Anti-Semitism and the American Far is written by Left by Stephen H. Norwood. It is a systematic study reflecting over the American’s the role in combating and propagating anti-Semitism which is far forgotten. This book summarizes the communists as early as 1920 onwards and the Trotskyites. It also covers the New Left together with the allies who were black nationalists, the New Left’s present-day remnants. It analyzes the opposition which was shown to the Jewish culture by the far left’s and the occasional efforts which were employed to promote the same Jewish culture. It traces the far left in America which came to an end several decades ago but leaving a powerful disparagement of Israel and Jews which carries on to date. It thus gives an exceptional genesis to this unfriendliness and the consequent role it plays in the current anti-Semitism (Norwood, 22).
In this book, we find that a good number of the American Jews are politically successful and are used to philosophizing anti-Semitism as a way of expressing their ideologies that best fit the society. Most often, the liberal Jews are perplexed and dismayed by discovering how all encompassing anti-Semitism which is sometimes masqueraded as anti-Zionism has turn out to be on top of the political left. Through tracing the roots of the left anti-Semitism, Stephen Norwood discovers that the notion of August Bebel (was a social democratic leader in Germany) which was known as the ‘socialism of the fools’ of the nineteenth century has an extensive history in political continuum on the left side of it. Thus this book proves that liberal politics can accommodate anti-Semitism. (Norwood, 126)
This book explores the American anti-Semitism in the last century as well as its intensification over the last decades. However, it concentrates more on the role the Americans play in the far left probably due to the fact that the current anti-Zionism and anti- Semitism are propagated by far left. Though it examines from 1920 to the present times, this book also digs deep into the mid 19th century where it perfectly displays the origins of the far left anti-Semitism (Norwood, 139). It however devotes substantial attention in examining the anti-Zionists and the anti-Semitism of the late 1960s. It also looks at the new left and makes comparisons with the early manifestations of the anti-Semitism especially of the communist party between 1928 and 1935. The support of the communist’s party to the Arab program in 1929 which was against the Palestinian Jews laid a foundation for the new left’s of the 1960, thus endorsing the Palestinian terrorism of 1960s. It thus addresses the anti-Zionism in which it sees as intertwined with anti-Semitism. It describes how the anti-Zionists characterized the Israel’s behavior and policies as Nazified or demonic when they singled out the Jewish state for unsubstantiated and overwrought condemnation and criticisms (Norwood, 177).
It also gives greatest consideration to the groups that could have caused more influence i.e. the communist party, the new left of 1960s as well as the Black Nationalist allies of the new left. It also analyzes the positions played by the Trotskyites. However, some of these views are absorbed in the mainstream discussions like the universalization of the Holocaust and the claim of moral equivalence between the Nazi atrocities and the bombing atrocities (Norwood, 193).
This book also explores the deficiencies of far left analysis of Nazism by the far left as well as the deficiencies of the holocaust. It shows how most of the far leftists stuck to the analysis of the narrow class thus paying no heed to the significance of the anti-Semitism in 1930s and the subsequent decades. This includes the anti-Semitism which has its roots in theology.
Anti-Semitism and the American Far Left also addresses the changes that have taken place over time in regard to the positions of the far left (Norwood, 181). It draws some significant changes under which the communist party underwent in relation to its perception to the Jews for instance abandoning though temporarily, its very old hostility to the creation of the Jewish state as well as the Jewish culture. This took place during the period after the World War II amongst other changes. In addition to highlighting these changes, this book evaluates the possible impacts that the far left’s view regarding the Jewish culture. For instance, the communist party helped in spearheading a movement which promoted the secular studies in the Jewish, they established a school in New York where quite a number of Jewish studies were taken, including those of the Jewish history, literature and culture. These took place alongside the Hebrew and the Yiddish which were long discouraged by the far left. This was happening when no attention from the American universities was directed towards Jewish studies (Norwood, 203).
Norwood does not only explain the and trace the convoluted views of the American’s far left to the Jews but also shows the position of the far left’s position in respect to the Jewish state. For instance, it says that between 1946 – 1948 the Soviet Union was led the communist’s party thus abandoning its longstanding attitude against the creation of the Jewish state. However, it supported the division of Palestine into an Arab state and the Jewish state. It also joined the mass demonstrations that took place after the war in which they demanded the British to allow Jewish immigration unlimitedly into Palestine and consequently disparaging the British barrier. The communist’s party termed the war as the Jewish war of liberation, in reference to the war of independence of Israel. It also expounds and criticizes at length the condemnation that was put forth by Henry Wallace in regard to the Thomas Dewey and Harry Truman’s weak support in the 1948’s presidential campaigns (Norwood, 213).
Moreover, Anti-Semitism and the American Far Left analyze the consequential change in the American communists in regard to this opposition to Israel. It says that however much the communists’ party was opposing Israel, it could not much that of Trotskyites, by around 1960. It also gives an account of the mass exodus in 1956 where very many communists left the party. Norwood attributes this to the Soviet Union’s concern and the opposition of the USSR to Israel at the time of the Suez war and that it was not just a response to the speech that was secretly given by Khrushchev or the invasion of Hungary by the Soviet Union.
Norwood also distinguishes the Jewish well from the other members that also belonged to the communist party. He specifically examines the identity of the Jewish and the self imposed hatred amongst those in the American far left.
It is also noticeable that this book addresses the alliance of the black nationalists and the new left. Though the new left usually had priorities on the Vietnam issue in the 1960s, on the other hand the black nationalists involved themselves a great deal in disparaging Israel. This, to some extent, affected the outlook of the new left in the Middle East. This book however, points out that approximately thirty years afterwards, the far left remnants remains unenthusiastic as compared to the liberal Americans (Norwood, 247).
Though this book is gives quite in-depth details of the history and the perceptions of the far left and the new left, and the anti-Semitism in general he leaves several points hanging. For instance, he says that "Of course, administrators consistently ignore situations when campus opponents of Israel create a hostile environment for Jewish students." (Norwood, 239).He leaves his readers imagining why and how are connected to the far left. Neither does he bother giving an explanation why is generalizing the campuses in the United States.
In some incidences, I find Norwood relying on shallow data for instance he says that "One student testifiedshe was not "Semitic"(Norwood, 239). How could he use this to generalize on the Muslim and Arab students to be suffering in United States in a hostile environment as a result of Zionism that a greater percentage of the country embraces?
Despite these weaknesses, I find this book based on thorough research. In most cases, I find Norwood using very relevant resources for instance in the historical accounts, the Israel war of independence matters a lot. Also, the comparisons that he often makes and the intense arguments on his points between the new left and the far lefts give his book more weight. (Norwood, 237).
I would also like to acknowledge the determination of the author in remaining focused to his main goal. Though there are some incidences where he was a little bit biased especially to the Muslims and the Arabs living in the United States for instance that they are adversely suffering due to the overwhelming embrace of the Zionism, he has achieved his goal. When I read this book, I see him meet his main objective of exploring the anti-Semitism in America for the past few decades. He has done it smartly. He has traced the role of the American far left so well that any other person, even without analytical skills should understand.
I recommend “Anti-Semitism and the American Far Left” for anybody who would like to understand the conceptual and historical aspect of anti-Semitism. It is very systematic, well organized and the flow of points are convincing. It is based on historical facts that are well elaborated, referenced and argued out. This clearly shows the maturity and the experience that author; Mr. Norwood has especially in regard to the anti-Semitism.
Norwood H. S. Anti-Semitism and the American Far Left. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.