How Much Hatred of Israel Is Too Much?
By Daniel Greenfield
The Israelophobic left is a spectrum of hatred that stretches from the commonplace mainstream media basher who pounds out innumerable columns blaming Israel for everything wrong with the Middle East to the Gilad Atzmons and Israel Shamirs who claim that Israel is evil because the Jews are the devil.
Within that spectrum, everyone agrees that Israel is really bad and more responsible for international Muslim terrorism than the Muslim terrorists who are actually carrying it out. But that catechism of Israelophobic progressives is only a surface rationalization for the underlying hatred.
Opposition to Israel has never been rational or objective. It has always been emotional and subjective.
The left’s opposition to Zionism began as a toxic mixture of bigotry and self-hatred; influenced by everything from Karl Marx’s declaration that Jews were the embodiment of capitalism to Lenin’s denunciation of the illegitimacy of Jewish nationhood.
The left’s antipathy to Jews was always entangled with its antipathy to Israel. That is why there is no “New Anti-Semitism”. The virulent hatred of the left for Israel and the Jews is not a new phenomenon. And like all hatred, it has no bottoming out point.
Reasonable opposition has a natural limit. Emotional hatred has none. Opposition to Israel has no end point and few objectives except the ultimate expression of its hatred.
Anti-Semitism encompasses no broader political objectives beyond its hatred of Jews. Likewise the point of hating Israel is to hate Israel. After decades in which Israel has negotiated and conceded territory, the hatred for it has only become more extreme.
The BDS boycott movement is the embodiment of that irrational hatred. It has few demands and no constructive goals. It doesn’t so much support a Palestinian state as it borrows material from the conflict to express its hatred of Israel. Indeed many BDS’ers don’t even support a Palestinian state. They support a One State Solution as long as it destroys Israel.
A movement that runs on hate has no way of stopping it. The debate in Anti-Israel circles is how mainstream can extreme be. How much hatred of Israel is too much?
M.J. Rosenberg, who hates Israel quite a bit, recently wrote that he had to stop reading Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah because “it is clear that he cannot stand Jews… he is careful to scream about Israelis or Zionists and not Jews, but he doesn’t fool me. Or any Jew who doesn’t want to be fooled.”
M.J. Rosenberg had, ironically enough, been fired by Media Matters for hating Israel too much.
Eric Alterman of The Nation, who had declared that “Israel is no democracy” and predicted a coming conflict between “Israeli Theocracy” and liberal American Jews, decided that Max Blumenthal’s hatred of Israel had gone too far.
Reviewing Max Blumenthal’s book, Goliath, Alterman dubbed it the “I Hate Israel Handbook” and wrote that it could have been published by the “Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club”.
M.J. Rosenberg however is a big fan of Goliath. Meanwhile Ali Abunimah has been accusing Rosenberg of being a Zionist. Ali Abunimah had decided that Gilad Atzmon hated Israel too much. However Gilad Atzmon claims that Abunimah urged him to use “Zionist” instead of “Jews” when spewing his hate.
Expecting Israelophobes to agree on a hard limit to their hatred is expecting too much.
Alterman isn’t wrong about Blumenthal. Goliath is a hateful screed that doesn’t even pretend to be anything else. And maybe that’s why he decided to draw the line there.
What distinguishes Blumenthal and the BDS crowd, Gilad Atzmon and Israel Shamir is that they don’t play the liberal game of feigned constructiveness. Blumenthal isn’t pretending that he wants to make Israel over into a proper liberal democracy. Instead he told an audience that he favored not only the destruction of Israel, but also the destruction of the Jews in Israel as a separate people.
Even veteran haters of the Jewish State at the event were taken aback. But they shouldn’t have been.
Max Blumenthal’s call follows the natural radical logic of the left. Blumenthal is uncompromisingly committed to hating Israel. In the radical purity test, he hates Israel more than Eric Alterman, perhaps even more than his supporters; M.J. Rosenberg and Glenn Greenwald. It only remains to be seen whether he can hate Israel and Jews more uncompromisingly than Gilad Atzmon and Ali Abunimah.
In a movement fueled by hate, Max Blumenthal has briefly become King of the Haters because his hate is unapologetic. Blumenthal doesn’t hide behind farcical concerns about democracy or justice. Instead Blumenthal reflects his audience’s hatred back at them.
He gives them what they really want.
That’s why the mainstream left finds Max Blumenthal disturbing. He’s a demagogue without any saving graces. His naked rhetoric exposes what their entire movement is really about. It’s the same naked hatred that can be seen on the faces of the BDS crowds screaming about Max Brenner chocolates in Australia or smashing Ahava cosmetics store windows in the United Kingdom.
Those same faces were seen in Germany before the war. Behind them was that same irrational hatred whose roots were not in the politics of reason, but in the unreason of hate.
In 1963, a few years before it backed a Muslim war of extermination against Israel, the USSR published Judaism Without Embellishment. The book was indistinguishable from Nazi literature, blending attacks on Israel with attacks on Judaism and the Jewish people.
“Taking advantage of the legends of the Old Testament, the Jewish capitalists and their ideological parasites—the Zionists—together with the rabbis in Israel, kindle religious-nationalistic passions, and incite the Jews against other peoples who inhabit Palestine.”
A year later, the USSR realized that it had gone too far by revealing that its hostility to Israel was rooted in a hatred for Jews. And so the book was withdrawn. And yet today that passage would not only seem mild compared to Blumenthal’s rhetoric in Goliath, but, slightly reworded it could easily be dropped into a New York Times or Time Magazine article about Israel.
One of the most memorable moments in George Orwell’s 1984 is the Two-Minutes Hate in which the audience of the left-wing tyranny is whipped into a deranged frenzy at the image of a bespectacled Jewish figure on a movie screen.
Another British writer, Howard Jacobson, added an equally powerful, but more ambiguous scene, in his novel The Finkler Question as Sam Finkler, a leftist intellectual who proudly participates in Anti-Israel activities, experiences a recurring dream in which he finds himself punching his father in the stomach.
It is only when Finkler has another dream in which a mob begins beating his father that he recognizes that his Israelophobia is no longer a personal Oedipean tic, but collaborates in mass hatred. Every Jewish Anti-Israel leftist has a similar experience of encountering a hatred that forced him to recognize that he was no longer just punching his own father in the stomach; he had become part of a hateful mob.
Max Blumenthal’s Goliath is one of many reminders that hatred for Israel has no logical endpoint. Blumenthal is the true face of the Anti-Israel left in the same way that Judaism Without Embellishment was the true face of the Soviet Union.