Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Rima Greene, a pro-Israel cadre who works half under the radar in Berkeley. She is a former leftist and counter-culture radical who has reinvented herself many times.
FP: Rima Greene, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
I would like to talk to you today about your own intellectual journey and your thoughts on the anti-Semitism that we find on the Left and feminist Left.
Let’s begin with your own background. Tell us about your own leftist past, how you came to the progressive faith and how you experienced it.
Greene: My parents were Yiddish-speaking “progressives.” They subscribed to IF Stone’s Weekly. But they were not party-liners. I got the feeling we were isolated partly because of their abhorrence of certain political things that had gone on. The Jewish community was divided around issues of being for or against the Soviet Union. My parents did not take hard-line stances. They mostly were reeling from anti-Semitism. Republicans and Christians were the “other.” We were afraid of them. It was inbred.
In high school, I read Ayn Rand and instinctively was attracted to her stance on the inner integrity of the individual. I was horrified by three things I knew about as a teenager: Hitler, Stalin and the Bomb. I was very frightened by people in general, as I understood by age fourteen or fifteen that it took massive complicity to have totalitarian movements like in Germany and Russia.
I did not see a good future for the human race. I did not want to have children. I met people in New York City who were against the Vietnam War and for Civil Rights. They were the people singing the folk songs, and I was attracted to that whole scene. When I entered UC Berkeley in the Spring of 1968, the first thing that happened was that Martin Luther King was assassinated. The second thing was Robert Kennedy’s assassination. The third thing was that Valerie Solanas wrote the SCUM Manifesto. After she tried to kill Andy Warhol, Maurice Girodias published her, and I got to read it. I had already read Simone DeBeauvoir’s The Second Sex.
These books resonated mightily with me. I became part of the women’s studies movement. After graduating in 1970, I retreated from the tear gas to the mountains where I was part of a rural hippie civilization with several different communities that ordered bulk food together and created a village of the future, we thought. After a few years, I found lesbian feminism of the 1970s intriguing. We would build women-only villages and see what we could do for ourselves.
I was a “cultural worker” of the times. I joined a women’s bookstore collective. We ordered posters and books from China Books. These were the days of the “little red book” and the poetry of Ho Chi Minh.
In our women’s collective bookstore there was a book by Stalin on Dialectical Materialism and I protested this. They agreed to take it off the shelves, but the study groups could still order it. I was deeply and instinctively disturbed by interest in the wisdom of Stalin, and ranted incoherently about the Gulag, but no one paid much attention. These collective members were younger than me and not from the East Coast – where, in my dreams, “the water was deeper.“ I was a writer of stories, creative non-fiction, and published my first one at this time. I gradually became stifled in this women-identified-women environment, and I decided to break out of it and rejoin the rest of the world.
FP: What began to cause second thoughts in you about the Left and about Israel?
Greene: I did not personally experience anything I knew to label as “anti-Semitism” until I returned from my first trip to Israel in 2009. I lived my life in a bubble of protection which burst after I fell in love with Israel. My parents had told me that we would not have needed Israel if we had been allowed into this country – but the St. Louis, for example, had been turned back and led us to die in concentration camps. (They did not know about Arab Jews.)
In 1954, my grandmother had connected me with a girl in Haifa for a pen-pal. We exchanged letters and photos until the last letter in the early ‘60s when she sent me a photo of her in army uniform with a rifle on each shoulder. Her last words to me were: “I’m in the army. I hate it! I hate it! But shall I let others die for me?“ In 1965, my parents traveled to visit her parents in Haifa – I still remember the address: 7 Masada St., and I found out she had been a border guard in Eilat and was shot to death. Her name was Nili Goldschmit. She had a round smiling Russian face. She is the foundation for my love for Israel.
I now defend Israel for her. I picture her clearly in my mind. When I returned home I was hurt by the reaction of my lesbian friends of the decades. They were supposed to be feminists but they did not care that Israel was the only place in the Middle East where we could be independent women. I wrote a story for my travels, “Three Weeks in the Holyland” which some would not read, even though before we were writers who commented astutely on each other’s work. In Israel, I had met a scholar of Jewish history who informed me of the Koranic roots of Jew hatred – how it had started with Mohammed’s resentment of the rabbis of Medina who refused to recognize him as a prophet. I did not know this before, but it connected the dots for me of why this conflict could never end, why the eternal entrenched Islamic Jew hatred.
When I returned after a long plane ride from Israel, after I woke up from sleeping for fourteen hours, my housemate declared, “I don’t agree with the Balfour Declaration.“ She got that from her Unitarian Social Justice Committee. When I returned to California, I remembered that Phyllis Chesler – whom I had heard of since the days of Women And Madness – had written newer books such as The New Anti-Semitism and Woman’s Inhumanity to Women which I greedily devoured. As I proceeded in my research, I was called “sick” and “neurotic” by lesbian so-called feminist friends of decades.
As I was piecing together out loud what had happened to Daniel Pearl, that he had been videotaped admitting that he was a Jew and then beheaded, I was called a “racist” and compared to my friend’s father who had hated “the Japs” in WW2. I was told that Pearl took chances as a journalist, that was all. I realized this best friend of mine through the decades really didn’t care about our predicament. I had been so proud of who I had for friends – communicaters, college professors, radio programmers, a playwright, activists. I realized they were not really my friends, but only fellow travelers. I realized that their inner ideology trumped anything I was discovering. I did not want to share my life with them anymore.
I personally experienced anti-Semitism from a Woman In Black who had been an acquaintance for decades. She began to speak to me on the street. But then one of her sister blacks came over to her and said, pointing to me, “She’s one of them.” When asked if it was true that I was “one of them,” pointing to the pro-Israel activists, and I said, “I love Israel,” she turned away in disgust, saying we were not friends. She refused any further dialogue with me. I was not allowed to love my extended family. Never again would she acknowledge me as a human being, even though we live in the same neighborhood.
I had just gotten back from Israel and was quite stunned. This was my extended family! How would she like it if I wanted to kill her family? This was the moment my bubble of protection burst. I was deeply hurt. But look at how protected I have been – unlike my parents’ generation, for most of my life. I had the opportunity to act with so much freedom from fear, to experiment with life, not consciously experiencing the pain of how stupid and cruel people are until now. The greatest pain is coming, if the divine does not intervene and save Israel and America.
FP: Thank you for this moving testimony.
What do you think is at the heart of the Left that makes it what you have just described?
Leftists and leftist feminists, homosexuals and lesbians purport to represent democratic rights, women’s rights and gay rights etc., and yet their silence (with a few exceptions) on Islamic violations of all of these rights, and their hatred of Israel, shows that they really don’t really care about these rights at all.
What in your view is beneath this? What are the true impulses of the leftist mind-set?
Greene: Tenacious clinging to pacifism and dreams. Look at Michael Lerner, he openly and proudly announces that he doesn’t want to be a realist. Utopianism. ”A better world is possible,” is a slogan I have abandoned. Maybe a better world is possible, but to me, it looks like life is a battle between good and evil, and that gives it meaning.
I am engaged now and am much happier that I have broken away from the political faith. Think about how stagnated and putrid is the Israel-criticism Industry. I always instinctively recoiled from it, even before I began to challenge the Left. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where you can be an independent woman, a Jew and a homosexual and yet the country is singled out for constant attack, and all its critics obsess on their right to criticize it. The United Nations spends 80% of its time bashing Israel, which thoroughly discredits it.
When I was part of the Left, I thought “evil” and “enemy” were outdated concepts brought on by indoctrinated mental patterns. When I was at a peace camp in Portugal- a German peace community – I met the people who’d paraded through Israel with the banner: WE REFUSE TO BE ENEMIES. This is new age thinking, that you can refuse reality and just keep going on your merry way. We as Jews are targeted. We as infidel Americans are targeted. We are the ultimate prize as the Big Satan – although Jewish blood is the best for the West’s contemporary adversaries.
We do not grasp the mental universe of our enemies. Their obsession with our blood, their obsession with butchering us. They are like an army of vampires. They actually want to suck our blood. Especially Jewish blood. We in the West have not a clue. They do not just want to kill us any old way. Poison gas will not do. They want to spill our blood. I could never make this stuff up. That is what I was trying to sort out with the Daniel Pearl incident, but my friend tried to put a stop to my thinking by calling me a racist.
I opened up my mind to understand the mindset of those who want to vanquish us. I read Nonie Darwish and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and books by Paul Sperry and Robert Spencer. I was willing to connect the dots. My friends are not.
Truly it was like waking up one morning to the realization that those who I considered my friends were like robots, manipulated dupes, and they are all following Obama – who is leading us all over a cliff. We absolutely need to effectively impress upon the Iranian bullies that we will achieve peace with them through superior firepower. There is no alternative. That is what all these nice people do not want to face: Reality.
We’ve all heard of the appeasement that led up to WW2. You cannot appease true bullies. You can get rid of the British from India. You can have a non-violent “Carnation Revolution” in Portugal. You can occasionally topple a dictator non-violently when their time is up (as in Egypt, Tunisia, and Portugal). But the removal of the Nazis required lots of firepower. There was no other way. In the case of Iran, what will be needed is at least the over-whelming perception of firepower if not its actual use. Lovers of death are not deterred by much, so we will probably also have to use it. This is the reality that the peaceniks refuse to face.
On the Left, with the “universal” values supposedly which transcend the need of the Jewish people to survive, there’s an ideology that Jews are selfish for wanting to survive together, as a collective. It is raw naked anti-Semitism.
Jewish anti-Zionists are suffering under a delusion about the meaning of “tikuun olam.” We have the responsibility to defend ourselves, to not be suicidal. Yet if you pick up the local Jewish newspaper, you read articles about Jews defending Muslim students who make it impossible for pro-Israel speakers or views to come to campuses, you read about Jews protesting Congressional hearings to investigate domestic terrorism. This is all suicidal. It is not unheard of for civilizations to become suicidal and allow themselves to be destroyed.
Islamists have only contempt for people who don’t stand up for their own people. They have only contempt for our concept of “dialogue.” Dialogue is just a strategy of a certain phase for them. Being helped by us is a humiliation for them. This is what leftists don’t want to understand. They do not research the mindset. They think everybody has the same universal (Western) values for example: Thou shalt not lie. They want to think honor killing is the same as domestic violence in the West. They keep making errors of logic. They keep making faulty historical comparisons of situations that are not alike at all. For example, they say the recent King hearings are like McCarthyism, etc. Their ability to take in new information has closed down, and they just repeat the same mantras they’ve been repeating since the ‘60s. Times have changed, but the slogans remain the same.
My political generation has been so successful with its slogans, but it does not acknowledge success. Being the underdog is built-in. Negativity is built-in. A mythical entity called the Right is the boogeyman. We demonize the Tea Party, the Christians. I have broken through my reflexive fear of the latter.
At one time, I was indoctrinated by the Left. Now I am not necessarily comfortable with everybody in various groups on the Right, but I do find comfort in that there’s another world that I can go into where people truly do love Israel and love this country too. I will meet with anyone who loves Israel and America. As an intellectual and academic, I bought into all the Left’s snobbery. Jews better wake up to see who our real friends are. It’s not the Left. (Check out the book Standing With Israel by David Brog.) The Left has utterly and viciously abandoned us; its rank and file believe a relentless repetition of lies about Israel and America.
In the 1960s it was ok to resist America for being in the Vietnam War. At that time, Israel was still everybody’s darling, but American imperialism as evidenced in Vietnam did seem like it was bad and should end. Unfortunately, this anti-war position calcified into an absolute. It became an assumption that all war was bad and that there was no justification for war. The lessons of WWII were forgotten.
FP: Final thoughts?
Greene: An essence that I haven’t emphasized in our discussion today is the personal intimate sensation of physical danger I have felt. What needs to develop – to be stimulated – in pacifists is the survival instinct. The animal fear and built-in wiring for survival needs to be activated for pacifists to wake up to the genocidal incitement that is directed at us, Jews or not.
When I started really understanding that Israel is in continual danger because of a theological commitment to destroy us, and that includes me, as a target, my body got it, my creatural body that fights for its survival with everything it has. That is a missing piece on the Left. My old buddy from high school, a famous Jewish anti-Zionist academic, would rather die in a plane terror incident than have “racial profiling.” I said, “It could save your life.” He said, “I don’t care. It’s racist. I don’t care.” It was a kind of petulant: “I don’t care.” It’s like a three-year-old’s outlook.
But the body does not say that. The body wants to live. That is some faux-pc brainwash. His body is a prisoner to a mindset – to a mind that gets a lot of brownie points as a mind. His actual survival instinct is numb. That’s why you get the intellectuals, the writers, the communicators, at the front of this assault, the “highly educated” are the leaders of the assault.
FP: Ah yes, sacrificing life, even one’s own, on the altar of Utopian ideals.
Greene: I was a lost soul, up for grabs by the default program of the Left. But I was not a Believer, I was not deeply imprinted, because I am an experimenter, an adventurer, and finally, my mind opened to going to Israel.
Many of the long term friendships I have had were with people, mostly women, who are not really people who loved me, but only ideological fellow travelers who cannot follow me now. I was seriously alienated from society and desperately needed their friendship.
In Israel, I found my lost soul parts, like Etty Hillesum records in her journals. A deeper part of me plugged in. I got engaged, forged my boundaries, and was no longer up for grabs. I now pick and choose. There are no packaged deals.
FP: Rima Greene thank you for sharing your powerful story with us. We wish you the best.
_Get the whole story of leftist feminists’ alliance with Islamofascists in Jamie Glazov’s United in Hate: The Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror._
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