Robert Wistrich, Hebrew University professor of European and Jewish History and
director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of
anti-Semitism, has just published his 29th book titled From Ambivalence to
Betrayal: The Left, the Jews and Israel.
It is an impressive tome of over
600 pages and follows his monumental seminal work A Lethal Obsession:
Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad, published in 2010 and now
recognized as the definitive work on the world’s oldest hatred, and an
indispensable text for scholars.
In a fascinating preface to his new
book, Wistrich provides a brief autobiographical sketch. His father had
originally been a supporter of the illegal Polish Communist Party in pre-war
Krakow but became alienated from Stalinist communism after being arrested by the
NKVD. He and his wife, who had experienced bitter Polish anti-Semitism, survived
the Holocaust by fleeing to Kazakhstan, where Wistrich was born.
educated in England, and to use his words, was “radicalized” in grammar school
and later at Stanford University. He first visited Israel in 1961, returning in
1969 when he was appointed editor of the left-wing Israeli journal, New Outlook.
However his passion for the Jewish state led to a parting of the ways with the
Israeli far left.
Robert became increasingly engaged in academic
scholarship related to anti- Semitism, received a senior appointment at the
Hebrew University, and is now recognized as the world’s foremost scholar in the
From Ambivalence to Betrayal is a historic review and analysis of
the abandonment of the Jewish people by the left from the early 19th century
until the present. It also relates to the extraordinarily disproportionate
number of socialist thinkers and leaders who were of Jewish origin and seeks to
explain what motivated so many of them, in the course of their utopian and
futile efforts to “repair the world,” to abandon their people and their heritage
and frenetically seek to deny their kinsmen the right to
The introductory essay is a brilliant overview of the
contemporary Jewish political arena viewed in the context of the concurrent rise
of Zionism, Communism, anti-Semitism and Nazism. It focuses strongly on the
hypocrisy of the existing left, which has become obsessed with demonization and
delegitimization of the Jewish state.
Wistrich demonstrates the
extent to which today’s radical anti- Zionists, despite purporting to represent
the left, often share the identical obsessions and delusions concerning the
alleged malignant influence of the Jews in the modern world as classical fascist
Wistrich provides fascinating and innovative insights on
He skillfully relates the connection of “the
prefigured 19th century sea-bed of anti-Semitic socialism found in Marx, Fourier
and Proudhon, extending through to the orthodox Communists and ‘non-conformist’
Trotskyites to the Islamo-leftist hybrids of today who systematically vilify the
so called racist essence of the Jewish State.”
His analysis of the
linkage of these revolutionaries with the left’s contemporary abandonment of
Israel is a major intellectual and scholastic achievement and provides an
intriguing insight into the sources of the far left’s current application of
double standards and anti- Israel venom.
WISTRICH REVIEWS in depth the
attitude towards the Jews adopted by many of the great socialist revolutionaries
of Jewish origin like Karl Marx, Bernard Lazare, Moses Hess, Ferdinand LaSalle,
Karl Kautsky, Victor Adler, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, Bruno Kreisky, Isaac
Deutscher and others.
His chapter on Leon Trotsky, entitled “A
Bolshevik’s Tragedy,” is a masterful essay which breaks new ground on this
extraordinary, charismatic Jewish revolutionary who desperately sought to
repudiate his Jewish origins. Yet, despite achieving the reputation of being
“the most intransigent of revolutionary Bolsheviks,” Trotsky was ultimately
forced by Stalin into assuming the traditional Jewish role in society and became
reviled as the scapegoat for the failures of the Revolution.
highlights the fact that many of today’s anti-Jewish Jews inherited the mantle
of the 19th and early 20th century anti-Semitic Jewish radical revolutionaries.
Yet he stresses that these renegade Jews have vastly exceeded the anti-Semitic
tirades of their predecessors and even to the extent of allying themselves with
reactionary clerical zealots and jihadists, who represent the antithesis of
their purported world outlook.
He points to their public support and
endorsement of terrorists and religious fanatics, noting that even the most
extreme early anti-Jewish revolutionaries like Marx, Engels, Kautsky, Rosa
Luxemburg or Trotsky “would never have remained silent about Shari’a law,
censorship, female genital mutilation, honor killings, suicide bombings, or
making the world safe for Allah’s rule,” and rarely resorted to outright racist
outbursts like their current successors.
Nor would they have gone to the
extreme of allying themselves with those explicitly committed to our physical
Wistrich asserts that Holocaust inversion, now a major
component of the Left’s effort to besmirch Israel, while initially introduced by
British historian Arnold Toynbee who referred to Zionists as “disciples of the
Nazis,” was in fact institutionalized as the “Zionist- Nazi” nexus at the Prague
Trials orchestrated from Moscow.
He reminds us that it was post-war
Jewish Marxists who encouraged the left’s current paranoia and “anti-racist”
racism against Israel. As an example he quotes the Polish-born Jewish biographer
of Trotsky, Isaac Deutscher, who already in 1967 described Israel as the
“Prussia of the Middle East” and a bastion of “racial Talmudic exclusiveness and
It was the Soviets who, in 1975, succeeded in passing a UN
resolution bracketing Zionism and racism. While this was ultimately rescinded in
December 1991, it remains today the central plank in the Arab-leftist efforts to
criminalize Israel and brand it as a state engaging in war crimes.
concluding chapters review the anti-Zionist myths, many of which seem to have
been directly replicated from Nazi propaganda and are today enthusiastically
promoted by the Marxist Islamist alliance who regard Israel as the “Jew of the
nations” fulfilling a dark preordained fate as an eternal
Wistrich relates to the quasi-religious belief of these groups
that “the world will only be ‘liberated’ by the downfall of America and the
defeat of the Jews.
This chiliastic fantasy has today emerged as a
notable point of fusion between the radical anti-Zionist left in the West and
the global jihad. Revolutionary anti-Semitism has become an increasingly
important factor in cementing the anti-capitalist populism, much as it was
during the birth pangs of modern socialism over 150 years ago.”
This is a
magisterial work, providing a comprehensive understanding of the origins of the
most pernicious challenges currently facing the Jewish people – especially those
originating from the enemy within.
It will be especially valuable to
those directly engaged in the struggle to neutralize the evil efforts against
Israel by the left-Islamic alliance and its acolytes of Jewish
The writer’s website can be viewed at www.wordfromjerusalem.com.
He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org