King was not especially concerned with the actions of the few bad people in society, but was troubled by the inaction of the vast majority of good and decent people. Given the recent state of affairs with regard to global anti-Semitism, King’s message is relevant today.
It feels as if the recent Holocaust denial conference held in Tehran during December is but a distant memory, as the news cycle on the globalized information highway has changed so many times it seems like a distant bad dream.
Unfortunately, it is not. The global social movement of extreme Islamists continues to work towards one of its main goals, the de-legitimatization of Israel so to bring about its destruction, while also aiming to usurp the global order and replace regimes throughout Islamic societies.
While this theocratic social movement carries on with its clearly articulated genocidal objectives, Western human rights advocates and progressives, especially in Western Europe, remain largely silent. How is it that social democratic intellectuals and progressives are voiceless in the face of theocratic, homophobic, sexist, anti-democratic racists, who make unequivocal public genocidal statements, backed up with actions consistent with this goal on the ground?
Among much of the West’s chattering classes Israel has been criticized in a disproportionate manner for decades. The rhetorical and ideological blinders have made it difficult for some on the Left, mainly in Europe, to assess the current situation in a coherent manner. This while levels of anti-Semitism increase significantly throughout much of Europe. British Jews, for example, are four times more likely to be attacked then Muslims, even though Islamophobia is also on the rise.
Much of the expression of the extreme Left in the UK and in Western Europe focuses on portraying Israel as some sort of omnipresent power that mysteriously holds sway over western governments, namely – though not limited to - Washington. This demonization utilizes classical anti-Semitic tropes, accusing Jewish citizens of dual loyalty. This form of dehumanizing stereotype played a key role in the devastating violence and dislocation of European Jewry historically.
Cultural relativism runs deep
Subsequently, when David Duke defends Walt and Mearsheimer to drive home his long held anti-Semitic views - including the dual loyalty allegation - it ought to give people pause.
When elements of the European “Left", are more interested in anti-imperialist rhetoric, which appears to be replacing opposition to anti-Semitism and other traditional values of the Left such combating racism, homophobia, advocating minority rights, the extension of notions of citizenship, and so forth – it ought to give people pause.
When post-modern cultural relativism runs so deep that people are unable to distinguish between the building of the so-called “wall” or “security fence” to stop suicide bombers from murdering civilians – a legitimate act of self-defense that has proven to save lives – and the spurious comparisons with racist tactics of Apartheid South Africa, it goes beyond the rational.
The attacks Israeli civilians have endured over a period of years are tantamount to modern day pogroms. Surely those concerned with basic human rights would demand this barbarity to stop? Even – I dare to suggest - at the cost of temporary access to acres of land or orchards of trees.
When the founding document of Hamas, its Charter, is a covenant of genocide in which the term Zionist, Israeli and Jew, are used interchangeably, in ways that evoke pernicious forms of classical anti-Semitism combined with overt calls for genocide, and has not been roundly condemned by progressives in the West, it must give people pause.
When the so-called Palestinian national liberation movement has been taken over by quintessential reactionaries that call for the outright slaughter of Jewish people based on the twisted forgery of the “Elders of the Protocols of Zion”, as if the elimination of the Jewish State were not enough, it must give pause.
It was Heidegger, of all people, who argued that nostalgia was inherently reactionary. It seems that there is a de-facto reactionary unholy alliance between some Western leftists and Islamists – groups with nothing in common except for their disdain for Israel and nostalgia for the past that acts as the cement that binds their aspirations.
One fantasizes of re-capturing some sort of Caliphate – reuniting Muslims under one theocratic state, while the other dreams of outdated clichés of liberation that for many never went further then slogans on t-shirts.
Leftist hypocrisy intolerable
Most recently, Jimmy Carter not only puts forth the poisonous notion of dual loyalty and portrays Israel in negative light, but during a recent CBC interview he stated that Israel was engaged in a denial of human rights in a manner more complete then ever carried out by the white Apartheid regime.
Not only is this disconnected from reality, it follows an emerging pattern among some on the Left that Israel is somehow the incarnation of all that is evil, this while Israel faces growing threat of incitement to genocide by theological radicals in the region.
Perhaps it is easier to blame the victim then to stand up for what is right; a problem that Carter seems to have been unable to overcome even in his old age.
George Galloway, for example, a self-proclaimed progressive rushes to congratulate Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah for his actions against Israel. Here a supposed socialist praises a theocrat with paymasters in Iran, while he takes contributions from equally dubious sources.
Nasrallah insidiously claims that he is not opposed to the ingathering of the Jewish people to Israel or to Zionism, since all the Jewish People would be in one place to be more easily eliminated. Galloway is not a socialist, but a sweet talker advocating the Socialism of Fools; a notion coined by August Bebel warning the German working classes not to be duped by focusing on the scapegoating of Jews, rather then the real issue confronting the workers.
As the Iranian regime becomes more explicit and bold in its incitement to genocide the hypocrisy of some on the Western Left is intolerable. It is no longer enough to claim opposition to the fascist anti-Semitism that shook Europe to its core more then 60 years ago, a common practice these days. The Left must stand firmly against this new contemporary form of genocidal anti-Semitism.
There is not one political philosophy, legal system, religious or moral philosophy, in which pleading ignorance absolves transgressions. As the agenda of Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah becomes more clearly articulated and accessible in the media there is less room for the political and moral hypocrisy of the Left.
In the spirit of Martin Luther King it is time we all take responsibility for our actions as well as our non-actions, and confront this contemporary manifestation of the “longest hatred”: anti-Semitism. It is only through this, and perhaps living up to the best of truly “progressive” humane values, that there is any hope of reaching a just resolution in which all peoples of the Middle East will live in peace, security and have access to basic human rights.
Dr. Charles Asher Small is the Director of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of anti-Semitism