Great essay! I remember rejecting Zionism around the time of my bar mitzvah – in 1967! Yes, the same time as the "Seven Day War." I was very Vietnam antiwar, and it was clear to me, even if I couldn't fully understand the whys, that Vietnam and Israel were connected somehow. If they lied about Vietnam, why not Israel, too.

I never bought the idea that Palestine was "empty wasteland" before the Zionist Jews moved in. I knew in my heart that Israel was an unsafe place. I couldn't see how kibbutzim were somehow an ideal of socialism. Socialism was Marx and Lenin and the Red Army (as I saw it then), and not Labor Zionism or Hashomer Hatzair.

The Soviet Union collapsed before Zionism did. But the latter is frankly doomed by demographics, if nothing else. Meanwhile the dream of a socialist future is still alive, not because of this or that party or individual, but because Marx was correct about the contradictions between modern productive capabilities and the ultimate necessity to rationalize them for the benefit of all. Socialism or communism will indeed be reborn, mainly because there won't be a reasonable alternative left in this crazy world.

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Nov 29, 2023Liked by Yasha Levine

Thanks for sharing. I myself fell totally for the bullshit after 9.11. I was not so lucky at that time to have internalized and properly considered the problems of tribalistic USA patriotism (not to mention everything else) and was holding totally dissonant views of pre-emptive war and catholic/christian morality; a credulous good little citizen, clueless and loyal. I fell for of all of it, hook, line and sinker as we say and got that red-white-blue rabies, foaming at the mouth for war, fuck anyone that got in the way. Yikes, it's shameful to recall it. What you describe sounds very similar. I didn't completely deprogram myself from all of that shite until after Obama was elected, it was a journey. My mother (87 now) and much of her peer group never did escape that orbit and are supporting repeats of all the same mistakes now that we should have learned from during that war on terror history. Heartbreaking. I hope your friends are able to deprogram someday.

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I’m a Soviet Jew — of the many indeterminate, halakhically speaking, Soviet Jews who have only their family’s word for it — and I do agree with the idea that some of us managed to validate at least part of the Soviet cultural project and emerge as communists despite being born right before or — in my case, born late 1990 — during the collapse. I don’t see myself as a Russian Jew (inapplicable, unless we’re splitting hairs on the definition of Russian to land at “Russophone”: the side of my family that’s not Jewish to ambiguously Jewish is Tatar) but I do see myself as Soviet, as a Soviet Jew, a part of my identity that only got reinforced when I reconnected with Judaism and honestly, the part that was the catalyst for the reconnection. I go to shul, I study Torah, I march with my comrades on May Day and teach myself as much leftist theory as I can — I don’t _need_ a goyish nation-state to be a Jew and I don’t need a surrogate motherland.

It’s not like I’ve been shielded from antisemitism either — but it’s never the kind of thing that the most sheltered think antisemitism is. It’s mostly incredibly banal social cruelties, without any frisson of heroic peril; the occasional actual peril (I got spectacularly unlucky once, it was a genuine anomaly where I live) is hardly romantic either. The idea that Hamas are drawing from a well of universal antisemitism would be laughable if it wasn’t so popular.

And besides, even if violent antisemitism hadn’t been ebbing for decades (modulo alt-right shenanigans in the USA, a relatively recent development), how’s that Palestine’s fault? How is the genocide of Palestinians in the name of building the Final Ghetto meant to keep Jews safe? It’s ridiculous.

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Depressing stuff. The propaganda is creating blowback, the very anti-Semitism they were claiming to oppose, among common people. I'm sure that's according to plan...the more entrenched everyone becomes in their beliefs, the less chance there will be of anyone uniting against our common oppressors.

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Thank you for this. Helpful to understand the mindset of many Israelis and American Jews. Hard to break through…

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It is interesting that you and your friends have another recent war to compare. I found myself thinking back to my own reaction to 9/11 as a 20-something American who didn't really follow geopolitics or care too much about anything other than my own life. But your depiction of your friends as Zionist sleeper agents is incredibly apt to my attitude just after the towers fell. I was instantly a Super Patriot, ready to carpet bomb large swathes of the Middle East and adopt the "Israeli method" for dealing with terrorists, etc. I eventually woke up and learned the history as well as the truths that started to emerge after that day, but on a human level what you're describing among your Jewish friends wasn't very different than my attitude after I perceived a great, almost existential "wrong" being perpetrated at me and "my people."

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Great piece, thank you for that! I think the media is mostly responsible for teaching us to consume the news without any need for context. Because context just isn't "news", it's well established, it's knowledge. The news doesn't have anything to do with knowledge but with information. And information today may very well turn out to be disinformation tomorrow. So the media needs us to respond emotionally to the news in order to believe it and consume it. Social Media just magnified that response. The media wants consumers with a certain attitude and morale. They don't want autonomous thinkers. And they do succeed unfortunately. I think the abolition of context is a long-term project of the media apparatus. Also, the news have gotten too fast for us. Since the advent of realtime coverage (think of the first Gulf War), you can't really trust any information. But there's no time to process it. Paul Virilio wrote a lot about that. Nobody seems to take that seriously although we all see the results...

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This world makes me feel crazy. NPR playing stories about Vermont shooter, officials claiming “hate crime” isn’t clear or up for debate.

Protesting US backed Israeli geneocide is Jewish hate, yet shooting unarmed Palestinian men, claiming your innocent amongst an environment that “others” Palestinians. Like wtf. What reality is this?

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I went back and reviewed a little bit of the history of the Rabin assassination, 1990s. Rabin was making real progress on a peace deal, even with Arfat's crazy behavior. The closer Rabin got to making a deal, the more bat schidt crazy the ultra right zionists got (Likkud?), including holding massive anti-peace protests.

Finally one of the ultra zionist lunatics assassinated Rabin.

If that doesn't make clear the insanity of the ultra zionists, I don't know what does.

Another weird historical fact: in 1986, Netanyahu was on conservative W.F. Buckley's PBS show "Firing Line", and Buckley asked Netanyahu a straightforward question: "was Israel founded by terrorists?".

Netanyahu was recorded on USA national TV responding with something like "yes, but so what?".

That clip was replayed by the current version of PBS's Firing Line (hosted by Margaret Hoover, whose weird facial expressions are only a pale imitation of Buckley's) about a month ago, so it should be easy to find.

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I'm old and went on a college trip before Birthright really got off the ground so the narrative was different. The guide warned us off and told us he wanted to go to America because it was more free, I wonder if he ever made it out...

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Re-thinking and maybe a "born again" Communism is much needed by everyone but I'd be happy if what's left of the left gave it a shot.

So much of the left seems enthralled by nationalism of some sort, including Labor Zionism although I haven't run into that personally on the ground in years. So many of the hopes of the Western left are pinned on exotic distant movements, divorced from our daily realities, which are in some form or another identity based. These movements might represent truly and horrifically oppressed identities but they are mainly nationalist in character. Their limited scope and appeal works against them and the support of distant Western leftists hasn't proven particularly valuable. On the off chance a nationalist movement succeeds, then however noble with the assumption of power and authority it becomes just another repressive racist regime. Communism offers us a lot more, a grander vision and an inoculation of sorts? Be well.

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Really appreciated your essay.

At some point would love to hear, in more detail, about your sense of the enriching qualities of a born again communist identity.

One of the reasons I believe that the Left, at least for me, is in such of state of crisis today is that doesn't seem to offer, on an emotional level or practical level, any sense of home.


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Sorry to hear about your peeps, Evgenia.

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Excellent, thanks for the awesome insights.

Minor quibble, I don't see any need to be leftist or "born again communist" to oppose ultra zionist lunacy. Most old school (anglo-protestant) conservatives used to be pretty hostile to zionism, Israel and Jewish people generally because they were real anti-Semites. But then that changed over the last 40 years or so, maybe because of zionist financial support of USA evangelical churches(?)

I know a lot of independents, libertarians and people on the center-right, and a few Jewish center-left/greens that are very critical of ultra zionist lunacy/tribalism that are not anti-Semites at all.

The success of pro-zionist propaganda in the USA is presumably a function of geopolitics and the need for a colonialist outpost of the West in the middle east as part of the military-industrial-complex, to protect oil extraction and transportation, and "Great Game" strategy.

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