PRO-PALESTINIAN SUPPORTERS rally in Los Angeles in 2014. The current election has brought out many extreme views against Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For months now, enlightened Americans have been walking around shellshocked, wondering: “where did this Trump phenomenon come from? How could a man who speaks like that become so popular?” Progressives have been particularly contemptuous, calling Trump a “racist,” a “boob,” a “maniac” whose supporters are equally reprehensible. Yet, as Trump likes to say, “believe me,” he didn’t come from nowhere. Look at the Israel debate, especially on campus. See how anti-Zionists bully and bluster, see how they exaggerate and demonize, how even academics who consider themselves above all this lose all reason and reasonableness, speaking in a particularly simplistic, polarizing and bigoted way when it comes to Israel.
Last week produced yet another example of the idiocy that passes for informed debate on campus, demonstrating Progressive Trumpism in action. Two blame-Israel- firsters, flaunting their credentials as academics, pretending that bashing Israel as academics takes bravery rather than knavery, published two disconnected statements in Haaretz under the headline “We’re American Jewish Historians. This is Why We’ve Left Zionism Behind.” Beyond other misfires, little in either rant based the repudiation on any major insight gleaned as American Jewish historians. Editors, not writers, usually write the headlines. So the first question goes to Haaretz’s editors: beyond being Trumpificacious, meaning randomly trying to apply expertise in one realm to another unrelated one to generate attention, what did these writers’ status as American Jewish historians have to do with their newly-expressed hatred for Zionism? Going deeper, if one can use that word when attacking such superficial analyses, historian Hasia Diner, amid her cliché-ridden, derivative, poorly reasoned, assertion- filled, I-was-“naïve”-but-now-I-see-Israel’s-true-ugliness confessional wrote: “The death of vast numbers of Jewish communities as a result of Zionist activity has impoverished the Jewish people, robbing us of these many cultures that have fallen into the maw of Israeli homogenization.”
What Jewish communities died as a result of “Zionist activity”? Israel saved Holocaust survivors from European Jew-hatred, absorbed 850,000 Jewish refugees driven out by Arab and Muslim violence and helped liberate Soviet Jewry – along with millions of others – by pressuring that evil regime. And how many Jewish communities, including the ones Diner studies, have withered “as a result of” assimilation, not Zionism, having fallen into the “maw” of American “homogenization?” Diner’s claim that “The ideal of a religiously neutral state worked amazingly well for the millions of Jews who came to America” is half-true. Millions of Jews have thrived, but many of “the millions of Jews who came to America” committed “Jewicide,” Jewish suicide, disappearing, abandoning their Jewish selves in ways Israel’s Jewish immigrants haven’t. Moreover, any honest Jewish historian knows that the aliya from America and other free Jewish communities has been negligible – while Israel has enlivened Diaspora Jewish culture and identity in many different ways.
This statement about Israel, not anti-Semites, killing Jewish communities and culture would be spectacularly stupid under normal circumstances, but in today’s inflamed campus atmosphere it’s also criminally negligent.
Given her prominence, Diner’s statement will encourage anti-Zionist bullies who have repeatedly used their Israel-hatred to promote Jew-hatred. A professor dodging responsibility for the way anti-Zionism stokes anti-Semitism on campus today is as convincing as Trump supporters ducking responsibility for the intolerance Trump stokes.
Last week, the usually level-headed journalist Jeffrey Goldberg jumped into the fray. Responding to the headline “This is Why We’ve Left Zionism Behind,” he tweeted: “I think I’m getting ready to leave Ha’aretz behind, actually.”
I thought, “touché.” I also agreed with Goldberg’s response, when so many Haaretz writers demonstrated that they love criticizing but can’t take criticism: “Amazing how a newspaper published in the rough, tough Middle East can become hysterical over a tweet.” But he lost me when he tweeted: “in English, I find the @ TimesofIsrael to be very reliable. Ha’aretz has some good reporters. JPost is nuts.”
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I will follow Goldberg’s advice and not take his 140-character assault on the character of this proud newspaper too seriously. But Goldberg’s unnecessary stab at The Jerusalem Post, while being barraged by Haaretz’s thinskinned radicals, struck me as a case of Sandersitis.
During the Democratic primary fight, when a questioner started ranting about how “the Zionist Jews...run the Federal Reserve” Bernie Sanders cut him off – but then hastily, randomly, defensively – affirmed “the needs of the Palestinian people.” Similarly, it seemed that Goldberg was trying to preserve his left-wing credentials while bashing Haaretz by randomly, defensively, unnecessarily bashing the Post, which leftists caricature as right wing.
I will not succumb to Sandersitis by ending with the obvious, that the Right’s obstructionism and yahooism spawned Trump and is enabling him. The point here is that the doctrinaire Left, including fanatic anti-Zionists, have co-parented the Trumpian monster. And one takeaway from this age of Trump should be that we must call out the bigots and the haters, challenge the academics who foment sloppy thought and rigid intolerance, wherever they are. And so we should criticize Progressive Trumpism freely, without exhibiting any Sandersitis.The author is professor of history at McGill University and the author of The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, published by St. Martin’s Press. His next book will update Arthur Hertzberg’s The Zionist Idea. Follow on Twitter @GilTroy
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