Reprinted from the Jerusalem Post.
Robert Wistrich, Hebrew University professor of European and Jewish History and director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of anti-Semitism, has just published his 29th book titled From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews and Israel.
It is an impressive tome of over 600 pages and follows his monumental seminal work A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad, published in 2010 and now recognized as the definitive work on the world’s oldest hatred, and an indispensable text for scholars.
In a fascinating preface to his new book, Wistrich provides a brief autobiographical sketch. His father had originally been a supporter of the illegal Polish Communist Party in pre-war Krakow but became alienated from Stalinist communism after being arrested by the NKVD. He and his wife, who had experienced bitter Polish anti-Semitism, survived the Holocaust by fleeing to Kazakhstan, where Wistrich was born.
He was educated in England, and to use his words, was “radicalized” in grammar school and later at Stanford University. He first visited Israel in 1961, returning in 1969 when he was appointed editor of the left-wing Israeli journal, New Outlook. However his passion for the Jewish state led to a parting of the ways with the Israeli far left.
Robert became increasingly engaged in academic scholarship related to anti- Semitism, received a senior appointment at the Hebrew University, and is now recognized as the world’s foremost scholar in the field.
From Ambivalence to Betrayal is a historic review and analysis of the abandonment of the Jewish people by the left from the early 19th century until the present. It also relates to the extraordinarily disproportionate number of socialist thinkers and leaders who were of Jewish origin and seeks to explain what motivated so many of them, in the course of their utopian and futile efforts to “repair the world,” to abandon their people and their heritage and frenetically seek to deny their kinsmen the right to self-determination.
The introductory essay is a brilliant overview of the contemporary Jewish political arena viewed in the context of the concurrent rise of Zionism, Communism, anti-Semitism and Nazism. It focuses strongly on the hypocrisy of the existing left, which has become obsessed with demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state.
Wistrich demonstrates the extent to which today’s radical anti- Zionists, despite purporting to represent the left, often share the identical obsessions and delusions concerning the alleged malignant influence of the Jews in the modern world as classical fascist anti-Semites.
Wistrich provides fascinating and innovative insights on left-wing revolutionaries.
He skillfully relates the connection of “the prefigured 19th century sea-bed of anti-Semitic socialism found in Marx, Fourier and Proudhon, extending through to the orthodox Communists and ‘non-conformist’ Trotskyites to the Islamo-leftist hybrids of today who systematically vilify the so called racist essence of the Jewish State.”
His analysis of the linkage of these revolutionaries with the left’s contemporary abandonment of Israel is a major intellectual and scholastic achievement and provides an intriguing insight into the sources of the far left’s current application of double standards and anti- Israel venom.
WISTRICH REVIEWS in depth the attitude towards the Jews adopted by many of the great socialist revolutionaries of Jewish origin like Karl Marx, Bernard Lazare, Moses Hess, Ferdinand LaSalle, Karl Kautsky, Victor Adler, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, Bruno Kreisky, Isaac Deutscher and others.