A pro-Hamas left emerges

The historian Jeffrey Herf writes at the American Interest of the emergence of a pro-Hamas left:

On July 31, 2014, a group of left-leaning historians called “Historians Against the War” posted an open letter to President Obama denouncing Israel’s actions in the Gaza War and calling for a cut-off of American military assistance to Israel. On August 13, the letter was posted on the website of the History News Network. On August 13, the signers reported that “in less than twenty-four hours over two hundred US, based [sic] historians had signed the letter.” This remarkable turnout depended on the mobilization of an already existing network of an academic Left that emerged in opposition to the war in Iraq and that stays in touch via a website called “The Hawblog.” On August 14, the blog announced that more than a thousand historians had signed the statement, including a large number from Mexico and Brazil.

With a brief and unconvincing effort to sound balanced, the statement deplored “the ongoing attacks against civilians in Gaza and in Israel” but then turned its fire on Israel for what it called “the disproportionate harm that the Israeli military, which the United States has armed and supported for decades, is inflicting on the population of Gaza.” The signers were “profoundly disturbed that Israeli forces are killing and wounding so many Palestinian children.” They found “unacceptable the failure of United States elected officials to hold Israel accountable for such an act” and demanded “a cease-fire, the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and a permanent end to the blockade so that its people can resume some semblance of normal life.” Further, they urged the President to suspend U.S. military aid to Israel until there is assurance that it will no longer be used for the commission of “war crimes.” “As historians,” they concluded, “we recognize this as a moment of acute moral crisis in which it is vitally important that United States policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict change direction.”

As Herf notes, the Haw in Hawblog is an acronym of Historians Against the War. Yet the Historians Against the War support the Hamas war against Israel. Maybe they should make that the Haw! haw! haw! blog. The complete list of signers is posted with the statement here.

How has the vanguard of the academic left come to support an organization of genocidal fascist? Herf finds it an event that signifies, likening it to the Communists’ support of the Hitler-Stalin pact:

For this historian, the “Historians Against the War” statement of summer 2014 recalls the policy of the Comintern during the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939–1941. In that two-year period, as Hitler invaded and occupied all of continental Europe except the Soviet Union, and island Britain fought on alone, the Communist Parties denounced “Anglo-American imperialism”, called Franklin Roosevelt a “war monger” for aiding Britain and abandoned verbal attacks on Nazi Germany. The Communist Parties only returned to the previous anti-fascist stance of the Popular Front era because Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Had Hitler not invaded the Soviet Union, presumably the Communists Parties would have opposed a strictly Anglo-American attack on Nazi Germany.

The years of the Hitler-Stalin pact offer an often forgotten and embarrassing case of the Left making common cause objectively with fascism and Nazism. It was only in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s massive contribution to the defeat of Nazism that “anti-fascism” again became embedded in the Left’s essence and public presentation. The “Historians against the War” statement of July 31 revives the spirit of the infamous years of 1939-41, but does so with a confidence that many decades of Communist and Western leftist attacks on Israel and on Zionism, along with expressions of “solidarity with the Palestinian people,” has fostered. The habits of mind and emotion cultivated in the Western Left in the era of the secular PLO’s terrorist campaigns of the 1960s to 1980s have remained strikingly intact, even though the terror now comes from the Islamist extreme Right rather than the extreme Left.

Among the few names I recognize on the list of featured signers, there is a distinct geriatric Communist (Bettina Aptheker, age 69), leftover left (Staughton Lynd, age 84) and Communist fanboy (Ellen Schrecker, age 76) flavor. One would like to think that the signers do not represent the vanguard of anything other than the growing struggle against senescence and senility. Yet the complete list of signers is a long, long list (with a few ringers). Can we bring back Hugh G. Reckshun and similar friends from the old online anti-Iraq war petition that James Taranto faithfully monitored?

Unfortunately, Herf is clearly on to something. It is amazing what magical properties hatred of the United States has.

On a local note, Minnesota is represented big time among this utterly retrograde and disgusting crowd. I see among the signers listing the University of Minnesota as their affiliation: Cyrus Bina (Morris campus, of the economics department — how’d he get on here?), David Chang (“I am an historian of race and ethnicity in Hawai’i and the United States”), Christopher Isett (“late imperial and modern Chinese economic, social, legal and political history, East Asian economic history, comparative history and social theory, agrarian history and agricultural change”), Scott Laderman, (Duluth campus, forthcoming book: Empire in Waves: A Political History of Surfing), Kevin Murphy (“history of sexuality,” etc.), Jimmy Patiño (Chicano Studies, he “seeks to critically excavate, extrapolate and facilitate alternative imaginings of democratic practice among subaltern communities in the midst of global capitalism”), Marynel Ryan Van Zee (Morris campus, “[m]y current research is focused on German economic thought of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the persistence of ideas from the German past in the way that the economy, state, and household are perceived today”), Sara M. Evans (Regents Professor Emerita, (“[s]he is described as one of the foremost scholars of feminist studies in the United States, and is attributed [sic] with creating the field of women’s history”) and Elaine Tyler May (Regents Professor, her “work centers on the intersections of gender, sexuality, domestic culture and politics”).

The University of Minnesota is another brick in the wall of the institutional left, deserving of attention all by itself.


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