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Return to common sense
The intellectual irresponsibility of the left is leading to moral bankruptcy

THE INTERNATIONAL LEFT — especially its most vocal proponents in Europe — has embraced a free-form and all-pervasive anti-Americanism that defies common sense, hinders even the remotest chance of resolving daunting international challenges in the Middle East and Central Asia, and contributes to a dangerous rising tide of anti-Semitism.

Among the noblest aspects of the left’s political tradition has been its historic willingness to champion the needs of the poor and the rights of the powerless, along with its general suspicion of military intervention. During the 1930s and ’40s, the movement transcended its reluctance to bear arms when it vigorously led the opposition to the fascism of Mussolini and Hitler. In the years after World War II, it rightly opposed French intervention in Algeria, the British-led invasion of Egypt, and the United States' involvement in Vietnam. In the US, support for civil rights — first for blacks, then for women, and finally for gays and lesbians — became a potent export of which many leftists could be proud.

But even while fighting the good fight in the postwar years, the left harbored a disturbing tolerance for Marxist totalitarianism. At various times and to varying degrees, Castro, Stalin, and Mao were lionized as political messiahs in a variety of quarters. Although Castro is still very much in power, he's now recognized in spite of his crimes for what he is: a relatively bit player on the international scene. And while Stalin and Mao have been unmasked as mass murderers whose killings surpassed even Hitler’s, that fact is still treated at times as a historic inconvenience.

A certain moral obtuseness still haunts the left. Oddly enough, it seems to have lost its stomach for confronting its historic nemesis: fascism. When such a regime reappeared in the former Yugoslavia, the European community was shamefully irresolute in challenging the racist poison that threatened ethnic minorities, especially Muslims. It wasn’t until the sorrowfully belated intervention of the United States that the atrocities ceased, and criminals like Slobodan Milosevic were brought to justice.

The callous indifference of too many Europeans to the genocide in their own region now appears to be mushrooming into naked hostility: toward the US for its contemplation of military action against Iraq and its war on Al Qaeda and toward Israel for its actions against Palestinians in response to a gruesome wave of suicide bombers.

The left is so paralyzed by its fear of " American imperialism " that it has lost the ability to reasonably assess the threats to international peace and order that emanate from the Muslim world. It would rather damn the US than protect the world’s long-term interests.

Writing in the left-leaning London Observer, John Lloyd, the former editor of the socialist New Statesman, points out that the left " abandons, or at least suppresses, its own anti-fascist credentials. Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda are murderous on a grand scale, as is Saddam’s government, who have been especially murderous to those groups within Iraq — especially the Kurds — considered disloyal to his rule. He has shown willingness to invade neighboring states, and to acquire weapons of mass destruction of all types — nuclear, biological and chemical. He is committed to destroying the Israeli state, and has sponsored terrorism against it and others.

" It is neither folly nor imperialism, " Lloyd concludes, " to discuss how he might be deposed, and what assistance we might give to the Iraqi opposition to replace him. "

But even more alarming than the left’s suspicion of the war against Al Qaeda and its unwillingness even to contemplate future action against Iraq is its growing hostility toward Israel’s attempts to stop suicide bombings specifically targeted at civilians. These bombings enrage all but the most leftist of Israelis and alienate moderates who are dedicated to peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state. To say that the situation in the Middle East is grave is a gross understatement. The first step toward even a temporary sense of peace must be the cessation of the suicide attacks, or, at a minimum, a worldwide demand that they cease. These suicide missions have not sprung from a sense of Palestinian " desperation, " but have been adopted deliberately as a cold-blooded tactic of terror.

Even the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), meeting last weekend in Kuala Lumpur with the express purpose of dispelling growing worldwide fear of Muslim fundamentalism, could not agree on a definition of terrorism. As a result, the group could not condemn the horrifying wave of Palestinian suicide bombings as terrorism. Defining modern-day terrorism may indeed be tricky for the OIC, whose members include both Arab states and Palestinians. But for the West, certainly since September 11, the old notion of " one person’s terrorist, is another person’s freedom-fighter " simply has no place.

The editorial page of the New York Times, which is no friend of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s, has called on Arab leaders meeting in Cairo to denounce " the cancer of suicide bombing. " European leaders and intellectuals of all ideological stripes should do the same.

The left, however, shows no inclination to do so. Rather, its poster boys — such as French farmer José Bové, famous for his anti-globalist agitation — openly embrace PLO leader Yasser Arafat, the high priest of the Palestinian death cult. Such acceptance is sad but fitting. In all of Europe, France has seen the greatest number of anti-Semitic incidents in recent memory. By the end of last year, the number of anti-Semitic incidents or attacks perpetrated in France over a 14-month period exceeded 350. Over the Easter and Passover weekend, three French synagogues and one in Belgium were burned and numerous other attacks reported.

Last week, Newsweek published a cover story headlined, THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL: HOW WILL IT SURVIVE? Five years ago, such a story would have been unthinkable. Despite our ardent support for Israel, we have never denied the Palestinians the right to a homeland. European left-wing politicians and intellectuals, however, seem to be inching toward positions that would deny Israel the right to exist. The slide down this slippery slope must stop. The left must call these suicide bombings what they are — unconscionable acts of terrorism — demand their immediate halt, reaffirm Israel’s right to exist, and call for both sides to return to the peace table.

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Issue Date: April 4 - 11, 2002
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