VIDEO – The Communist Origins of Anti-Zionist Antisemitism

2024-03-17 18:00:19

On March 5, 2024, Legal Insurrection Foundation hosted an online event, The Communist Origins of Anti-Zionist Antisemitism:

The antisemitism disguised as ‘anti-Zionism’ now sweeping campuses and cities didn’t just happen. It was a strategy devised by the communist bloc, particularly the Soviet Union.

The communists weaponized anti-Zionism as part of their war on the free world, and those seeds are still bearing fruit. In this event, you will hear about how it started, and how it’s still going strong with the same manipulative themes devised by the KGB.

This event is hosted by the Legal Insurrection Foundation.

We’re pleased to host Izabella Tabarovsky. Izabella is a scholar of Soviet antizionism and contemporary antisemitism. She is a senior advisor with the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center; a Fellow with The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) and a Research Fellow with the London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism; and a contributing writer to The Tablet. Her writings have appeared in FathomSapirQuillette, and Newsweek, among others, as well as in several essay collections, including Jewish Priorities: 65 Proposals for the Future of Our People (Post Hill Press);The Rebirth of Antisemitism in the 21st Century: From the Academic Boycott Campaign to the Mainstream (Routledge); and Mapping the New Left Antisemitism: The Fathom Essays (Routledge)Follow her on X @IzaTabaro.

Legal Insurrection Foundation founder and president, William Jacobson will also participate in the discussion moderated by Kemberlee Kaye, Operations and Editorial Director for Legal Insurrection Foundation.

The full video is below, with a partial transcript of excerpts selected by the panelists below.

PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT (auto-generated, may contain transcription errors)

(Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity. Apologies, the time stamps are about 10 seconds off because of an added intro slide at start of video – my fault WAJ)



So, how is it that progressives who are supposed to stand against all forms of hate and discrimination reveled in what Hamas did on October 7th? How is it that progressives essentially have turned into deniers of atrocities standing on the same level as Holocaust deniers? Again, American Jews as a whole really were not prepared for this. This was a shock. For me, it was not, although, perhaps, the degree to which it presented itself was shocking. But the fact that it was there did not surprise me because I had been talking for years about the danger of this kind of rhetoric that was already taking over American campuses. I talked about it being dangerous and about it being antisemitic, even though it was hiding behind the idea that it’s anti-Zionism and it’s not antisemitism.

For me, it was clear that it was antisemitic because I grew up in the USSR. I immigrated with my family in 1989 to the United States. We had left because of antisemitism in the USSR, which expressed itself in the very same language that we are hearing today on the [far] left, and have been hearing now for many years on the [far] left, the so-called anti-Zionism. I have been saying now for a while that one of the defining features of contemporary left anti-Zionist antisemitism is the degree to which it replicates the tropes, motifs, slogans, and explanatory logic of late Soviet anti-Zionism. The correspondence is extraordinary. And it’s not only in the slogans. Just like today’s progressives are talking about Zionism being a tool of imperialism. Soviet propaganda used to say it.

Today the left is equating Zionism with racism, apartheid, and fascism. And Israel is equated with Nazi Germany. And at the same time with [apartheid] South Africa. It’s complete and total demonization. All of it is already present in Soviet literature in the 1960s, 50 or 60 years ago…. You know, it’s funny to me how some people today talk about it as something new….


I will show you some slides of how the Soviets were making this comparison already in the late 1960s, and even before then. Now, at that time in the sixties, seventies and eighties in the West, there was an understanding that what the Soviets were saying, and the way they were talking about Israel and Zionism was antisemitic. It was very clear because like Professor Jacobson was saying, there were Jews at the time in the USSR who were being oppressed. They were being put on sham trials for wanting to express their Jewish identity, for wanting to emigrate to Israel. And it was obvious. And the Soviets used to say, well, we’re just being anti-Zionist, we’re not being antisemitic. But it was obvious to everyone that it was antisemitic. It was having antisemitic effects on Jewish lives. Today this understanding is lost. And so today, progressives tell us that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism.


…. But anti-Zionism is something entirely different, anti-Zionism today, essentially is a form of thinking that frames Zionism as the evil incarnate, and rejects and frames Israel as the evil incarnate. Essentially, it rejects Israel’s right to exist. And as I will show you today, anti-Zionism relies on the same tropes as classic antisemitic conspiracy theory.


In effect, this is what we’re dealing with. Classic antisemitic conspiracy theory believes that Jews control the world and manipulate the press and own politicians and hold all of the world’s wealth in their hands. They want to subject the world to their will. And anti-Zionist antisemitism  believes the same about Zionism and Zionists. Now, it is possible to be anti-Zionist and not be expressing this conspiracy theory. It’s possible, in theory, to be anti-Zionist and not be antisemitic. But unfortunately, in practice, virtually always anti-Zionism becomes antisemitic. It’s a form of demonization. It demonizes the Jewish state and everything associated with it ….

…. It was one of the most prevalent tropes in Soviet propaganda. The Soviets may not have invented it themselves, but they certainly turned it into… they weaponized it, and they used their massive propaganda tools to inculcate it among the global left and in the developing world.


So this is where we are today. Just to summarize again, in classic antisemitism, Jews are often presented as the devil incarnate. And when you listen to progressive rhetoric today, you get the impression that Israel is essentially a demonic creation that represents the essence of the world’s evil: it’s racist, it’s fascist, it’s imperialistic, settler colonialist, it’s a reincarnation of Nazi Germany, of apartheid South Africa. This is is not criticism, this is demonization….


…. Soviet anti-Zionists acquired conspiracist qualities. It happened under Stalin. But the real turning point happened in 1967. In 1967, the Six Day war happens, and Soviet Arab allies lose to Israel. And this sets off all kinds of alarm bells in Moscow. They feel that they’re losing influence in the Middle East. And they’re also asking themselves: how is it that Israel managed to defeat these armies, which we financed and trained and armed?


It’s impossible. So they start to “connect the dots,” and they connect them in a very conspiracist way. The KGB becomes obsessed with invented Zionist subversion. They see Zionists everywhere. They believe that America is a Zionist colony because there are so many Jews in America. They’re everywhere in all the influential places. And, of course, all these Jews are [supposedly] pro-Israel, they’re all Zionists! And that is why the USSR is failing ….



The Soviet Union experience is something that’s near and dear to me because I studied in the Soviet Union, traveled extensively throughout the country when it was the Soviet Republic of Georgia and the Soviet Republic of Armenia and Kazakhstan, obviously Leningrad, and spent an entire semester in Moscow in 1980. So I was very inundated with a lot of the Soviet propaganda, a lot of the things that were just background noise, but helped shape narratives.


So I was very familiar with it. I was also very familiar and became quite close to a number of Refusenik families in Moscow, refuseniks, or people who, Jews, who had applied to emigrate to Israel and were refused. That’s why they would call them Refuseniks. And I understood the Soviet attitude towards Israel. I understood how they manipulated things. I don’t claim to have had any inside knowledge of it, but this is all very near and something I’ve thought about a lot over the years, but how so much of what I see going on now is so clearly manipulated and so clearly pushing themes that have been around for decades that emanated either from the Soviet Union or the Soviet block. So I’m very interested in this.


I think the other aspect that we’re seeing, particularly on campuses is what’s sometimes referred to as the Red-Green Alliance, the students who are the communists aligning with the Islamists on campuses. I don’t think the students on the left understand what happens when Islamists take over, A little anecdote from when I was in Moscow. I was in a dormitory with students mostly from the Eastern Bloc, eastern countries, but also met a number of Iranian communists. This was in 1980, who had to flee Iran because the Islamists joined up with the communists in Iran to take over and then quickly turned on the communists. So the historical illiteracy on our campuses, which is fed by faculty, is truly astounding….


We are really just one step away from very serious violence from these people in this country. When you have so demonized Israel and turned it into the new Nazi Germany and you combine it with the left wing, social justice, racial justice. I mean, one thing that I think, at least in the US has not had enough attention, but of course at legal insurrection we’ve been focusing on it for a decade, is how the racial justice movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, has been completely hijacked by the anti-Zionist left. So it’s a very big problem. And it has already and will result in increased intimidation, increased threats of violence, and violence.


I think the brilliance of what [the Soviets] did is they created in the late sixties and the seventies, a self-sustaining ecosystem where they don’t need to pull the strings anymore. They created the system. They planted this ideological seeds. And so there is no question that people on campuses today have been heavily influenced by how the Soviets framed things in the late sixties and the seventies. And they may not even realize it, and if they did realize it, they probably wouldn’t care.  I think that’s more what it is, as opposed to someone in Moscow, like they probably did do 30, 40 years ago, literally pulling the strings.


So a couple of a approaches to this One is that you have to accept that a lot of these people can’t be changed. As anyone who reads Legal Insurrection knows, I write all the time and speak all the time about how the institutions are so far gone. They cannot be reformed internally. And the question that we face is how do we protect society from the campuses, from these ideologies that emanate on the campuses? And I think that’s something we need. We need to stop, in my mind, thinking about how do we change these people, into how do we protect ourselves from these people? So that’s the way I look at it. And I think you do that by forming coalitions of the sane. By forming coalitions among people who are persuadable and who are not on the payroll of some left-wing activist group.

They cannot be changed. They will not change. We should accept that and we should try to figure out how we essentially quarantine them from infecting kindergartens and K through 12, which is where the focus is now. So let’s find the places they haven’t yet completely captured. So that’s what I think we should be focusing on. Not how to persuade these people, because they’re unpersuadable.


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