For much of the past century, Jews across Britain, North America and Europe tilted decisively to the left. The recent atrocities committed by Hamas against Israel have challenged that trend, with Jewish sensitivities inflamed in light of the growing celebration of terrorism among progressive leftists in the West.
Historically, Jews have been wary of the right — and for good reason. Not only did they fear the fascists, but also the old–school conservative establishment, which generally disdained Jews. The British Home Office used to limit Jewish immigration to the UK, and the US State Department tried to block reports of the Nazis’ mass murder of Jews from reaching the US. In most countries, Jews consistently supported mainstream left–wing parties — namely, Labour in Britain, the Socialists in France, the Democrats in America and the Liberals in Canada. Jews even played critical roles in more radical movements on the left, including the Communists.
The Jewish leftist tradition persists, but has been fading for years now. Recent events are likely to accelerate this decline. Many of those expressing support for Hamas’s actions, and opposition to any strong Israeli response, come from the left. In the past few years, we have seen the rise of a wide range of anti–Israel ‘progressive’ politicians, like Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez’s ‘Squad’ in the US Congress, former British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and France’s Jean–Luc Mélenchon.
Increasingly, Jews are being forced to choose between their Jewish roots and their traditionally leftist political orientation. This undermines the stance of Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which remains essentially a subsidiary of the Democratic Party. The ADL’s primary focus, at least before recent events, seemed to be in concert with the Biden administration’s oft–repeated view that the far right is the most pressing threat to the Jewish community.
Such views are delusional as well as dangerous. Of course, the far right remains a threat. Some right–wing parties, like Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), contain elements that minimise fascist atrocities, even as the party postures to win Jewish support. Individual rightists, like the shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, represent a distinct lethal threat.
None of this, however, contradicts the reality that in the US, Europe, Australia, the UK and Canada, the targeting of Jews now comes overwhelmingly from the left and its constituencies. A detailed 2017 survey from the University of Oslo found that in Scandinavia, Germany, Britain and France, most anti-Semitic violence came from Muslims, including recent immigrants. Similarly, a poll of European Jews found the majority of incidents of anti-Semitism came either from Muslims or left-wingers. Barely 13 per cent traced it to right-wingers. Violence against Jews is especially bad in places like the migrant-dominated suburb of Malmo in Sweden. In Paris and London — the last great redoubts of Jewish life in Europe — the danger is less right–wing anti–Semitism than the pernicious new hybrid that joins leftist and Islamist hatred. Meanwhile, virtually all right–wing parties (including the US Republicans and the Canadian and British Conservatives) have been unanimous in supporting Israel.
Other rightist politicians, like Italy’s Giorgia Meloni, France’s Marine Le Pen and Britain’s Nigel Farage, have been outspoken supporters of the Jewish State. Meanwhile, the much-disdained Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, is widely criticised as fascistic and anti–Semitic. Yet he is far more pro–Israel than the EU bureaucracy, which has opposed Israel’s right to a forceful response to the Hamas attack.
Read the rest of this piece at Spiked.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.