Entebbe, Mein Kampf, and the New Antisemitism


American author, thinktanker and foreign policy expert Walter Russell Mead has used the anniversary of the publication of Mein Kampf to set out some important and valuable thoughts on modern expressions of antisemitism.

He argues that:

The truth is that anti-Semitism is alive and well and not even particularly rare; it’s just that many of today’s anti-Semites like to think of themselves as enlightened, modern people and get all huffy and hissy if anyone accuses them of prejudice in any form.

He then sets out what he calls the “five pillars of anti-semitism”:

Jews are more clannish than other people and act in concert to support a specifically Jewish agenda.

Jews deploy extraordinary wealth with almost superhuman cunning in support of the Jewish agenda.

As a religious and national minority, Jews cannot flourish without attacking the traditional values of their host society. In every country Jews seek to weaken national culture, religion, values and cohesion.

Jews are not a national group or a people in the way that others are; they do not have the same right to establish a nation state that other peoples do.

Where Jewish interests are concerned, the appearance of open debate in our society and many others is a carefully constructed illusion. In reality, Jews work together to block open debate on issues they care about and those who resist the Jewish agenda are marginalized in public discussion.

He says to be an antisemite, “you don’t have to believe them all – any one will do.” And he says the many who deny this are guilty of having “defined anti-Semitism down.”

Nurturing ancient fantasies of secret Jewish cabals that control the media and play politicians like puppets on a string, and making political judgments based on these fantasies isn’t sort of or almost anti-Semitic.  To believe that Jews control public discourse and the media and bend the gentile masses to their sinister agenda is the essence of old fashioned anti-Semite [sic].   In some countries these beliefs are so common that they are no longer recognized as an aggressive and communicable mental disease.  These ideas have become so widely accepted that they are seldom questioned or examined; when that happens, a whole society is poisoned and distorted.

Needless to say, it is important to see a noted academic putting so clearly the case that the beliefs of this sort – common not only in the Arab world but in the anti-Zionist left in Australia, Europe and elsewhere, whenever the issue of Israel is raised – are closely linked to historic motifs of antisemitism – as indeed they are.

Meanwhile, some interesting thoughts on how the far left became susceptible to this sort of prejudice in their dedicated hatred of Israel have come from British academic and writer Alan Johnson, himself a man of the left. Johnson looks in particular at the case of Wilfried Böse, a German and member of the far-left Revolutionary Cells organisation, who was one of the hijackers during the 1976 Entebbe airline hijacking crisis which occurred 35 years ago this week.

Johnson notes that the hijackers, including Böse:

…demanded the release of Palestinian and Baader-Meinhof terrorists, flew the plane to Entebbe in Uganda, separated the Jews from the non-Jews, and prepared to execute them.

How did a young, idealistic, anti-Nazi, a member of the far-left Revolutionary Cells (RZ) come to his end acting like a Nazi,selecting Jews for death?…The answer lies in modern left-wing “anti-Zionism.”

Johnson explains that in the late 60s and 70s, what he calls the “know-nothing New Left” became “completely unmoored from the working class, the West, and democracy and moored instead to ideologies of the noble savage, fantasies of ‘Third World Revolution’ and an irrational belief in the redemptive power of violence.” In their peculiar worldview, “A third world ‘periphery’ was pitted against the metropolitan ‘center’ and ‘good’ oppressed nations were at war with ‘bad’ oppressor nations.” It is this worldview which led the New Left to embrace an anti-Zionism so vehement that antisemitism was inevitably a component of it:

Much of what is said and done by today’s left-including its “anti-Zionism”-is unintelligible without grasping that when “anti-imperialist struggle” displaced “class struggle” as the organizing category of thought and the basis of political identity, the result was a hybrid political phenomenon that the Germans call linksfaschismus, or left-fascism. When a Jewish passenger showed him his Auschwitz tattoo, Böse shouted back, “I’m no Nazi! … I am an idealist.” As Paul Berman observes, “out of some horrible dialectic of history, a substantial number of German leftists had ended up imitating instead of opposing the Nazis.”

Increasingly, after 1967, this upside-down left had taken as the ultimate expression of “anti-imperialist struggle” the armed Palestinian, while Israel became the ultimate expression of “imperialism.” Drawing on some older traditions of left-wing anti-Semitism, and influenced by more recent but well-funded Soviet and Arab antisemitic propaganda campaigns, it became left-wing common sense that supporting Israel’s enemies – whatever these enemies actually stood for, however they actually behaved – was an “anti-imperialist” duty.

Both Mead and Johnson offer some valuable and important insights into the development and reality of modern antisemitism, and I would strongly urge readers to read both in full.

Tzvi Fleischer