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Mordechai Nisan, The Crack-up of the Israeli Left

Filed under: Israel
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review
Volume 31, Numbers 1-2

Mordechai Nisan, The Crack-up of the Israeli Left, Mantua Books, 2019, 224 pp.

This book makes interesting reading for Western researchers even if not acquainted – like myself – with the complexities of the Israeli political morass. It offers varied insights on the ideology, teachings, publications, and political activities of the Israeli left. I must clearly state that I am unfamiliar with Israeli political life, parties, and media, and that I review this book only in relation to the European ideology and stance toward Israel, the PLO, and the Middle East at large. 

There are indeed fascinating similarities between the terminology, ideology, and militancy of Western leftist anti-Semitism and some of Israel’s leftist politics. In my view, the ideology denying Israel’s right to exist, suppressing its history and identity in order to eradicate the Jewish state, is nothing less than racism and the heir of genocidal Nazism whatever specious humanitarian disguise it adopts. It is true that some Jewish political milieus in the late 19th and 20th centuries strongly opposed Zionism, but such an attitude was motivated by the particular dangerous circumstances of the time. The new Jewish anti-Zionism is of a specific character. Like its European twin, it emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s with ideological elements and a vocabulary in perfect synchrony with Western anti-Zionism, so much so that it is difficult to distinguish which triggers and feeds the other.

From 1967 onward, the European leftist parties that were pro-Israeli after World War II underwent a major mutation with the advent of the Gaullist pro-Arab and pro-PLO policy linked to the Israeli victory of June 1967. In January 1969, the Second International Conference in Support of the Arab Peoples (Cairo) laid down in 23 resolutions the transnational groundwork of a war planned at every level against the Jewish state. Four years later, after the Israeli victory in the Yom Kippur War, this groundwork, supported mainly by France, became the nucleus of an unofficial Middle East policy adopted by the nine countries of the European Community under the coordinated supervision and funding of the European Commission. The Euro-Arab Dialogue that was established in 1974-75, and patronized by the EC member states and the Arab League states, developed Euro-Arab commissions and subcommissions, and its transnational networks, synchronized by the European Eurabia Committees, emerged throughout Europe along with numerous publications.

There were many reasons for such a mutation. One was France’s ambition to play a greater international role by getting the European Community allied with the 22 countries of the Arab League and the larger Muslim world. Arab and Muslim countries were emerging as a new energy and advocacy superpower with new international agents, namely, the World Islamic League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC, 1969, now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation). To this must be added a wave of Palestinian terrorism in Europe, the energy crisis of 1973, and the OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil blackmail and boycott. Hence economic and security constraints combined to bring Europe, and particularly the left, to support the Palestinian jihad against Israel. This tacit alliance also involved providing clandestine military assistance to Palestinian terrorists while allowing them to circulate freely and use training camps in Europe, as some European politicians – among them Francesco Cossiga, former Italian president, and recently Yves Bonnet, former chief of French security (Direction de la surveillance du territoire, DST) – declared to the media.

Since those years, world organizations and international institutions as well as a huge and powerful coalition of countries united at every level to condemn and defame one country: Israel. Many former Nazis and collaborators recycled their anti-Zionism in the pro-Palestinian movement and in the leftist parties where prominent Jews, such as Bruno Kreisky, president of the Socialist International and then Austrian chancellor, also vilify Israel. As a self-proclaimed anti-Zionist, Kreisky was the first European state leader to meet with Yasser Arafat, head of the PLO, an organization then seen as terrorist. Kreisky granted Arafat legitimacy and facilitated his relations with other European leaders. 

A Diaspora Jew even a little acquainted with modern European anti-Semitism cannot fail to recognize in the declarations, postures, and activities of some members of the Israeli left, as meticulously described by Nisan, the exact replica of the EU anti-Israeli policy that is conducted in tandem with the OIC and the Arab League and aims at replacing the Jewish state with Arab-Muslim Palestine. One cannot avoid seeing in Nisan’s book the unfortunate repercussions on some Israeli leftists of a permanent European anti-Zionism, heir to Nazism and recycled into a pro-Palestine ideology linked to European geostrategic and oil interests.    

Eurabia networks and their diverse publications constitute the womb from which European anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism and specifically the Israeli left emerged. In the Eurabia bulletins, launched in early 1973, the late Israel Shahak, president of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, denounced Jewish racism against Arabs; the qualification “Palestinian” had not yet appeared (Eurabia, no. 5, March 5, 1973). Shahak used a vocabulary for Israel that is now common: occupied territory, occupation, apartheid. Greatly appreciated and reproduced in the Eurabia bulletins are the heinous anti-Israeli accusations and denunciations from Israeli citizens, including Felicia Langer and others, and quotations from leftist Israeli newspapers as cited by Nisan.  These Eurabia bulletins invert the truth by identifying the Israeli soldier with the Nazi persecutor, while the Arab aggressor is disguised as the vulnerable Jewish victim. Such inversion is even more cynical in light of the fact that Muslims, particularly Arabs from Palestine, collaborated wholeheartedly with the Nazi regime. We also see the new Orwellian language, described by Nisan, of politically correct opinions employing subversive terms, inverted meanings, and deconstructed knowledge. The Israeli trend, for its part, thinks and speaks in total harmony with the European political language concerning the Jewish state. But whereas such a trend is found in only a section of the Israeli left, in Europe this terminology is common to all political parties, each of which sent delegates to participate in the Euro-Arab Dialogue sessions.  

The Palestinian narrative was created according to a Western political pattern and for Western consumption. It centered on occupation, colonization, racism, Nazism, fascism, and apartheid. But those notions do not resonate among a Muslim public which, moreover, wholeheartedly supported Nazism and fascism, especially the Arabs in Palestine,  who even constituted Nazi SS regiments and worked within the Nazi war and genocide machinery. Besides these undeniable historical facts, the Arab-Muslim war against Israel is unconnected to those European political notions. It springs from a totally different worldview and historical conception. It functions within the parameters of jihad, Dar al-Harb (the House of War), harbi (a term for non-Muslims who are not under Islamic law), kaffir (a term for those who reject or disbelieve in Allah), slavery, sharia jurisdiction, and its correlative system of dhimmitude. If one wants to negotiate peace with the Muslim Arabs of Palestine, one should hold discussions on those grounds and not according to Western notions that are meaningless in these specific contexts.

Why have some Israeli academics, writers, artists, politicians, and journalists collaborated with the Euro-Arab anti-Israeli bloc and become the most powerful machine of defamation of their own country? NGO Monitor has shown that huge sums paid by several European countries, the European Union, powerful churches, and international organizations have funded the Israeli anti-Zionist NGOs as well as other Palestinian and pro-Palestinian bodies. Nisan’s book explains clearly and in detail the motivations and the extent of this wide map of Jewish hatred against the Jewish state. The European war against the state of Israel received the Jewish leftists’ imprimatur and, conversely, they were rewarded with fame and success. I can personally confirm that a high-level Israeli politician told me that they asked foreign countries to pressure Israel to submit to the PLO’s ostensible “peace” conditions. Likewise, European politicians have responded to my accusations of anti-Semitism by stating that they were merely repeating Israeli views. Nisan analyzes such attitudes even among some pioneers and valiant soldiers who have risked their lives to build Israel. One can only ponder the motivations of such distinguished heroes of Israel. A fear of seeing their state collapse? A sense of responsibility toward their people? A desire to restrain Jewish religious excesses and maintain a free, secular, modern state? Are others driven by ideological illusions of an Ashkenazi intelligentsia that thinks exclusively within European parameters and obstinately rejects the history of dhimmitude of the other half of the population?

In any case, the synchronization and collaboration between, on the one hand, European anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and, on the other, some Israeli leftist declarations, terminology, and militancy are stunning. Both trends began in the same period, yet the EU policy aims to replace Israel with Palestine, eat away at the historical Jewish homeland, colonize its capital Jerusalem, deny its history and identity, and abet, through its powerful international networks, Palestinian terrorism and its genocidal goals that are publicly and proudly proclaimed. The European Union derides leaders who are friendly to Israel and pursues a campaign of economic strangulation and delegitimization of the Jewish state.  And here lies the intriguing question of a nexus: Was the EU forced by OIC economic blackmail and Palestinian terror to pressure Israel to commit suicide? Or were the Nazis and their collaborators still active after World War II, choosing with their former Arab and Palestinian allies to continue their previous policy of destroying Israel from the inside? As for me, my conversations with some Israelis from the extreme left, and my reading of the European Union’s predatory, unrealistic, and perilous demands of Israel, lead me to the view that Israeli leaders have had to deal with extreme pressure.

Nisan’s description of the Israeli academics of the Truman Institute at the Hebrew University recalls the behavior of the Christian Arab intellectuals from Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq who, since the nineteenth century, built the political, cultural, and historical foundations of Arab nationalism in the hope of integrating with the Islamic ummah. This effort, conceived and supported by France and Britain, led to the conversion of Christians, the weakening of Lebanon, and the loss of identity of pre-Islamic ethnic communities that are now disappearing after years of trials and tragedies. Nisan’s rich, lucid investigation of the subject inspires thoughts on today’s most urgent issues and is a powerful trigger for debate and elucidation.