Friday, March 15, 2013

Left Out

As many others may have also experienced I find that one of the most frustrating hazards of identifying with a particular ideology is to see its extremists hijack and sell out ideals for which this particular belief system stands and turn them on their heads.  This is what has happened with the  American political left.  And as a moderate social and economic progressive and humanist who advocates a secular society, respect for human rights,  and gender equality, and as one  who vehemently opposes repression by religious interestsvalues  which the American left wing have also long upheldI am alarmed and saddened to see a faction of its members sympathize with adherents of Islamofascism, which is an attempt by its Muslim adherents to force their virulently hateful and repressive religion and way of life on the rest of the world (See my post "Europe's Islamic Experience And its Implications for America".) 

Actually, I knew something was amiss but wasn't able to put my finger on and clearly identify this link between the  extreme left and the Islamic radical right especially in the Middle East until  I read a column written by a secular Muslim, Tarek Fatah, who spelled out the connection in "Social media Is the new public space" which appeared in the blog site "Lilley's Pad" wherein he discusses the plight of liberal Muslims who are not only persecuted  by other Islamists but who also experience discrimination by Facebook in getting their message across.  

Sure, strange bedfellow associations happen all the time but are usually temporary pacts of convenience between two enemies that obtain until their common objective has been achieved. Then they resume mutual hostilities. However, the ties between the American (and European) far left and extremist Islamic governments seem to go deeper than mere expedience.  One basis for this unholy alliance is their common hatred not only of Jews and  Zionism, but also of Israel and its very right to exist, not to mention Israel's perceived undue influence on American foreign policy.

The latter perspective itself held by these anti-Semites who often use the excuse of anti-Zionism  also serves as an excuse to use the American government as a  punching bag by the far left. Yet I never see or hear a word of organized protest by  these people against other ethnic groups who also have a strong influence in American politics such as the predominantly right wing Cuban-Americans who have held  the American government in thrall for over 50 years against normalizing relations with Cuba.  Some of the members of this community have resorted to murder against other Cuban Americans who disagree with that position. Then there is the Irish-American lobby and the collective and individual support of Irish Americans for the IRA and the Catholics against the Protestants and English rule  in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Again, the American left was silent about such interference.

I have had some bruising online encounters and have been frequently flamed by far leftists over my dissenting comments on some of the posts that have been published in such  progressive newsletters as "Truthout" and "RSN"   These attacks on my positions (and often me personally as a Jew) are not  from the writers of these columns, but rather by other responders. In contrast, the publication such as "Free Inquiry" which is published by the moderately left leaning organization Committee for Inquiry has unabashedly criticized Islam and its irrational tenets. And at least one leftist organization the Marxist-Humanist Institute opposes both the Iranian and U.S. government leaders.

To be sure,  in the Middle East both Israel and the U.S. do have a lot to answer for, regarding some of their past and present policies including the Palestinian issue and the use of drones respectively.  Yet  the far left's support of Islamic countries such as Iran is blatantly hypocritical. Iran of course is a  totalitarian Islamic theocracy whose government hates the U.S. and Israel.

Then in the matter of the Syrian civil war, just  because the U.S. government has endorsed the rebels, many U.S. leftists back President al-Assad (who is not a radical Muslim but still a ruthless dictator nonetheless)  and his regime as the legitimate Syrian government despite the atrocities he has committed against has own people. Yet as author Nikolas Kozloff points out there is a double standard at work here in that if as many Palestinians  died at the hands of the Israeli government as the thousands of Syrians who have been massacred at the hands of their own leader, the American Left would be outraged over such an atrocity.

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How did American Jews become involved with the political left in the first place? At the risk of oversimplification here' the story. For centuries Jewish tradition has emphasized the doctrine of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and social justice. These principles dovetailed with the leftist movement and its emphasis of the very principle of making the world a better place not just for the wealthy and powerful individuals but for humanity as a whole especially the underdogs and the persecuted, a position in which Jews historically often also found themselves.  In the 20th Century, it was the left that led the labor, civil rights, anti-war,  and feminist movements and reached its zenith as the New Left in the  civil rights movement and its opposition to the Vietnam War.  But  partly due to the excesses of some of its radical groups such as the Weather Underground and some factions of the Black Panthers, which itself became anti-Semitic  the legitimacy of the the leftist movement as a political force came under questions, and many of its disillusioned members, Jewish and non-Jewish  alike,  fell away. Some of them even joined and became prominent in the right wing political  organizations. 

But beginning with the George W. Bush presidency in 2000 (the election for which itself was hijacked by the Republican Right) culminating with  Great Recession in 2008, it became clear in the U.S. how powerful the American Right via the Republican party really is. Even with a Democrat in the White House, this political /economic right wing still gets its way. Corporate profits are extremely high and wages for the working people are extremely low. Millions of home owners are still under water on their mortgages. And these are just a few of the woes facing the American. The country  needs a resurgence of a strong left as it had in the 1930's, but one that whose members will not discredit the movement by cozying up to the enemies of freedom.