`Anti-Semitism,' Israel and the Left: Who's Really Behind the Crude Equation between Israel and `the Jews'?

By Green, Philip | The Nation, May 5, 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

`Anti-Semitism,' Israel and the Left: Who's Really Behind the Crude Equation between Israel and `the Jews'?


Green, Philip, The Nation


The war on Iraq has unleashed some familiar conspiracy theories in recent months, on both the right and the left. Lyndon LaRouche laid blame for the coming war at the feet of "a nest of Israeli agents inside the US government"; then Pat Buchanan blamed the US invasion of Iraq on a "cabal" of Jewish intellectuals willing to "conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel." On the other side of the tally, Democratic Representative James Moran declared, "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war in Iraq, we would not be doing this," while a Democratic New York City Council member, Robert Jackson, attributed opposition to a local antiwar resolution to Jewish colleagues who saw New York only as their "home away from home" and believed the resolution would "not be in the best interests of the State of Israel." The idea that Jews loyal to Israel over America were driving the United States to war gained enough force to garner mention in the editorial pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post, and finally ended up at the feet of Colin Powell, who, in what was surely a historical first for a Secretary of State on the eve of armed conflict, was asked by a member of Congress to publicly disavow that a "cabal" was behind this war.

Somehow, though, despite the broad circulation--and broad denunciation--of this poisonous idea, only the left seems doomed to bear the taint of anti-Semitism. Why should this be so?

The furor over events in San Francisco leading up to the massive February antiwar marches is telling. Rabbi Michael Lerner, the founder of Tikkun, claimed that he was excluded from a list of potential speakers at the Bay Area event because he had publicly criticized ANSWER, one of the sponsors, for being anti-Israel. What might have been a minor back-room squabble went public when a group of left writers (many affiliated with The Nation) circulated a petition on his behalf and Lerner himself detailed his charges in the prowar Wall Street Journal. His story, headlined "The Antiwar Anti-Semites," condemned "anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing on the left." Letter writers to the Journal responded with barely concealed glee at Lerner's outing of the left, one opining venomously that "the American far left would no more tolerate criticism of its anti-Semitism than the Communists and Nazis tolerated criticism of theirs." Since that writer has certainly not been threatened with removal to the camps or the gulag, we can take his letter for what it really is: an attempt to blackmail "the far left" into silence on a crucial issue.

This fraught accusation of "left-wing anti-Semitism" surfaces so regularly that before considering it, we need to remind ourselves what anti-Semitism--the real thing--has actually looked like over the centuries. It had (and has) nothing to do with Israel or Zionism, but was rather a prototypical racist stereotyping, by means of which the alleged traits of certain individuals--"money-grubbing," "pushiness," moral degeneracy--are transformed via the alchemy of paranoid fantasy into the collective persona of "Jews" or "the Jew."

For the anti-Semite, as for all racists, these racial distinctions are always invidious, never just descriptive. This aspect of anti-Semitism has at times been disguised, since whereas for most other racisms the stigmatized group is alleged to be both morally and culturally inferior, anti-Semitism often combines an allegation of moral degeneracy or social inferiority with a paranoid fear of a dangerous superiority, or envy of supposed intellectual or economic attainment. Envy, though, is as unpleasant as disdain, especially in the form of litanies of what "your people" have so wonderfully accomplished. For the anti-Semite, then, the Jew is not just Jewish; he stands for something, and it's always something bad. At the same time, a collective personality having been established--the desire for world domination and control of international finance at its center--it is also read backward onto individuals, so that for the anti-Semite every Jew is potentially both a bearer of the group character and a part of the conspiracy.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

`Anti-Semitism,' Israel and the Left: Who's Really Behind the Crude Equation between Israel and `the Jews'?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?