What leftist Jews don't get
What leftist Jews don't get
The voice of the Prophets echoes strongly in the Jewish soul. That is the most plausible explanation for the fact that Jews, despite millennia of discrimination and persecution, insist on taking advantage of every chance to change the world. Sometimes Jews have changed the world for the better, as in science and medicine; in politics the record is mixed.

The role of Jews in revolutionary movements marked the political and intellectual landscape of the Western world throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Men like Lassalle, Marx, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Kuhn and Eisner and women like Rosa Luxemburg and Simone Weil showed that assimilated Jews could mobilize Gentile masses in the pursuit of utopian dreams.

The utopia in question, socialism, failed miserably. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Jews, actually embraced this ideology with a fervor that matched their forefathers’ love of God and Torah. With the benefit of hindsight, it is hard to empathize with intelligent people who took Das Kapital more seriously than the Talmud. However, when we see how many Jews nowadays advance the #Metoo or BLM movement instead of fighting Islamic antisemitism or supporting Israel, it is evident that Ze’ev Jabotinsky might have been correct in claiming that most Jews are politically idiots.

Jabotinsky was right in pinning the blame on Jewish politics rather than on Jewish ethics. Personally, I tend to believe that the Marxist Jews of yore and progressive Jews of today are largely decent and well-meaning people. It would be unfair to assume that their activism and couching of a leftist agenda in Jewish terms such as repairing the world and never again is purely instrumental. These Jews sincerely believe they are heirs to the Biblical prophets calling for justice and compassion.

That this is not the case becomes obvious when we observe how Jewish leftists are perceived by non-Jews. Unlike the Biblical prophets who have been revered for millennia by billions of Christians and Muslims, Jewish leftists have traditionally been objects of quasi-universal loathing, resentment and derision. Admittedly, statues of Marx dotted the landscapes of squares and avenues in the Soviet bloc too. However, unlike the images of Solomon and David which embellish churches in Europe and Latin America, the honors lavished on Marx in Communist countries aggravated most people.

This is not just a European phenomenon. In the USA and South Africa, Jews were historically at the forefront in supporting the civil rights movement and fighting against Apartheid. Yet despite the solidarity and Jewish lives sacrificed on the altar of equality between blacks and whites, antisemitism and anti-Zionism are rampant among both African American and South African leaders.

Jews, be it in Hollywood or on the Supreme Court have also been stalwart supporters of the gay liberation movement. Yet despite the fact that Israel is the sole land in the Middle East where gays and lesbians can hold their heads upright, it is the Star of David, not the Islamic Crescent, which is ostracized by LGBTIQ activists.

 In America, it is doubtful that the descendants of the Central American immigrants seeping into the United States will one day display sensitivity to Jewish concerns. If anything, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exemplifies the sort of politician that many Latino voters relish.
Jews are also at the forefront in advocating liberal immigration and asylum policies in America and Europe. In the Old Continent, these policies already cost religious Jews harassment and intimidation on a daily basis. In America, it is doubtful that the descendants of the Central American immigrants seeping into the United States will one day display sensitivity to Jewish concerns. If anything, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exemplifies the sort of politician that many Latino voters relish.

It is tempting to infer from all these episodes that non-Jews are just an ungrateful lot. This is true, but the source of this ingratitude is not Gentile nature, but human nature. Human beings, both Jews and non-Jews, tend to dislike owing gratitude to individuals or groups whom we consciously or subconsciously feel are on a higher plane than us. This higher plane can be economic and social, but also cultural, intellectual and ethical.

Jewish leftists hearkening the imperative to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and protect the orphan and the widow, forget that this Biblical injunction was meant to be followed primarily among Jews in the Land of Israel. The non-Jew knew that he paid for Jewish charity in the Land of Israel by accepting religious and moral restrictions. This meant that access to Jewish charity, far from being demeaning or patronizing, was practically a contractual quid pro quo.

This element of parity is essential. People admire Jewish writers and film directors because they pay for the books they read and the movies they watch. If these works were donated to audiences by, say, the United Jewish Appeal, there would be little admiration and no gratitude towards either their creators or their donors. Lack of reciprocity between Jews and the minorities they help, is – ironically – the source of the rampant ingratitude towards Jewish communities we witness every day.

Jews, like all human beings, have an ethical responsibility towards humanity. However, before they lavish care unto humanity, Jews should care primarily about their closer and more distant relatives, their communities and their countries of citizenship. As long as, like Rabbi Carlebach noted, one is certain that a person identifying as just being human, is probably a Jew, Jewish efforts to be a light unto the nations will tend to backfire.