It used to be — when I was a kid growing up in Baltimore — that the far left led the marches and other demonstrations against most forms of religious and racial prejudice. In fact, many figured that Jews could always rely on the so called “liberal left” to help fight anti-Semitism of the 1930s and even later.
But Professor Stephen H. Norwood in “Anti-Semitism and the American Far Left” (Cambridge University Press, 324 pages , trade paperback, $26.99, $13.49 for Kindle) explores the “far” left extremists’ antipathy to Jewish culture while developing apologias for jihadi movements. In fact, more clearly than many other investigators of the anti-Jewish situation how Communists in America swung from early support of the creation of Israel to hostility to both Jews and the Israeli state by 1956.
The author demonstrates how black groups like SNCC led by Stokely Carmichael and Rap Brown used stereotypical descriptions of Jews as being extremely wealthy and having gained that financial power on the backs of blacks. It is of course important to note that the most prominent African American civil rights leaders like A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin who organized the 1963 March on Washington denounce the SNCC Newsletter and similar anti-Semitic slander.
Nevertheless, radical pacifist leaders like Daniel Berrigan who led campaigns against the Vietnam war also joined in the racist commentary declaring Israel to be a racist “settler state” using Nazi tactics to prove racial superiority.
It is not all that surprising that such tactics would be used considering how Hitler’s representatives had been so warmly welcomed in major American universities throughout the 1930’s. During those years, the most leading college campuses became fertile territory for the spread of Nazi “progress” in Germany but places where scholarships and other invitations to Germany were offered to students. And the students had to be impressed, given the fact major figures like the late James B. Conant and Nicholas Murray Butler were among the university celebrities laying out the welcome mats.
What has helped the effort in recent years has been the widespread commentary of internationally known linguist Noam Chomsky who also drew parallels between Israel and Nazi Germany. This reviewer heard Chomsky respond to a radio interviewer’s question as to whether he feared loss of his teaching job: “I have tenure” he said laughing.
But Chomsky has gone beyond even beyond many of the far left by defending a Holocaust denier why claimed the massive killing of Jews by the Nazis to be a “Zionist lie.”
What is fascinating in Professor Norwood’s wide ranging effort is that he shows how those on the far right were hardly much different from the left-wing extremists when it came to Jews and demonstrated how even the so called United Nations conferences on human rights were clearly anti-Semitic and included the Holocaust denials of the Arabs, among others.
He shows specifically that the UN World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa in 2001 contained blatant anti-Semitism but then condemned Israel and the United States for walking out in protest.
Norwood, a professor of History and Judaic Studies at the University of Oklahoma, has done his job with careful documentation as a followup to his fine work titled “The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower” which outlined in detail how the Hitler regime spread its doctrines to campuses across the nation as previously noted. It is just as important to note that an organization known as the National Council on U.S. Arab Relations is doing much the same today in setting up “Model” Arab Leagues on many college campuses and sponsoring annual conferences in Washington, D.C. called the National University Model Arab League. The next is scheduled for April 10-12, 2015 at the Georgetown University.
What is strangely missing from the book, however, is much reference to American industrialists like Henry Ford who not only weighed in as virulent anti-Semites of influence but comfortably promoted and helped to finance the Nazi regime while publishing anti-Semitic newspapers and other literature.
While Professor Norwood’s writing doesn’t result in a rapid page-turner of excitement, the resulting book does an excellent job both in documenting the methods of racism inherent in the far left’s varying stands on anti-Semitism and how they have been important means for sustaining anti-Jewish hatred in America and its rapid rise abroad.