Jewish Ideas Daily has been succeeded and re-launched as Mosaic. Read more...

The Jewish Left, between History and Revelation

Michael Walzer.

The association of Jews with leftist ideas and movements has been a fixture of Western politics for the past 150 years.  But is the relationship logical and necessary, or is it historical and contingent?  Do Jewish values dictate leftist values, or is this assertion merely a post hoc rationalization?  A recent conference at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research addressed these questions and, amid the predictable cheerleading, produced some surprisingly insightful answers.  

Relevant Links
The Lost Left  Michael C. Kotzin, New Republic. The eyewitness accounts of late Mandate Palestine by the journalist I. F. Stone recall a time when the Left was capable of sympathizing with Palestinians without attempting to delegitimize Israel.
The Left in Israel  Elliot Jager, Jewish Ideas Daily. Usually, when Israelis speak of Left and Right, they are differentiating mainly between security hawks and peace-camp doves—not between liberals and conservatives in general. By this definition, Israel’s left wing is in a sorry state.

Many Jews have loved the Left, but it cannot be said that the Left has consistently reciprocated.  This problem, philosopher Norman Geras told the conference, goes back to Karl Marx, who employed vicious Jewish stereotypes even as he called for a "moral universalism" that would embrace and emancipate all, including Jews.  But Marx's call to emancipate the Jews also entailed emancipating the world from the Jews—and Jews from their own Jewish identity.  

Thus, it should have been no surprise, said Jonathan Brent, YIVO's executive director and former editor of the invaluable Annals of Communism, that the Marxist Soviet regime pitted Jews against each other.  The Jewish Lazar Kaganovich was one of the Politburo's most brutal enforcers.  In June, 1941, Stalin told Lazar that his brother Mikhail had right-wing associations.  Lazar offered no defense of his brother but merely phoned Mikhail to inform him.  Mikhail committed suicide the same day.  Lazar, Brent recounted, did not blink.

Similarly, the Soviets provided early support to Israel, as a means of annoying the West.  When Israel declared statehood, New York Communists staged a celebratory rally at the Polo Grounds.   The event, said Ron Radosh, former professor of history at the City University of New York, followed the Soviet lead and was fundamentally anti-British.  But after 1948, Soviet policy became anti-Semitic at home and abroad.  The process would be repeated with other types of leftist universalism, whether Communism, socialism, or internationalism, which demanded that Jews give up their identities and, when they did not, turned on them.

Radosh noted that non-Communist left-wing support was also substantial in the years before Israel's creation.  The Nation magazine and its former editor Freda Kirchway exposed the connection between the Nazis and the Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem; indeed, the affiliated Nation Associates served as a virtual public relations arm for the Jewish Agency.  But the contrast with today's Nation magazine—and today's Left—is stark.  "Anti-Semitic themes and ruses," Geras summarized the trend on the Left, "are once again respectable; respectable not just down there with the thugs but pervasively also within polite society, and within the perimeters of a self-flattering liberal and Left opinion."

Given Marx's premises, which shape of nearly all leftist thought about the Jews, the history of repeated divorces seems inevitable.  But does the Left's inability to live with the Jews discredit leftist ideology itself?  This question was not asked. 

Historian Moishe Postone offered a different view: The contemporary Left, he said, has turned on the Jews largely because of the crisis of capitalism and modernity.  Tracing the path from 1948 to today's global neo-capitalism, he pointed to the Left's "fetishized understanding of global capital."  The short version: Capitalism won; Communism lost.  The Left was angry and blamed the Jews, including Israel, and the United States.

But would it have been different had the Left triumphed?  Soviet anti-Semitism suggests otherwise.

So, what is the answer to the Left's Jewish Question?  Political philosopher Michael Walzer presented the puzzle in his keynote speech: There is no straight line between Jews and the Left. Indeed, certain fundamentals of Judaism militate against a relationship: a God that limits human self-determination, a particular chosen people, a fear and sometimes hatred of outsiders, a hostility to political engagement. 

Why, then, were so many Jews attracted to left-wing causes?  The obvious answer is that the pent-up religious and social energy released by 19th-century Jewish emancipation was redirected into varieties of leftist political messianism.  But Walzer took another, unexpected turn.  While some rejection of the exilic religion was necessary, he suggested, it was wrong for Jews on the Left to reject everything.  Doing so alienated them from their fellow Jews and gave them too little "cultural material" with which to survive.

For Walzer, achieving a "sustainable Jewish militancy" requires reclaiming some of the traditions that were cast off, by returning to the religious calendar, studying texts, analyzing Jewish politics.  It also requires embracing the Jewish "justice tradition" and joining with Israeli Jewish leftists in a secular-religious project to make Israel a "light unto the nations."

It is tempting to pick at Walzer's idea.  He crafts a strategy for enabling the Jewish Left to survive by re-grafting it to the Jewish community and tradition; but he omits explicit discussion of God and a chosen people, as well as the all-important details of ritual and practice.  Moreover, he espouses something like the religiously progressive, intellectually critical, and socially engaged stance of Conservative Judaism circa 1980, in effect proposing a reactionary return to a "vital center"; yet that center did not hold.  The religious demands were too great and the values incommensurable; hence, the decline of the Conservative movement and the contemporary Jewish "other-directedness," so trenchantly described by Jack Wertheimer in Commentary, which puts everyone and everything ahead of community and tradition.        

But Walzer has raised a real challenge.  Are leftist Jews so bereft of the nourishment provided by tradition and community that return would be a spiritual salvation?  Is the non-Jewish Left now so hostile to Jews and Israel that these Jews' return to tradition and community is necessary to Jewish survival?  Walzer's call is a statement that Jews should survive but also that they cannot survive in the real world without the reinforcement of culture, suffused with history and a sense of belonging.  Jewish liberation and revelation—singular, parochial experiences that sealed an intimate bond with God, creating an unbroken tradition—these are the phenomena to which Walzer seeks to rebind the Jewish Left.  Wrestling with tradition and, ultimately, revelation lies at the heart of Judaism.  Should those on the Jewish Left truly wish to rejoin that contest, they should be made welcome. 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Yochanan on June 11, 2012 at 6:54 am (Reply)
Such a simple-minded view of the relationship between Jews and the Left.
Richard R Silverman on June 11, 2012 at 8:26 am (Reply)
When I review my impression of todays Leftist Jews, my starting points is American Reform Jews and their overall preoccupation with Tikkun Olam. In every sense they identify themselves with social change, and social causes and equality in all things. The question is: do they have more Jewish concerns than Societal leftist concerns? Does that translate into a question of what is the center of American Reform faith, God, man or government?
Empress Trudy on June 11, 2012 at 9:29 am (Reply)
They aren't Jewish, only people with Jewish ancestry. They're no more Jewish than my children, 2nd generation Americans, are Russian.
DF on June 11, 2012 at 9:44 am (Reply)
The direction for the Jewish left is simple. Every thinking person, including the right wing and/or the orthodox, knows that the Torah and prophets are replete with leftist ideas. (Along with contrary ideas, as Mr. Joffe noted.) The problem of the left is that a) they want to impose the laws of a homogenous society of which the Torah speaks onto a diverse country, and b) they wish to force this upon people by way of the taxing and punitive powers.

So the way for the left is simple. Return to preaching the moral value of do-goodery. Promote volunteering. This alone will not fix the self-imposed problems the left faces by encouraging concepts or behaviour (eg, homosexuality) that clearly contradict Judaism. But it will go a long way towards re-establishing the left's credibility.
Marty Z. on June 11, 2012 at 10:32 am (Reply)
Typical JID/Joffe right-wing hit job. Now tell me about the Bircher, nativist, fascist Right. Get real: anti-Semitism was so much a hallmark of American conservatism in the first half of the 20th century, that one of Wm. F. Buckley Jr.'s stated objectives in founding the NATIONAL REVIEW as a flagship journal for conservatism, was to keep the Jew-haters out!
Nachum on June 11, 2012 at 10:55 am (Reply)
Let's not give Communists too much credit for opposing Fascism. ("Premature anti-Fascists," they liked to call themselves.): The fact that the two ideologies are actually quite similar demonstrates that the opposition was mostly political in nature and not founded on any altruistic motive. No, I don't see any value in ideologies of the Left which led to the deaths of millions. Why so many Jews did, of course, is a fine question, but the fact that many non-Jews did as well may be instructive here.
liat on June 11, 2012 at 8:46 pm (Reply)
Why can't Jews support the right? I don't think small government and individual goals are antithetical to Judaism? Generosity is not the realm of government but rather the individual.
Sharinlite on June 11, 2012 at 9:19 pm (Reply)
As a non-Jew, it has been apparent to me that Jews are so afraid to stand up for what is honest, decent and right that any discussion of their history and current Progressive debacle looms large. Are Israelites different? American leftist Jews are not any different than those that Hitler murdered....all afraid of their race and/or religion and so many died regardless of where they stood..they were what they were and paid the price. I note that today, they have so aligned themselves with the prog leftists in America that they are setting themselves up for a terrible end...for, if the prog left succeeds, we, Jew or non are all doomed!
Jerry Blaz on June 12, 2012 at 2:37 am (Reply)
It is disheartening to see Jews presume their own authenticity is based on them seeing a "left" as an epithet, while the right's epithet is embodied in the piles of Jewish ashes in the places where Maidenek, Auschwitz, etc., were used to solve the Jewish problem. Certainly, we have do doubt of which side of the conventional spectrum the Nazis embodied. I probably know the left better than the right, because I heard the right's views of Jews from the Father Coughlins of the world when I was growing up in the 40s, and it was the left who were saving Jews, even if the left's motivations were more instrumental than sympathetic, they saved Jews.

Today's left is weak and because of that weakness, it has lost much of its intellectual vigor. But the right while stronger has not gained vigor, but instead has gained more than ample vituperation. Even this very day, alleged by the Israeli police authorities, Haredi extremists, whom nobody will argue are the right's children, desecrated the Yad v'Shem memorial and museum with "anti-Zionist" graffiti. If the left had done the same, it would have been "anti-Semitic" graffiti.

The world must go beyond this bipolar view of left-right when we normally can acknowledge at least four dimensions, while the mathematicians and physicists now theorize on an infinity of dimensions. Perhaps they are mapping out a complex but more accurate perspective of our human reality.
mikefeuer on June 12, 2012 at 3:10 am (Reply)
Between history and revelation lies the prophets. A return to root sources of our culture and strength requires a shift to being Israel and not just the Jews. Why should we be hung up and bankrupt structures of political philosophy rooted in a culture that never welcomed us, no matter which side of the fence it sat on?
SW on June 12, 2012 at 3:57 am (Reply)
I am no longer convinced of the political term, Left. While some rage at whatever they think its opposite, the Right, is, the simple fact is that central control of an economy is the hallmark of socialists, fascists, communists and therefore such central control must define "Left." If so the Right as an opposite must mean withering of central control. Ousted from the Italian Socialist Party, Benito Mussolini went on to say, "All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state." (1928) There are various version of statist politics, as Soviet Socialism also affirms ownership by the state, while National Socialism affirmed control by the state. When one examines the greatest assaults on the Jewish people throughout the last century,they have all come from various versions of central political power and central economic control. To pretend some fascism is "right" is to advance a conclusion that both Left and Right are various versions of central control, which is illogical. Judaism has survived best where the state's control is less rather than more. Joffe writes of the "heart of Judaism." That heart cannot be the beating, bloody central control of the state, call it socialist, fascist or communist. The crisis for the Jewish "Left" today is to confront its own allegiance to state control over individual and community-based religious commmitments.
Yael on June 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm (Reply)
Sharinlite on June 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm (Reply)
First let me thank Yael for posting a much better comment than I did days ago. And to "Jerry Blaz", to be absolutely correct, I do not believe that Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Idi Amin even Chavez, the Castro brothers and Putin, cared or cares about right vs. left...they all wanted, got or want and will get is control over their countries' economy. If you control the money, you control all. I guarantee you that today, the Muslim Brotherhood doesn't care one way or the other...they want control of all.
Empress Trudy on June 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm (Reply)
These are people who 'embrace' their Judaism the same way Arabs proclaim they are semites ergo they can't be antisemitic
Jerry Blaz on June 12, 2012 at 8:46 pm (Reply)
There is no conventional "left" of any significant numbers in Israel. The term "leftwing" was attached to anyone who was strongly pro-peace. There is a rightwing government with elements that encourage racism, which is traditionally recognized as rightwing, but the main emphasis is to protect and assist the "settler movement" in the territories. As long as the government contends it is for a two-state solution with the Palestinians and concomitantly they are protecting and assisting the "settler movement" it is a government that is saying one thing but doing another.

It is on this particular problem that left/right in Israel is bound up in, and speaking of left/right in terms of world politics can only confuse the issue, which is confusing enough without that kind of dubious assistance.

"Racism" occurs most frequently on the right when it comes to the relationship of the settlers to the Arab population in the territories because of the two different legal systems under which the two groups are governed. The Arab population is governed by military and emergency rules and law. The Jews are governed by Israeli civil law. If a Jew harms an Arab, the punishment is inevitably much less severe than if an Arab would hurt a Jew.

Now the presumption of "guilt" borne by every Arab that he or she is potentially a terrorist stands in back of this and many other inequities in this dual legal system. Some Arabs are terrorists or potential terrorists, but most are not. This is the dilemma that Israel has created for itself with its settlement project in the territories. Of course, many of the settlers have an ideology that this land, the occupied territories, is historically Jewish, and much of the sympathy for the settlers stem from this agreement about the history. After all, it is our story.

However, two millenia changes much, and now there is another people that has been in the Land of Israel since the seventh century, and for them, they've always been there while for we Jews, we have always longed to return, but only in the 19th century did our national urge develop and grow into the Zionist movement. So, more than being left or right, we must seek justice and pursue it. That is the task of the government of Israel, but in nearly 20 years since the Oslo Accords, comparatively little has been done while the settlements have been encouraged and they've multiplied, and enlarged.
SW on June 13, 2012 at 2:04 am (Reply)
In addition to no longer finding credence or explanatory value in Left and Right, I find using the term Race to describe people becomes ever more illogical. Jews were a Race to the National Socialists, and to suggest Palestinians are a Race separate from others smacks of this same thought process. For a nation and government which has rescued Falashas to be termed racist is nonsense. To suggest that terms like Left, Right and Race are traditional terms answers no problems but exacerbates many.
sharinlite on June 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm (Reply)
SW, were it so that the majority of world will not agree with you, hatreds, distrust and bigotry live and will live on. Centuries must pass away before the world becomes enlightened.
Jerry Blaz on June 14, 2012 at 3:07 am (Reply)
I was almost ready to agree to change the word from racism to ethnocentricity when I read about the riots and attacks against African refugees, and the subsequent revelations by Ethiopian Jewish citizens of Israel who have been the victims of these attacks because of their color, and of their reporting about anti-Black attitudes they have experienced in Israel where many other Jews do not want to associate with them. All new groups have suffered when veteran Israelis would regard new groups as special, but after 20 years of mass immigration of our Jewish brethren from Ethiopia, their integration is being slowed by racism.
SW on June 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm (Reply)
Is there sin in all nations? Yes. But we learn that the Israeli government has appointed Belaynesh Zevadia as Ambassador to Ethiopia, while another goes now to the new nation of South Sudan. Meanwhile in the riots which are proof positive that somehow Israel is "racist," one sees the police acting against rioters, while some of the problems are being caused by illegal immigrants, some of which are being repatriated -- something like the Obama government is doing in the United States. As to "attacks because of color" if one paints Israel with this brush, then one must paint all nations with said brush, the United States being far more racist than Israel by using the same measure. Moreover when one compares the brutality of Muslims in North Africa against non-Muslim Africans, the "racism" of Israel pales in comparison. In an article and thread about the Jewish Left, it becomes too easy to adopt the verbiage of yesterday. Right and Left mean nothing anymore, and racism is everyone's game and everyone's sin. I would take Israel's stance on this over Detroit's. But we can all be guilty.
Jerry Blaz on June 14, 2012 at 8:46 pm (Reply)
I did not say that Israel has a policy of racism, but I do know racism when people are attacked simply because they are Black. Israel is supposed to be a Me'or Lagoyim. Israel is prevented from fulfilling its mission in the world by the actions of these Israeli citizens. Israel, of all lands, should know what evil stems from racism. The Nazis considered the Jews through a racist philosophy that made us "Untermenschen." And we must not attempt to turn the tables by acting like "Herrenfolk." That does not, must not, have a part in Jewish chosenness.
verrnue on June 15, 2012 at 8:30 am (Reply)
Mr Blaz,

While it is true that racism exists in Israel, that does not mean that Israel is a racist state, just a state that has some racists here. God, in His infinite wisdom, distributed unpleasant people all over the world, including here, but a nation should not be judged by its unpleasant people. We aspire to look higher.
SW on June 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm (Reply)
"Herrenvolk" with a "v" is German for the "master race." Nowhere -- nowhere -- in Israel is there an assertion that Jews are a master race. To mix these images is distortion, as well as misspelling, and a slander against Israel. If a citizen of any nation does something abhorrent and this qualifies the nation to be judged as abhorrent, then every nation in our world is abhorrent, as is every political party, and there can be no "light to the nations." Lastly, Falasha Ethiopians are not a "race," but Jews coming out of Ethiopia, one of which returns to Ethiopia now as Israel's new amabssador. The accusation of racism directed at Israel is false, though probably in line with the article's notion of the "Jewish Left." The article asks, "Are leftist Jews so bereft of the nourishment provided by tradition and community that return would be a spiritual salvation?" Let's begin with salvation by not accusing Israel of racism.
Jerry Blaz on June 16, 2012 at 3:29 am (Reply)
I smile when I read the "retorts" to my statements, but I never stated that Israel is a racist state. And then I am called a leftist. Well, I admit to being left of Ghengis Khan. However, when Interior Minister Yishai, based on a report of a rape by an African, stated that many women have been assaulted by Africans, but were fearful of coming forward to report it to authorities because they were afraid of becoming ostracized because others would be fearful of catching AIDS from from them, and another MK called them "cancerous," what conclusion can you reach from those kinds of pernicious statements coming from Israeli politicians and government officials?

Were these statements accurate? Were they true? If you can't give an unambiguously positive answer to those two questions, then you have to evaluate what those kinds of statements mean when referring to a highly identifiable group of refugees who have sought refuge within the borders of the State of Israel?
SW on June 17, 2012 at 4:12 am (Reply)
12 June, 2012 08:46 PM, Mr. Blaz wrote: "There is a rightwing government with elements that encourage racism..." 16 June 2012 03:29 AM: Mr. Blaz wrote: "I never stated that Israel is a racist state." In comments on an article about "the Jewish Left," one reads comments that 1) the government is "rightwing" and encourages "racism," and 2) this was "never stated." Joffe's article is about a "Jewish Left" -- a phrase which still obfuscates -- but it seems that a Jewish "Right" is very annoying to someone who accuses the government of encouraging racism and then says he did not say this. "...pernicious statements coming from Israeli politicians and government officials" is what was just written above. Obviously defending the Left by attacking the Right is the old and traditional game. I argue that these model poles of Left and Right cannot explain the reality of brutal government acts against Jews as a history throughout the last centuries, and does not explain the viciousness directed against Jews by socialists, fascists and communists. This explains why the Right-Left model must be supported at all costs, especially by the "Jewish Left." As to "many women being assaulted by Africans," one only need read of the last years of institutional rape by North African Muslims against North African non-Muslims, in numbers far exceeding those which seem to so outrage a member of the "Jewish Left." But then again, these and other such facts do not promote the political advocacy of critiquing or even toppling a "rightwing" government, or understanding the problems facing the Jewish world today. Lastly "race" is not a scientific principle for it is being continually adjusted, but a political one for being manipulated so. Israel's ambassador to Ethiopia today is a Jew and a women of African descent. This must have been the fault of the "rightwing" government encouraging racism. Clever how this politics works? Focus on something while ignoring another, and then conjure the magic words like "rightwing" and "racism."
Jerry Blaz on June 18, 2012 at 3:51 am (Reply)
I resent someone distorting my statements from earlier contexts to make it look as though I am talking out of both sides of my mouth. Second, as a Zionist of long standing, I do not equate the State of Israel with places in the Muslim world where racist acts are a political modality to divert the population from the real injustices under which they have to live.

I resent Israel being compared to countries under authoritarian rule whose people can only be examples of what happens when they are encouraged to be prejudiced. Just as those who carried out demonstrations against the African refugees were frightened, the wrong thing for a responsible elected official was to encourage the fear and build on it as a number of such officials did in the case of the unfortunate violence committed to many innocent refugees. Israel is not a racist state, and it is not the policy of Israel, but there are members of the government and of the Knesset who are willing to encourage racism. I hope I have allayed SW's fears about my opinions while he insinuates that I may be speaking from the left. Whether I am left, right, or nowhere is beyond the topic we are discussing.

However, let me just add that the worst racism this world has seen has come from the right, and those elected officials who encouraged and incited demonstrators in "South Tel Aviv" are from the right.
SW on June 18, 2012 at 1:23 pm (Reply)
"Whether I am left, right, or nowhere is beyond the topic we are discussing. However, let me just add that the worst racism this world has seen has come from the right...." The article is titled "The Jewish Left, Between History and Revelation." Therefore the "Left" is the topic we are discussing, and that being noted, Mr. Blaz attacks the "Right" by convicting them of "racism." This proves my point as to the emptiness of a fading Left-Right terminology. The greatest acts of racism as well as anti-Semitism have come from political ideologies who used "socialist" in their own self-identification: the National Socialists, the Soviet Socialists, the Pan-Arab Socialists to begin with. As to racism in the Americas, a recent copy of National Geographic read on a flight from South Africa back to Europe documented that South America took twelve times as many slaves from Africa then did North America. In the context of the world's history over several centuries, the "Right" has not acted more racist than the "Left." This may be proven with citations, facts and references, it becomes a necessary political falsehood to assert "the worst racism this world has seen has come from the right." But the "Left" needs this because theirs is a belief system which allows them the comfort of ignoring European and Arab socialism in the twentieth century and its viciousness. Now in the 21st century we are watching the soft socialists fumbling with national debt crises, proving Marx' dictum. "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." The Jewish Left, per Joffe's vocabulary, is indeed suspended between history and revelation. This is why it needs to sanctify itself by asserting evil to its favorite scapegoat to elevate itself thereby.
Jerry Blaz on June 18, 2012 at 8:56 pm (Reply)
It appears that we're dueling. Just stay on the same plane of discourse.

You're shifting meanings as you write, conflating eras of history and even bringing in entire continents' histories to be disposed of with a phrase. If you believe that the conquista was a leftwing plot of some kind, you're reading from a very unique history text. Black people were enslaved in many places to provide working hands for the real conquista. That is hardly a leftwing kind of enterprize.

Part of my effort is to demystify the differences between what is called "left" and what is called "right," but if the enemy is left, we hope that the ally is "right." However, having lived through a great deal of the 20th century, I wouldn't give that assumption a plugged nickel. The interest of the Jewish people and Israel is neither left nor right. As I stated, the terms used in the Israeli context are very arbitrarily contexted as being pro-peace and being pro-continued occupation. Once you leave the circumstances of Israel, the meanings completely change.

In the U.S., two parties, both in favor of what is called capitalism, are adept at using language that gives the American voter the feeling that there is a real fundamental difference between the two, and it is only a matter of what degree of control there is on markets and nothing more.

But "Left" or "Right" is such a quick way of substituting name-calling for thinking, because in nearly every context it is soooo convenient. Based on these assumptions, you chose your soul-mates, even your spouses, and it works until you stumble upon the lie that you're living. Then you have to determine if your soul-mates or spouses are really the people you thought them to be. Let us hope nobody gets disallusioned.
SW on June 19, 2012 at 2:51 am (Reply)
I suggest "Left" and "Right" are inaccurate now to the point of being meaningless. The "conquistas" -- Blaz' word and example per the above -- were a tyranny. Substituting tyranny and liberty as poles in a discussion brings us to this: all governments and all political movements which were in fact anti-Semitic, racist, brutal to the point of murder and eugenic in their plans were tyrannies by degree, and in the 20th century clustered around notions of socialism. The neighbors of Israel have been tyrannies and socialist states, even when installed via a vote to mimic representative democracy. Israel allows the greatest freedom in the Middle East by its governance. Israel's choices are not between peace and occupation, because its neighbors do not offer peace in exchange for land, but continue with open threats of extirmination. As to slavery, people of all colors of skin have been slaves at one time or another, unto this very day as news from North Africa shows. "Left" and "Right" have no power any longer to convey this, while rocket attacks from the Sinai do, as do massacres of children in Syria only this week as a tyranny against its own citizens. Tyranny versus liberty are the poles I choose by which to understand our Jewish place in the world. This is why Joffe's interesting article has such resonance, because the "Jewish Left" is now confronting issues of tyranny and liberty in our history as in our revelations which such adjectives as "Left" and "Right" fail to convey.
Robert on October 9, 2012 at 12:25 am (Reply)
It is odd that you make such statements. The Knesset, especially before the recent change (which as since been changed back) of the electoral system had many parties that can quite easily be placed on the 'global' left - right spectrum. Starting from the left there was the communist party Maki which today is part of the Hadash party. Next there is Merez which is an aglamorate of several left wing parties including Mapam which was a Marxist party, Ratz which considered itself to be a civil liberties party, Shinuy which was a classical liberal free thinking free market party. Next you had Labor which still is a socialist party and an observer in the Socialist International organization. Historically there were other liberal parties that occupied the center, today centrist parties are considered to be Kadima and to its right, Likud. To the right of Likud are what can only be called nationalist parties with names like 'Yisrael Beyteynu' and Moledet (Israel is our home, homeland) these sound much the same as 'Poland comes first, United Poland'.
When Labor was in charge of the country from 1948 through 1977 the first of May was a day for parades. The differences between the left and right wing parties are as clear on economic issues as they are with the lands-for-peace issues.

The article doesn't deal with the general justification of Israel or settlements. Your little diatribe against the government of Israel is, in light of your opening line which prompted me to respond a bit embarrassing. You belong to a long line of self-hating Jews.

I will only say that the first people to object to land swaps between Israel and the PA were the Israeli Arabs who you claim are second class citizens and that for years the only three countries in the middle east where the Islamic moment was legal were Jordan, Iran and Israel.
Ben on February 2, 2013 at 2:59 pm (Reply)
As a great Jewish stage once said, "Liberalism is a mental disorder."

Comments are closed for this article.

Like us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Pin us on Pintrest!

Jewish Review of Books

Inheriting Abraham