The rise of inflexible progressivism
In a turnabout, Zionism has been replaced by scorn for the Jewish state
As a young man coming from a left-wing pedigree, I embraced a liberal agenda which included most notably, a belief in Israel as a bastion of socialism and democracy. In the 1950s, a good progressive was a good Zionist. Oh, how the world has changed. Now a progressive has moved 180 degrees to an anti-Zionist position. As one wag put it, the left is now the congenial home of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
Linda Sarsour, the leader of the Woman’s March in Washington and a commencement speaker at the City University of New York, clearly embodies the new spirit on the left. She has praised Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, once anathema to liberals. She has honored Embrased Rasmesh Odeh, a terrorist murderer. She has spoken in favor of Shariah finance. One of the supporters of Ms. Sarsour said, “Nothing is creepier than Zionism.”
What is truly remarkable, and to some degree ideologically shattering, is that The New York Times wrote a fawning profile about this woman who challenges all liberal principles. She had the audacity to say that “the vagina of Ayaan Hirsi Ali should be taken away,” the same Ayaan who has worked so hard to promote women’s rights throughout the Muslim world. Yet the Anti-Defamation League defends Ms. Sarsour. Why do liberals not recognize that the Muslim countries do not give women and people in the LGBT community the same civil rights that Israel does?
For the left, Zionism has promoted Islamophobia — a false critique from the standpoint of Islamists. As a consequence, anti-Semitism is rendered a virtue, as a way to discourage negative sentiment about Islam. Yet even when the evidence of anti-Semitism is incontrovertible, the left contends anti-Semitism is a figment of an hysterical, oversensitive imagination. For the most part, Jews are being systematically written out of the progressive agenda, even though they were responsible for that agenda in the first place. But why quibble?
This new age, already upon us, has sheltered many Jews from the harsh reality of contemporary progressivism. Jews still gravitate to a Democratic Party led by two men (Tom Perez and Keith Ellison) avowedly anti-Zionist. In casual conversation, Jews will say Democrats represent grassroots movements and people. However, it is important to note the party of the hard left is the government party relying on rules and mandates imposed by Washington D.C. bureaucrats. It no longer represents the blue-collar worker who built the party during the New Deal.
At the Chicago “Dyke March” held recently, Jewish pride flags were banned because Jews “made people feel unsafe” and, after all, the march was pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist. The irony is that the Dyke March preaches inclusion and is billed as “anti-racist, anti-violent, volunteer-led grassroots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual and transgender resilience.” Yes, the march includes every permutation of homosexuality, but it does not include Jews, presumably these are the people found to be “offensive.”
In January 2016, a Shabbat service and reception for Jewish participants at a gay conference in Chicago was disrupted by hundreds of protesters who chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, pinkwashing has got to go.” Pinkwashing is a term to describe efforts by Israel to cover up its treatment of Palestinians by touting its strong record on gay rights. What the incident shows is that even on gay rights Israel will not be given the benefit of the doubt because anti-Zionism trumps homosexual acceptance.
That progressives would find common quarter with Islamists is the shocking part of this ideological evolution. Obviously, secularism has played a role for many Jews. But the Anti-Defamation League’s support for the Council on American–Islamic Relations is nothing short of jarring, despite the extent of Jewish secularization.
To have been a progressive and to see how the word and movement have gone through the cauldron of ideological change demonstrates the influence of Orwellian logic. Orthodoxy is liberalism, dogma is openness; Shariah is expansive. Who would have thought that the modern Jew would imbibe this logic? But as Norman Podhoretz noted in his splendid book, “Why Are Jews Liberals?” Jews are liberal because liberalism is the new religion of Jews.