A member of the Ku Klux Klan during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on July 8, 2017. .
(photo credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)
When I interviewed Sally Oren, the former wife of Deputy Minister Michael Oren, last month for today’s Magazine cover story on the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, one point the Haight-Ashbury veteran made stood out this week amid the chaotic events in the US.
One of the results of the 1960s counterculture upheaval, Oren said, was the emergence of a politically correct society that, in its over-the-top militancy, has turned many liberal thinkers into enemies of Zionism and Israel.
Radicals from Occupy, Black Lives Matter and from SlutWalk, to name some combative collectives that purport to fight for justice, have demonized Israel and its supporters with a fervor bordering on antisemitism.
The counterprotesters, like 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who stood up to the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who rallied last weekend in Charlottesville, clearly are continuing the fight that their grandparents fought in World War II against the Nazis and the annihilation of the Jews.
Let’s not think that these American patriots are friends of Israel. As JTA’s Ben Sales reported this week, while anti-Zionism is not a focus of the loose-knit antifa movement (an abbreviation of “anti-fascist action”), many members tend to be anti-Zionist as part of their far-left activism. Aligning themselves with the underdog Palestinians is the misguided tendency, whether in the streets or on college campuses, when someone who states a sympathetic view toward Israel can either be ostracized or worse.
This has contributed to creating a peculiar configuration that could enable a scenario whereby well-meaning, liberal protesters would go out and defend the rights of Jews against neo-Nazi Neanderthals, but wouldn’t allow someone flying an Israeli flag to join their ranks. Welcome to the politically correct conundrum Sally Oren referred to.
US President Donald Trump’s view that caused so much controversy this week – that the anti-fascists are as bad as the neo-Nazis – attracted some surprising support in Israel by the likes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair and MK Oren Hazan. The younger Netanyahu wrote that while the white supremacists are dying out, “the thugs of antifa and Black Lives Matter who hate my country... just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”
Is this paranoid hyperbole or is there some kernel of truth in the claims that politically correct lovers of freedom are in their own way just as dangerous for Jews and for Israel as the in-your-face Jew haters of the white power movement?
The Sanskrit proverb “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” seems like a fitting one here for Israeli observers of the scenes unfolding that pit the neo-Nazis against the anti-fascists. We should be grateful that the vast majority of Americans are not willing to tolerate, some of them even physically, the white supremacist views that persist in the 70 years since the Holocaust.
And given the choice between backing those who would turn the US into their own version of Nazi Germany or those who would do whatever it takes to prevent it, there is no choice.
But we should be under no illusions that some of those same brave freedom fighters, given the chance, wouldn’t turn their placards on Israel. It’s no longer the summer of love.