WASHINGTON — Anti-Semitism traditionally has been associated with the extreme right. Now, it is becoming more common among the extreme left.
Leftist president Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe huffed that "Jews in South Africa, working in cahoots with their colleagues here, want our textile and clothing factories to close down." Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is no right-winger, lashed out against Jews who "rule the world by proxy." One finds pockets of anti-Semitism at anti-globalization rallies, and plenty of it at pro-Palestinian rallies. And in recent years anti-capitalist campaigners have been networking with radical Islamists and neo-Nazi groups via their websites, according to a draft report by the Technical University of Berlin's Center for Research on Anti-Semitism. (This was the same report commissioned by the European Union, which decided for who-knows-what-reason not to officially release it.)
Contrary to what one would think, left- and right-wing extremists are, in major respects, ideological soul mates. Don't be fooled by labels; applying the simplistic terms of "right" and "left" to complex political realities naturally begets confusion.
While ultra-rightists are generally thought of as racist and ultra-leftists as nonracist, the latter are by no means immune to such decrepitude.
And both camps share these core attitudes: a readiness to buy into conspiracy theories, hatred of the rich, contempt for speculators and financiers, a deep suspicion of large corporate enterprises, and a conviction that the privileged few oppress the masses.
These notions manifest themselves in the party platforms of radical groups. Here are excerpts from one such platform (courtesy of Australian writer John J. Ray):
• We demand that all unearned income, and all income that does not arise from work, be abolished.
• We demand the nationalization of businesses which have been organized into cartels.
• We demand the creation and maintenance of a healthy middle-class, the immediate communalization of department stores which will be rented cheaply to small businessmen....
• We demand a land reform in accordance with our national requirements, and the enactment of a law to confiscate from the owners without compensation any land needed for the common purpose. The abolition of ground rents, and the prohibition of all speculation in land.
And here is a quote from one such leader:
"We are socialists, we are enemies of today's capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions."
Karl Marx? No. Vladimir Lenin? No. Ho Chi Min? No.
Adolf Hitler. And the above platform positions were those of his National Socialist party. Note the formal name of that party: the National Socialist German Workers Party.
The far left scapegoats rich people for causing the world's ills. But what if you live in a society where most rich people happen to be members of a different religion or skin color? That makes them particularly easy to recognize and identify. In the popular psyche, the wealthy class becomes synonymous with members of that minority group. So if you're an envy-laden, paranoid conspiracy theorist, there's hardly a distinction between scapegoating the rich and scapegoating the minority group.
That's how the Nazis viewed the Jews. It's how Stalinist Russia viewed the Jews. It's how Islamic militants view the Jews. And it's how many among today's far left view the Jews.
Jews are by no means the only (relatively) affluent minority group that has suffered mass slaughter. The same has been true of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey), Tutsis in Rwanda, Tamils in Sri Lanka, ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, and many others.
Palestinian hatred of Israelis, I suspect, is based on more than just land disputes and the policies of the state of Israel. Much of it likely derives from envy. Jews as a whole are among the most able, hard-working, and intelligent people ever to inhabit the earth. Wherever they go they succeed. They turned Israel into an economic powerhouse for its size, and "made the desert bloom." Success breeds envy. Envy breeds hatred.
Terrorism is the end result. So is an envy-driven economic philosophy best described as hard-left or socialist: Islamic radicals generally advocate government ownership of most sectors of the economy. They detest "middlemen" and the rich. They loathe "foreign exploiters." They're disgusted with materialism and consumerism. And they desire complete economic equality among all citizens (which, in practice, translates into everyone being equally poor).
Obviously, a mutual dislike for Israel's policies is not the only thing that binds Islamic radicals and ultra-leftists together.
Leftism is generally tolerant of different races and religions. But not always. Extremists are not going to let Jews off the hook just because they happen to be a different religion. When it comes to envy versus tolerance, envy very often wins out.