By Ted Belman.
Mordechai Nisan wrote Only Israel West of the River and had it published in 2011. This book is a classic and should be read by everyone. He wrote with such clarity and logic that its hard to dispute him. As a result, I invited him to speak at the conference on The Jordan Option.
He has now written The Crack-Up of the Israeli Left. It is a precious book, in fact, an intellectual tour de force. Hardly a paragraph exists that doesn’t contain some nugget of value.
This book is way more than a recount of the crack-up of the Israeli left. In fact, it is an intellectual history of Israel and its transformation from as “socialist utopia” some hundred years ago to the present day where is it is one of the most successful capitalist countries in the world notwithstanding that it has yet to shuck all its socialist baggage.
As I excitingly read through it, I couldn’t help but compare Israel’s story with America’s. In both cases, the land was settled alongside the existing population and the settlers were very much in the minority. In both cases the settlers shared a common history and distinct visions. Both groups were fleeing from religious oppression. The settlers of the English colonies, came from England and the Jews who settled in Palestine came mainly from eastern Europe and Russia. Ultimately both groups had to revolt against their English overlords to achieve independence.
The Americans were religious and embraced limited government and all that it implies i.e., conservatism and the Jews, though previously religious, embraced secular socialism reflecting the Communist revolution which was ongoing at the beginning in the first half of the 20th century. In both cases, each is travelling from its original vision and values to their opposites.
Mordechai Nisan asks “How it happened that the authentic classical liberalism of John Stuart Mill metastasized into liberal tyranny and thought-control is an intriguing historical question”. ..”Yet liberalism has metamorphosed in Israel into a very illiberal ideology serving the country’s anti-liberal antagonists and enemies.” You could say the same of America.
“A second path of liberalism in Israel is a more intricate phenomenon to lend itself to a precise explanation. The liberals became totalitarians in dictating what to think, how to feel, what to say and not to say, and how to relate to the Arab “Other.”” Sounds like in America, no?
“Ideological hounding and physically attacking the nationalist-rightist groups continued through the years of the British Mandate.”
“If debate was open and free, then the Right might convince the public that it and not the Left is a far more sensible and credible political camp. The Left did not only hate the Right; it essentially hated the people. This is the big secret it tried to obscure. Leftist condescension toward the Israelis colored its otherwise vaunted love for the people. It is axiomatic in Marxism and other totalitarian ideologies to believe that the people must be led and guided because it does not have the developed self-consciousness to know what is its own good. For this God gave us the totalitarian Left.”
“The inability of the Left to conduct a reasonable discussion about ideological principles and political performance is one of the most convincing pieces of evidence that their primary goal is to delegitimize and crush opponents, rather than engage in a civil dialogue.”
“From its early days, socialism and nationalism were bound together in the revival of Jewish peoplehood on the road to statehood. Marx and Lenin provided an ideological frame work and impetus for Jewish socialism in the Land of Israel. Three major components of the socialist creed galvanized the Zionist engine: class struggle, the proletarian dictatorship, and a vision of utopian justice and equality.”
“Socialism, perhaps with a resonance of Jewish roots in a morally rich culture, posits the collective over the individual, and the state above society. Its elite leadership draws upon the assumption that people lack the mental faculties to know what ought to be done and how society should be organized.”
“The Israeli case certainly fit the equation that identified socialism with secularism, an erosion of Judaism on the scale of personal and national ideas. History would later prove that the drying up of the spiritual wells would eventually lead to the bankruptcy of socialism and the decay of socialist parties in Israel”
“A culture of totalitarianism and atheism was essential in building the ideological platform for socialism in the Zionist project.”
“The Labor movement’s power bordered on a near-totalitarian control and repression of competing parties. The Revisionist Movement led by Zeev Jabotinsky was vilified as a fascist deviant, and the Irgun nationalist militia that Menachem Begin led from 1942 was, as intimated earlier, defamed as an aberration from the responsible rule by Mapai in national Zionist politics, and vis-à-vis the British Mandate in Palestine. It is reasonable to consider in this context Foucault’s notion that power must hate and suppress truth. When the role of Betar/Revisionists was eliminated from the historical narrative of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, leaving the glory solely in the brave hands of the socialist-leftist camp, we learned how the role of rewriting history is designed to advance the present and future political status of one side alone.”
“The domestic enemies of socialism in its classic formulation are family, religion, and property. Although capitalism definitely represents freedom, socialism claimed that freedom is achieved when totalitarian rule from above imposes its structure of domination over individuals. When the individual loses the sense of himself and is submerged in the collectivity, it is then that socialism considers that man has been liberated from egoism as he merges with all mankind. This twisted reasoning, whereby a person must be alienated from himself, identities freedom with despotism in the socialist turning of truths on their head. For at root socialism represents slavery and not freedom.”
What Nisan has described in these quotes, we have witnessed in America in the last fifty years and saw it reaching its apex in the Obama era. Americans are turning against God and religion, the family, the individual, Judeo-Christian morality, democracy and the rule of law to name a few. The elites distain the deplorables and any restraints on their power and authority. The have imposed political correctness to outlaw any ideas inconsistent with their new world. They have coopted the DoJ, the FBI, the media, academia to their cause. Dissension is not allowed. They resort to class warfare, lawlessness, intimidation and violence to further their cause.
It took Menachem Begin’s political victory in Israel in 1977 to start the turn-around. He tried valiantly to do so but there were too many battlegrounds. Too many fights to fight. Israel was suffering extremely high inflation, a poor economy, slow growth rates etc just as today’s socialist governments in Venezuela and many European countries are, to different degrees.
It took Benjamin Netanyhu’s advent to power both as a Finance Minister and Prime Minister to transform Israel from a socialist country to a capitalist one. This was all the more possible for him to do because he spent his teen years in the US away from the pernicious socialism in Israel. He was also educated in MIT, a bastion of capitalism in America, and worked for the Boston Consulting Group along with Mit Romney.
Fortunately for America, Donald Trump came along, uncontaminated by the government rot, and who had greatly benefited from capitalism. He also loved America and his family. The people in America recognized these values and voted him into the Oval Office. In the two years he has been in office he has done more for restoring America’s greatness that any president in the last half century has done in two full terms.
Both Bibi and Trump are strong supporters of nationalism and reject globalism. Together they are rallying many other countries to join their cause. At this reading, it looks like the nationalists are winning.
Nisan makes acute observations when describing the Oslo debacle and its aftermath, the disengagement disgrace and the battle over the passing of the nationality law. You will want to read his every word.