The European Left and Its Trouble With Jews
LAST week, Twitter shut down a popular account for posting anti-Semitic messages in France. This came soon after the firing of blanks at a synagogue near Paris, the discovery of a network of radical Islamists who had thrown a hand grenade into a kosher restaurant, and the killing of a teacher and young pupils at a Jewish school in Strasbourg earlier this year. The attacks were part of an escalating campaign of violence against Jews in France.
Today, a sizable section of the European left has been reluctant to take a clear stand when anti-Zionism spills over into anti-Semitism. Beginning in the 1990s, many on the European left began to view the growing Muslim minorities in their countries as a new proletariat and the Palestinian cause as a recruiting mechanism. The issue of Palestine was particularly seductive for the children of immigrants, marooned between identities.
Capitalism was depicted as undermining a perfect Islamic society while cultural imperialism corrupted Islam. The tactic has a distinguished revolutionary pedigree. Indeed, the cry, ‘Long live Soviet power, long live the Shariah,’ was heard in Central Asia during the 1920s after Lenin tried to cultivate Muslim nationalists in the Soviet East once his attempt to spread revolution to Europe had failed. But the question remains: why do today’s European socialists identify with Islamists whose worldview is light-years removed from their own?
In recent years, there has been an increased blurring of the distinction between Jew, Zionist and Israeli. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the militant group Hezbollah, famously commented: ‘If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice I do not say the Israeli.’
Whereas historically Islam has often been benevolent toward Jews, compared to Christianity, many contemporary Islamists have evoked the idea of ‘the eternal Jew.’ For example, the Battle of Khaybar in 629, fought by the Prophet Muhammad against the Jewish tribes, is recalled in victory chants at Hezbollah rallies: ‘Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, the army of Muhammad will return,’ and the name Khaybar sometimes graces Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel.