Marty Peretz has a pretty good Diarist in the latest New Republic. I think he overreaches stylistically in parts, but I’ve always liked his writing style. Anyway, he attempts to identify the reason for French anti-Semitism. He writes:
“The sins of the Jews, after all, are obvious. They are in the American camp. They are at peace with science, technology, and the rule of law. They create material wealth. But all this still leaves a large question: What is the grand “progressive” vision for which the French left fights, which the Zionists and Jews are insidiously holding back? In the grand conflicts of the last century, there was always a left-wing structure of Manichaeanism. On the one side: imperialism and capitalism. On the other: a compelling and revolutionary dream. The dreams turned out to be nightmares. But they were dreams, nonetheless. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Che, the Viet Cong, the Sandinistas, always a man and a movement saying they aimed to build a better world, which they actually tried to describe. In the end, of course, the better world did not arrive: In its place were death camps, mass deportations, forced famines, massacres, reeducation programs, prisons of the body, and greater prisons of the soul.
So what dream do the Palestinians propose to their own people and the world? Nothing–save their purported innocence against the all-powerful Jews. What hero of the struggle have the Palestinians produced to inspire those whose aid they covet? No Gandhi, certainly. No Mandela. And no Weizmann or Ben-Gurion either. Their present hero is Saddam Hussein. Do they envision a classless society? No. A transparent society, a democratic society, an accountable society? No, no, and no again. Will they transform and free the lives of women, of despised tribes, of gay people, of skeptics? Not a chance. By what vision then will they judge themselves? Nobody says because nobody knows.
Which is why I believe that the many in France and the others in Europe (and the puny few in the United States, such as the Episcopal bishops of Massachusetts) who are entranced by the Palestinian cause, who are called and call themselves peace workers, are drawn to the empty idea of Palestine simply because they despise Jews. C’est ça. This, at least, explains their fervor. Nothing else can explain it, and nothing does.
Now, I’m not sure I agree with all of this, but I do think Peretz raises an excellent point. The Left — like all “movements” in a way — desperately needs to be struggling against something. But not just “something” — because “something” could be a cold impersonal force like disease or bad weather. No, they need to be struggling against someone. There needs to be a human will behind the problems of the world. They can’t just be “problems” they need to be crimes. Unfortunately, most Western governments, universities and large institutions, with the alleged exception of multinational corporations, largely agree with the aims if not the means of the Left. And, as Peretz notes, the radically exciting conduits for rebellion have imploded. So what remains?
As for causes, there’s national liberation, particularly Palestinian liberation, which Peretz notes is a category more than a cause. And, in terms of criminals there are always the corporations, sure. But they seem too cold and impersonal — like the weather. But there are also the Jews. Once victims, they now prosper while other members of the coalition of the oppressed allegedly don’t. They have human will and they use it to the supposed detriment of the Palestinians. As villains, they may not be as convenient as the Robber-Barrons and Fascists of old, but they’ll do. Indeed, they can be turned into Robber Barrons and Fascists with just a few dabs of painted on propaganda. That’s why we so many pictures of Jews in Nazi garb or Hitlerite mustaches. Of course, we see Bush and Cheney similary doctored-up. It’s not clear whether their crime is to be the dupes of Jews orr the allies of Jews. But in the end, it doesn’t matter, because they’ll do as either.