Many Jews are what I call progressive Zionists: they believe in progressive principles, and they support a Jewish nation as a sanctuary for Jews from millennia of persecution. Yet they are continually surprised and upset by anti-Semitic attacks on the State of Israel by progressive Democrat members of Congress.
When Israel is attacked and defends itself using military force, like it recently did in Gaza, progressive Zionists twist themselves into knots to explain to their fellow progressives why Israel has the right to self-defense. They explain how Israel must protect its citizens, just like any other nation. They explain that while they too believe that underdeveloped, indigenous, oppressed societies and its peoples are justified in violent protest against occupying forces and imperialist nations, Hamas’ tactic of attacking or hiding behind innocent civilians cannot be justified. These progressive Zionists get perplexed and frustrated and angry. Why is the concept of supporting Israel, which is so obvious to them, so obscure to their comrades? Progressive Zionists are drawn to the Left out of their devotion to the concepts of “fairness” and “social justice” but support Israel out of the practicality of knowing that it is the Jewish people’s only hope in a world that, for millennia, has sought to destroy them. But progressivism and Zionism are, in fact, contradictory beliefs that cannot actually coexist if they are considered rationally.
Judaism teaches self-reliance. Judaism teaches respect of an all-powerful protector. Progressivism teaches the belief that each individual is the center of their universe, and to see oneself as the victim of an all-powerful oppressor.
Judaism teaches one to obey a formal set of laws. Progressivism teaches that the ends justify the means and that laws were made to be broken.
Judaism teaches that it is better to educate a man to fish than to give him a fish. Progressivism teaches that if you don’t have a fish, then someone must have taken the one intended for you. Progressivism teaches that people without fish must harass those with fish to obtain one.
Judaism teaches that God created all people in his divine image, all people are equal, and all are deserving of love, respect, and opportunity. Progressivism teaches that people deserve more or less depending on their identity, whether that is race, sex, gender identity, religion, or any other characterization that can be attributed to victimhood.
Jews came to America to succeed and did so due to the opportunities presented by the principles, values, and laws of America. Progressives believe that the success of Jews proves their innate “white privilege,” ignoring millennia of oppression including anti-Semitism here in America.
Progressive members of the Democratic Party increasingly express their hatred of Israel. These people also increasingly express their hatred for Jews. Progressives hate those who have succeeded due to their own hard work, whether that success is financial, cultural, or political. This is the core of socialism.
Socialism never helped Jews, whether it was the oppressive socialism of the Soviet Union or the benign socialism of Israel that was eventually abandoned. In the communist/socialist Soviet Union, Jews were imprisoned for practicing their religion and ostracized for wanting to emigrate to Israel. In the early days of the modern state of Israel, Jews created a near-perfect socialist society that led to unbearable inflation, economic and industrial stagnation, and a mass exodus of citizens until it was replaced by a capitalist system envied by the world, even by its Arab neighbors.
Now progressive Jews complain because they stood up for LQBTQ+ rights, they stood up for black lives and the BLM movement, they stood up for Latinos and Asian Americans and for indigenous people and for BIPOC, they supported the Democratic Socialists, and yet those same groups refuse to stand up for Israel, the Jewish homeland, the one Jewish state, the world refuge from anti-Semitism of murderous intent.
The progressive Zionists I know see the conflict between progressivism and Zionism as a paradox. They plead with their comrades to see the importance of Israel to the Jewish people. They protest that they, too, abhor Benjamin Netanyahu and are happy to see him out. They explain about the Holocaust as if their friends might be unaware of the largest organized genocide in human history. They don’t understand the Left’s unique dismissal of this one persecuted minority, the Jew.
It shouldn’t be so incomprehensible to them. The Left’s ideology is to divide people, but Jews want to be a strong people within a society, not apart from it. Especially liberal Jews who are desperate to assimilate. The Left wants to encourage victimization, but Jews refuse to be victims. The Left wants to punish success. But Judaism encourages success. The Left hates those who have achieved success, but Jews have been incredibly successful since the mass emigrations to the United States in the 20th century.
Progressivism’s values are opposed to Jewish values, but progressive Zionists are blind to this fact except when it affects them directly.
Progressive Zionists would do well to read the novel Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok. It tells the story of a group of leftist Jews in the 1930s who knew that communism would bring equality to the masses. It was only when their beloved prophet Josef Stalin made a pact with Adolph Hitler that they disbanded their group. They didn’t recognize the foolishness of their beliefs. They didn’t renounce their beliefs. They just stopped thinking about them. They put their passion and efforts into other causes because it was too hard to recognize that their deeply held beliefs could be not just wrong but seriously harmful.
I don’t expect that many progressive Zionists will recognize the destructiveness of their ideology, but I hope that a few, like the misguided socialist characters in Potok’s novel, will focus their energies and actions elsewhere.
Bob Zeidman is the creator of the field of software forensics and founder of several high-tech Silicon Valley firms, including Zeidman Consulting and Software Analysis and Forensic Engineering. His latest venture is Good Beat Poker. He is the author of textbooks on engineering and intellectual property as well as screenplays and novels. His latest novel is the political satire Good Intentions.