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Foolish Beat: The student Left strikes again.
National Review Online ^ | April 11, 2002 | Ronald Radosh

Posted on 04/11/2002 8:13:16 AM PDT by xsysmgr

T he story in the New York Times on April 8, by Kate Zernike, provides chilling news about the apparent growth of the emerging anti-war and anti-Israel movement on the nation's most prestigious campuses. Indeed, since Zernike filed her stories, more demonstrations with even greater attendance have taken place. Tuesday evening's national-news reports featured coverage of the massive 1,000-plus demonstration at the University of California, Berkeley — as well as smaller ones at scores of other campuses around the nation. As one television reporter put it, they are "reminiscent of the 60's" — especially since once again the protest emerged in front of the Berkeley main gates, memorialized by the '60s Left as the pivotal site for the free-speech movement's moment of triumph.

Most instructive was the clear evidence that as the war on terrorism continues, the student Left has floundered, as their major campaigns — defense of affirmative action, the movement for a so-called "living wage," opposition to Third World "sweatshops," and the umbrella of the anti-globalization movement — have been slowly losing steam. But with the real threat of a Middle Eastern war looming on the horizon, and the pressure of Arab dictatorships using their muscle to pressure the West to isolate Israel, it is the perfect moment for the student Left to hitch its wagon to their cause. Already, it has become clear that even on the "enlightened" campuses, the campaign is more than tinged with very real anti-Semitism. The director of the Berkeley Hillel chapter reported that the plate-glass window of its building had been smashed, and that a Jewish student had been attacked and beaten. And as the Times story notes, anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian slogans were spray-painted on a local synagogue.

As they move toward building a new — and they hope massive — pro-Palestinian movement in the U.S., students on the left are using tactics created by their elders, as well as the themes and arguments of the anti-apartheid campaign of the 1980s. In so doing, they are ignoring the warning of August Bebel, the founder of German social democracy, to his erstwhile comrades early in the 20th century. Detecting the rise of anti-Semitism among his own comrades, Bebel told German workers that they should not be fooled into hatred of the Jews, when their only true foe was capitalism. He called such tactics "the socialism of the fools."

In our modern world of globalized democratic capitalism, the Left seems to once again be moving in the same direction as those whom Bebel scolded decades ago. This time, however, it is anti-Israelism combined with anti-imperialism that is the equivalent of the socialism of the fools. Perhaps we should dub it the "anti-imperialism of the new generation's fools." The world's troubles are blamed on Israel, and the onus for the new conflagration is being put on the Middle East's only democracy, whose leaders seek, justifiably, to root our the terrorist infrastructure in their midst. In trying to build a new anti-Israeli consensus, the student Left echoes the propaganda of the Arab dictatorships, whose leaders desire more than anything else to put the blame for the terrible state in which their own residents live on Israel.

There are, of course, valid arguments about the necessity of a peace settlement. The trouble is that Israel already agreed at the doomed Oslo conference to give the Palestinians their own state, including all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but as we all know, that was not satisfactory to Yasser Arafat, since what he and his cronies really desire is the destruction of Israel itself. The Arab dictators realize, however, that even if the Palestinians' demands were granted, most of their own subjects will still be living under the reign of the most brutal and repressive regimes in the Middle East. Saddam Hussein did not gas his own people because of Israel; the Syrians did not kill thousands of their subjects in 1982 because of Israel; Iran does not suffer under the reign of the mullahs because of Israel. No wonder their leaders wish to tell their own people — "you are suffering because of Israel; so don't blame us." But for the student Left in the United States to echo that propaganda reveals how little these students know about the Middle East. Are we soon going to see their papers replicate the racist cartoons regularly appearing in the Arab press, or the vile anti-Semitic slanders of Jewish ritual murder that have been printed recently in Egypt? Already, we have learned that students at Ann Arbor were selling Holocaust-denial literature at their protest rally. How quickly, it seems, the student Left uses the arsenal of fascist propaganda for its own purposes.

Most egregious is the new attempt to create a movement for disinvestment — whose advocates propose that the universities they attend divest themselves of stock in corporations that do business with Israel. The tactic is a mirror of that employed by their campus brethren in the '80s against the apartheid government of South Africa. At its root lies the false analogy their spokesmen make about the equivalent nature of that regime and Israel today. Israel, they argue, is also an "apartheid state;" and so they go on, using the discredited slogan that is now returning: "Zionism is racism." And Israel acts against the Palestinian people just as the Germans did towards the Jews in Europe — making the Israeli army the equivalent of Hitler's Nazi army during the Second World War.

These obscene comparisons collapse upon the slightest examination. Unlike South Africa, Israel is a democracy with an elected leadership, in which Israeli Arabs vote, have full rights, and hold seats in the Knesset. Israeli citizens are free to oppose their leaders, argue against them in a free press, and hold mass demonstrations for peace and against their government's policies. None of these rights existed in South Africa during apartheid; nor do they exist in the Arab countries where the only demonstrations taking place are in favor of al Qaeda or Yasser Arafat. And Israeli's leaders have been anxious and willing to make peace with their Arab neighbors. The problem is finding some Arab leaders willing to make peace with Israel, and who do not demand a "right of return" that would in essence mean the end of Israel as a sovereign nation.

Perhaps most sad is that this campaign has even enlisted the support of some misguided Jewish students, who are taken in by the false rhetoric of "human rights" employed by the pro-Palestinian activists, and who blanch at the claim that Jews are now the world's oppressors. A Jewish student at Berkeley was a featured speaker at the protest rally, and one of the founders of the Palestinian-solidarity movement is Adam Shapiro, who rose to prominence at his now-famous lunch with Yasser Arafat. In this week's Nation magazine, the Stalinist hack Alexander Cockburn quotes him favorably, as Shapiro describes the crisis as "a case of human dignity, human freedom and justice that the Palestinians are struggling for against an occupier, an oppressor."

At least Shapiro's words now openly belie his claim to be a peace advocate and human-rights worker, rather than a propagandist for Palestinian terrorists. Where are the condemnations by Shapiro and others on the student Left of the mass repression and brutality practiced by Saddam Hussein and the others? Where is their concern for the security of the average Israeli, whose very ability to live and function is threatened by daily acts of terrorism? For that matter, where is their condemnation of the terrorist acts themselves? What are they personally doing to urge the Palestinian "resistance" they support to stop the suicide bombings? Perhaps they might consider frequenting an Israeli café, whose owners badly need business these days.

And so now we face a new march on Washington in mid April, which the Times describes as led by a coalition of pro-Palestinian groups, "demonstrators from environmental groups, supporters of a living wage and protesters of the United States military buildup." In other words, a coalition of the leftover Left — a group anxiously searching for the one umbrella cause that could be for their generation what Vietnam was for that of their parents. Sadly, it seems that "the socialism of the fools" is still with us.

— Mr. Radosh is author of Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left available in paperback in June.

TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: mideast; war

1 posted on 04/11/2002 8:13:16 AM PDT by xsysmgr
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