch Parliament; and Alternative for Germany created an upheaval by emerging as the third largest party following the September federal election. The latest shock was in Austria where the hardright Freedom Party became the third largest party and will become a coalition partner to the winning conservative Austrian People’s Party. All these parties, except for the Dutch, at one time had fascist elements actively supporting them.
Although there are problematic components in the German and Austrian parties, by and large most continue to purge antisemites from their ranks, certainly more so than the British Labor Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Significantly, Heinz-Christian Strache, head of the Austrian Freedom Party, has been an enthusiastic supporter of Israel, as have most populist parties. There are of course boundaries and sometimes this is a gray area but the Holocaust is too deeply ingrained in our psyche to even contemplate an alliance with pro-Nazi politicians…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Tablet, Oct. 24, 2017
When the Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd on Oct. 25, 1917, the vast majority of Russia’s Jews opposed that takeover. Five years later, when the USSR was created at the end of a treacherously bloody civil war, the situation was reversed—not, as the Hebrew cliché has it, out of the love of Mordecai, but out of hatred of Haman.
It is difficult to paint a precise picture of the political views of Russian Jews at the time of the Revolution for the simple reason that we have relatively little precise information on the subject: From 1905 to 1917 the Jews voted in elections for the four parliaments (called Dumas) that were created in response to the 1905 Revolution. None of these elections were based on universal suffrage, first and foremost because women could not vote, and so we have no firm data whatsoever on the views of half of the Jewish population. Moreover, the franchise was more and more restricted as the years went by, and so the number of Jews voting for and being elected to the Duma went down, rather than up, during the 12 years of the parliaments’ existence. Twice in 1917, the Jews voted again, this time with female suffrage, but we still lack data on a very significant chunk of the Jewish population.
From the voting data we do have it is possible to conclude several crucial points: First, the Bolsheviks had very little support among the Jewish population, possibly the lowest amount of any of the multiple parties vying for support “on the Jewish street.” And this was despite the fact that many of the Bolsheviks’ most important leaders were Jews—though Jews who viewed their Jewishness as an incidental artifact of their birth, with no meaning for them either religiously (as they were atheists) or nationally (as they regarded themselves as internationalists). Most famously, when Leon Trotsky was asked what his nationality was, he replied “socialist.” More Jews, though hardly a great number, supported the Mensheviks, the less radically Marxist half of the Russian Social Democratic Party, headed by a Jew, Julius Martov, who opposed Lenin’s stance on violent revolution but shared the Bolsheviks’ anti-nationalist stance. Far more Jews, though still a relatively small percentage of the population, supported the Bund—the Jewish socialist party whose stance on socialism was all but identical to the Mensheviks, but slowly adopted an idiosyncratic form of Jewish nationalism based on national cultural autonomy for the Jews of the Empire and dedication to Yiddish as the national language of the Jewish people. Thus, in toto, the Jewish population broadly rejected socialism in any guise, Jewish or not, as the solution to the problems of the Jews in Russia.
Far more Jews, though still a minority, supported the liberal party known as the Kadets (the acronym for the Constitutional Democrats), who were dedicated to liberal constitutionalism, universal suffrage, and equal rights for the minorities of the Empire. In its early years, the party included several prominent Jewish intellectuals and lawyers in its leadership ranks, a matter which attracted a great deal of support from the Jewish population as a whole. But in the years before the Revolution the Kadets became more and more conservative, often siding with the Octobrists, a right-wing party that supported the monarchy, and therefore lost a good deal of its appeal among Jews. A small specifically Jewish liberal party—the Folkspartei—shared the Kadets’ liberalism, to which they added support for national cultural autonomy similar to that of the Bund. They appealed to a very small sliver of the Jewish community—basically academics and other intellectuals.
Far more complicated to assess is the degree of support for Zionism at that time in the Russian Jewish community. To be sure, when Theodor Herzl founded the Zionist movement in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897, the majority of his followers were from the Russian Empire, and the movement as a whole gained a large amount of support in Russia in the subsequent two decades. But what exactly it meant to belong to a Zionist party is far from clear: Many Jews bought the symbolic shekel which gained them a membership card, but that did not mean much in terms of their actual worldviews. And almost from the start, Russian Zionism split into a number of opposing factions: the “political Zionists,” who supported Herzl and his goal of creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine; “cultural” or “spiritual” Zionists, led by Ahad Ha’am, who opposed mass Jewish migration to Palestine and the immediate creation of a state in favor of a cultural revolution among the Jews based on a radically secular new Hebraic culture; various socialist Zionist parties which attempted to synthesize conflicting views of social-democracy and Marxism with Zionism…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
New York Times, Oct. 16, 2017
It was not a good idea that somehow went wrong or withered away. It was a very bad idea from the outset, and one forced into life — or the life of the undead — with barely imaginable self-righteousness, pedantry, dynamism, and horror. The chief demerit of the Marxist program was its point-by-point defiance of human nature. Bolshevik leaders subliminally grasped the contradiction almost at once; and their rankly Procrustean answer was to leave the program untouched and change human nature. In practical terms this is what “totalitarianism” really means: On their citizens such regimes make “a total claim.”
The following is from “the secret archive,” published as “The Unknown Lenin” (1996), and the entry is dated March 1922: “It is precisely now and only now, when in the starving regions people are eating human flesh, and hundreds if not thousands of corpses are littering the roads, that we can (and therefore must) …” At this point the unversed reader might pause to wonder how the sentence will go forward. Something like “pursue all avenues of amelioration and relief,” perhaps?
But no. This is Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the leader of “a party of a new type,” who continues: “… carry out the confiscation of church valuables with the most savage and merciless energy. … Precisely at this moment we must give battle to [the clergy] in the most decisive and merciless manner and crush its resistance with such brutality that it will not forget it for decades to come. … The greater the number of representatives of the reactionary clergy and reactionary bourgeoisie we succeed in executing for this reason, the better.” Church records show that 1,962 monks, 2,691 priests and 3,447 nuns were killed in that year alone. Religion, you see, was part of human nature, so the Bolsheviks were obliged to suppress it in all its forms (including Islam and Buddhism).
“The Unknown Lenin: From the Secret Archive” was edited by Richard Pipes, and Pipes was responsible for what is probably the most comprehensive account of the period, namely the trilogy “Russia Under the Old Regime,” “The Russian Revolution” and “Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime, 1919-1924.” The two best single-volume studies known to me share the virtues of erudition and brio; and they very nearly share a title — “The Soviet Tragedy,” by Martin Malia, and “A People’s Tragedy,” by Orlando Figes. It was indeed a “tragedy” in the colloquial sense (“an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress”), but not at all in the literary sense, with its implicit pattern of crisis/hubris/nemesis. What is eloquent, in this case, is the word’s derivation: from the Greek tragoidia, “apparently from tragos ‘goat’ + oide ‘song.’” Song of the goat, the bleat as dirge — reminding us also that Russia was a rural society, and therefore the least eligible of the European powers for a “dictatorship of the proletariat”: There was a vast peasantry, but the proletariat was minuscule. The revolution came from above (a coup underscored by machine guns); the tragedy was experienced from below. “A People’s Tragedy,” then, is decidedly the more resonant.
Nowadays, of course, the “unknown” Lenin is unknown no longer — though as late as 1989 Mikhail Gorbachev was rereading the complete works of “Ilyich” (55 volumes in Russian) in search of some last-hour remedy, even as the U.S.S.R. was melting away all around him. Lenin bequeathed a fully functioning police state to Joseph Stalin ; thus the experiment, in its fulminant form, lasted from 1917 to 1953, by which time there were many millions of supernumerary deaths (and if Stalin hadn’t died in March of the latter year there would have been a second Jewish Holocaust by Christmastime). The verdict of history has at last been returned. But the jury — i.e., informed opinion in the First World — stayed out until the late 1970s. What took it so long?…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!
Why Do American Jews Idealize Soviet Communism?: Ruth R. Wisse, Tablet, Oct. 22, 2017—[In] this country there was a time when virtually all intellectual vitality was derived in one way or another from the Communist Party.
The First Totalitarian: Josef Joffe, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2017—Can first-rate history read like a thriller?
Balfour’s Greatest of Gifts: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 27, 2017—This week Israel’s judo team was harassed and discriminated against by UAE officials when they tried to board a flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul, en route to Abu Dhabi to participate in the Judo Grand Slam competition.
The Balfour Declaration Was More than the Promise of One Nation: Martin Kramer, Mosaic, June 28, 2017—In 1930, the British Colonial Office published a “white paper” that Zionists saw as a retreat from the Balfour Declaration.