Judeophobia - History and analysis of Antisemitism,
Jew-Hate and anti-"Zionism"
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The previous chapter drew a parallel between the Enlightenment with its contrasting medieval background on the one hand, and Socialism with its czarist backdrop on the other. These two movements beg the question: what caused these new orders based upon rationalism and brotherhood to be so infested with the Judeophobia that characterized the old world. The fact is that no cure emerged; from neither the decline of Christianity as the dominant force shaping the political realm, nor from the emancipation of the Jews from legal restrictions. Apparently, European societies were so saturated by centuries of Jew-hating, that they were unable to produce Enlightenment or socialism that was Judeophobia-free. In his comprehensive study, historian Zosa Szajkowski could not find a single word in favor of the Jews in French socialist literature between 1820 and 1920, even when half of this period was replete with 600 pogroms. We mentioned Tousenel, Fourier and Proudhon as examples of Judeophobia from the Left. Saint-Simon is the striking exception.
Within Marx’s writings and biography, four aspects of Judeophobia can be discerned, namely:
1) For Judeophobes, the importance of Jews they dislike is overblown, and their Jewishness is emphasized even when it is non-existent. Thus for Nazism, Communism was a Jewish ideology. And within the left itself, the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin considered Marx “a modern Moses” and the Jews as “a nation of exploiters.” In contrast, Judeophobes studiously blur the Jewishness of Jews who are central in their cause. Thus, Marx’s Jewish origins were usually skipped by the Communist regimes. In the Soviet Encyclopedia edition of 1952, the Jewish origin of Marx was totally withdrawn.
2) Jews were accused from both sides of the political spectrum with contradictory arguments, and therefore had no chance to be proven innocent. Despite their suffering under the domain of Christian states, the Jews were ultimately seen as the germ of Christianity by many free-thinkers. In the same way, the Judeophobia of Marx and many Marxists did not deter anti-Communist Judeophobes from accusing “the Jews” of having created Marxism. For this reason, during the 1918-20 civil war that followed the Bolshevik revolution, the anti-Communist Ukrainian fighters murdered 50,000 innocent Ukrainian Jews.
3) Marx also exhibits a typical Judeophobic trait, to ignore both the Jews’ sufferings and the existence of Jew-hatred in his own time. His antagonism to Jews was expressed both in his essays and private correspondence; he never had a word of sympathy for the pogrom victims, whose influx into London began while he was living there. This “selective humanism” is a characteristic of leftist Judeophobes, Jews and non-Jews alike. In 1891 the Second Socialist International in Brussels (which included many Jewish delegates) rejected a motion condemning increasing Judeophobia. If you want to unmask someone’s Judeophobic leaning, ask him whether Judeophobia exists anywhere in the world. A negative answer is indicative.
4) Marx also exemplifies a phenomenon which exacerbates Judeophobia: the non-Jewish Jew (as in the title of Isaac Deutscher’s book, published in 1968, one year after his death). The non-Jewish Jew is a radical who, although he has no connection with Judaism whatsoever, he is perceived as “the Jew” by the society he strives to overthrow. The non-Jewish Jew sympathizes with every underdog, as long as he is not Jewish. Thus wrote Rosa Luxemburg in a 1916 letter: “Why do you come with your particular Jewish sorrows? I feel equally close to the wretched victims of the rubber plantations in Putumayo, or to the Negroes in Africa with whose bodies the Europeans are playing catch-ball... I have not a separate corner in my heart for the ghetto: I feel at home in the entire world wherever there are cloud and birds and human tears.” With hindsight, those Jews of the 1916 ghetto would have been happy to exchange their fate with the Putumayo workmen and Black Africans in Africa. As Irving Howe put it “even in the warmest of hearts, there is a cold spot for the Jews.”
Unlike Marx, Vladimir Lenin, the architect of the Russian revolution, was not a Judeophobe. In 1914 he publicly fought czarist persecution and stated that “no nationality in Russia is so oppressed and persecuted as the Jewish.” Thus he passed a twofold test: public admission of ongoing Jewish suffering, and the will to combat it. Lenin also the third test: he never used Judeophobia even when it would have been politically expedient (for example when he argued with the Bund, the Jewish Socialist Party, he did not mention that their Jewishness was problematic; nor did he stress the Jewishness of one of the assailants in an attempted assassination on him).
But Lenin’s personal attitudes were overcome by Communist ideology, which explicitly denied the Jews the definition of peoplehood, and therefore distinguished the Jews as the only group deprived of any legitimate national expression (not only religious). Hebrew language was labeled subversive, and hundreds were sent to prison for either teaching or learning it. From the outset, the Communist government systematically destroyed Jewish community life in Russia. The motto of the Russian anti-Communists (“Strike the Jew and save Russia”) was replaced by “Strike the Jew and the Bourgeoisie.” Judeophobia became, in August Bebel’s words, “the Socialism of fools.”
This was the first time that a Judeophobic movement insisted it was no such thing (the campaign was implemented under the title of “anti-Zionism”). In 1919 Zionism was designated a counter-revolutionary movement and duly prohibited, together with all Jewish schools. The destruction of cultural life was implemented mainly by the Yevsektzia, the loyal “Jewish Sections” of the Communist Party.
When Lenin died in 1924, and eventually Stalin became the head of Russia, Soviet policy became more blatantly and brutally Judeophobic. Broad evidence of Stalin’s personal hatred for Jews can be found in his daughter’s memoirs.
The “Jewish problem” -a group ideologically defined not as a people, but which behaved as a people- called for a solution. One proposal was called Birobidzhan. This was an area in far East Russia, by the border with Manchuria, about 35,000 sq. km. in size. It was in the government’s interest to send Jews there; it would create a stronghold against Japanese expansion and elicit financial support from Jews abroad. For the Yevsektsiya, it was the alternative to Zionism. On March 28, 1928, it was decided to settle the territory with Jews and a few days later migration began. That year the publication of all Hebrew literature was forbidden and many Jewish writers were imprisoned.
Yiddish schools, a theater and a newspaper were established in Birobidzhan and even when Communist Jews from abroad were invited, about 1,500 came. Nevertheless, with the exception of 1941, the peak year of the Jewish Region, it never reached even 10% of Jews among the general population.
By 1930 the Yevsektsiya had achieved the destruction of most Jewish cultural life in the URSS, so they were deemed unnecessary, and were eliminated. Their leaders were either executed (like its head Simon Dimanstein) or died in prison (like their newspaper editor, Moishe Lirvakov). And as we saw in the German case, not even self-hating responses saved Jewish intellectuals. Osip Mandelshtam, one of the most accomplished and refined poets in all Russian literature, although “allergic to Jewish smells and the sounds of the Jewish jargon” was arrested in 1934 and died in a prison camp in the Far East.
In that year Birobidzhan was granted the status of “Jewish Autonomous Region” and Mikhail Kalinin, the mentor of the project, predicted that “within a decade Birobidzhan will probably be the only bulwark of national Jewish socialist culture.” Two years later, however, Stalin’s purges marked a turning point in Soviet policy. There was a cessation of denouncing and punishing expressions of popular Judeophobia, and the beginning of systematic liquidation of remaining Jewish institutions and leading figures by the government. A first blow was struck to the development of Birobidzhan.
All in all, animosity towards the Jews weakened after Nazism took power and it attacked the Soviets as a Jewish lackey. Then a new peak of Russian Judeophobia was reached in 1939 with the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact which led to WW2 two weeks later. Stalin promised Hitler to replace Jews from leading positions (he had just replaced his main foreign spokesman, Litvinov, a Jew, with Molotov, who eventually signed the Pact). The Third Reich was now congratulated for its struggle “against the Jewish religion” and the Soviet press and radio systematically concealed reports about the Judeophobic character of the Nazi regime. German Communists who had escaped the Reich were extradited to Germany, Jews included.
Although some defended the move as Stalin’s shrewd attempt to buy time to build his forces for the inevitable battle against the Nazis, it became obvious that Communist parties around the world quickly abandoned any focus on the evils of Fascist and on Nazi Judeophobia.
When Russia was invaded by the Germans, the Soviets needed to recruit world public opinion for their war effort. Two months after the invasion they organized the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAFC), a group of public figures and intellectuals. On August 24, 1941, the “representatives of the Jewish people” met in Moscow to “call our Jewish brethren throughout the world” to aid the Soviets. But even then, Soviet condemnation of the Nazis against the murder of “peaceful, innocent people” consistently refused to present Jews as victims. Even though at least 200,000 Jews died fighting in the Red Army and many were distinguished for their heroism, the authorities continued the execution of Jewish soldiers and rehabilitated them post-mortem only after the Stalin era.
The JAFC, headed by Solomon Mikhoels, published a Yiddish journal, transmitted radio broadcasts, and in 1943 went on a fund-raising campaign to the US, the UK and other countries. They were enthusiastically received by the Jewish communities everywhere, since their visit renewed the contact between Soviet Jews and world Jewry that had been severed since 1917.
After the war, the concealment of Jewish suffering continued with a vengeance. Any attempt to emphasize that the Nazi occupation of the Soviet Union was particularly bad for Jews, was strongly criticized by official spokespersons. Soviet books and films on WW2 systematically ignored the Holocaust, virtually to the point of denying. In a forty-minute Russian-language film shown to Soviet visitors at Auschwitz, where 1.5 million Jews were murdered, the word Jews was not mentioned once. A “Black Book” on Nazi crimes against Jews in the USSR by the Yiddish writer Vasili Grossman, was banned after it was already set in type. Not only did the Soviets deny (by omission) the Holocaust, but outrageously used Nazi atrocities to increase Judeophobia by connecting Nazism with Zionism.
JAFC publications were banned, and in January 1948 Mikhoels was murdered by the Soviet secret police. That year new purges took place, aimed at destroying any Jewish activity. Even in Birobidzhan the Yiddish theater and schools were closed. The Jewish population, which had reached then 30.000, shrank and the “Jewish Autonomous Region” was history.
The JAFC was liquidated together with all remaining institutions, the attacks on Zionism increased, and a witch-hunt of “Cosmopolitans” was launched. By the end of 1948 the most prominent Jewish writers and public figures had been arrested. During a secret trial in 1952, they were accused of conspiring to separate the Crimea from the Soviet Union, in order to convert it into a Jewish bourgeois republic that would serve as a military base for enemies of the USSR. Twenty-six Jewish writers (many of them lifelong staunch supporters of Stalin) were executed on August 12, 1952. (Since then and until recently, August 12 was the Day of Solidarity with Soviet Jewry).
“Cosmopolitans” was a derogatory term applied to Jewish intellectuals in the Soviet Union from November 1948, at the peak of Russian chauvinism and its struggle against Western influence. It was initiated with articles in Pravda and other central organs, which denounced those “who have no homeland” (in the country of internationalism!). The anti-cosmopolitans “unmasked” Jewish names in arts and literature, inflated their real importance in their respective fields out of all proportion, and revealed the real names of Jews using pen names, showing how Jews hid their identity behind Russian names and spread hatred of Russia (this “hatred” was exemplified by the fact that some of them dared contend that great Russian writers were influenced by such “cosmopolitans” as Heine or Bialik). The campaign subsided in May 1949, but it comprised the first public attack on Soviet Jews as Jews, and is considered to have initiated the so-called “Black Years,” which lasted until Stalin’s death. The main rabbis were arrested (Lubanov, Epstein, Lev) and many died in labor camps.
Soviet Judeophobia, a central tool of Stalin’s regime and policy during the Cold War, reverberating far beyond the USSR. In 1952, fourteen leading party members of the Czechoslovak Communist Party were prosecuted in Prague for conspiracy against the state. Eleven of them were Jews, including the Party secretary-general, Rudolf Slansky. The Slansky Trials were conducted under the supervision of Moscow agents. For the first time an authoritative Communist forum openly proclaimed the accusation of a world-wide Jewish conspiracy. The Jewish origin of the accused was repeatedly stressed, and their alleged crimes were traced to this prime cause. The prosecution stigmatized them as Zionists, although the accused had opposed Zionism all their lives. The worsening economic situation was blamed on “the Jews.”
The Israel embassy in Prague was depicted as a center of espionage and anti-Czechoslovak subversion. Eight of the accused were executed and the other three condemned to life imprisonment. Hundreds of Czechoslovak Jews were thrown into prison or sent, often without trial, to forced labor camps. (In the late 1950’s the victims of Slansky Trials were rehabilitated, but the accusations against Zionism and the State of Israel were never revoked).
But the climax of Stalinist Judeophobic policy was yet to come. On January 13, 1953, twelve doctors were arrested in Moscow and charged with plotting to poison the Soviet leadership. Nine of them were Jews. When Stalin died on March 2, it was revealed that he was preparing to use the “Doctors’ Plot” to expel over two million Jews to Siberia. Stalin’s heir Nikita Khruschev, though himself a Judeophobe, attenuated the outright folly of the Stalin era. He canceled the Doctors trial, and in 1958 admitted that the Birobidzhan project had failed (he attributed the failure to Jewish dislike for collective work and group discipline).
Although the new policy denounced Stalinist methods and purges, Judeophobia was never considered one of its vices. In 1961, seven of the eight recorded speeches by Lenin were rerecorded and marketed - the only one excluded was Lenin’s speech against Judeophobia. The attacks against Zionism became more overtly anti-Jewish. Trofim Kychko’s vicious book “Judaism without Embellishment” was published in 1963 by the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. Jews became frequent victims in show trials for “economic crimes” such as “speculation,” carried out by the security police until Khruschev was removed in 1964. Out of 110 convicted, 70 were Jews, condemned to execution. In a 1963 trial in Ukrainie, twelve people were found guilty of the same “economic crime.” Half of them (the non-Jews) were sent to prison. The six Jews were shot.
Soviet propaganda started a campaign grotesquely depicting the image of Zionism as a sinister international conspiracy spread to dominate the whole world, very similar to that propounded in the Protocols. From the Six-Day War in 1967, all Soviet media constantly referred to the Jewish State as a Nazi state.
Regarding post-Communist Russia, we see a by now familiar pattern. Judeophobes started attacking the Jews for having promoted Communism and Red terror, claiming Jews controlled Russia during the seventy communist years. The Jews killed the Czar, they spurred the purges, they destroyed Russian traditional architecture.
Prominent contemporary Russian writers such as Valentin Rasputin, Vasily Belov and Victor Astafiev, claim that “Jews instill a corrupted atmosphere, since they pollute the purity of the honest and good Russian soul.” The mathematician Ygor Shafarevich sees in the Jewish mentality the evil of technological society as opposed to the virtue of traditional Russia. The Jew incarnates urban civilization and what he calls, amazingly, “Russophobia.”
A word about the New Left, left-wing radicalism which attracted many students and youth in the US and Europe during the late 1960’s. The Jewish aspect of the movement is paradoxically twofold: a disproportionate participation of Jews in the leadership, and rabid anti-Zionism. And again, Germany at the vanguard. The SDS (Student Socialist Organization of Germany) during 1969 repeatedly disrupted public meetings in which the Israel ambassador was due to appear. Later that year New Left terrorists tried to blow up West Berlin’s Jewish community hall during a service commemorating Nazi atrocities. The perpetrators deplored German guilt feelings towards the Jews as “neurotic and backward-looking.” German New Left leaders, such as Ulrike Meinhof and Dieter Kunzelmann joined Palestinian guerrillas and inveighed against “bourgeois German Judenkomplex.” One notorious result of this German-Arab partnership was the 1976-kidnapping of an Air France plane. Only the Jewish passengers were retained as hostages in Entebbe, Uganda, until they were rescued by the Israeli army.
Anti-Zionism and Holocaust-Denial, the two most persistent expressions of contemporary Judeophobia, were present in the Leftist stage, as we saw in this chapter. In later chapters, we will refer to both phenomena from a more general perspective.Gustavo Perednik
Next: Chapter 13: Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism') in The United States
Start- Judeophobia - A History and Analysis of Jew Hate or so-called Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism
See also: Marxist anti-Semitism
These pages are adapted by the kind permission of Dr. Gustavo Perednik.They are based on a twelve-lecture Internet course prepared for "The Jewish University in Cyberspace." During 2000 and 2001, the book by Gustavo Perednik "Judeophobia" was published in Spanish. This course summarizes the core ideas of the book. It presents a comprehensive and unique analysis of the development of Jew hate (Judeophobia or anti-Semitism) throughout history. It tries to answer the question "why the Jews?" - why have Jews been particularly singled out for ethnic, racial and religious persecution, and it traces the relationship between anti-Zionism and racist Judeophobia or so-called anti-Semitism.
Zionism and Israel Information Center is grateful to Dr. Perednik for his permission to popularize his works.
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