First Published: Morning Freiheit, March 4, 1984.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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One does not have to belabor the point to readers of this newspaper that progressive and liberal people in the United States ire now seriously concerned with the problem of defeating Pres. Reagan and Reaganism in the coming November elections.
It is therefore dismaying to learn that a Communist Party spokesman. Victor Perlo, came forth with an article in the New York Daily World (Jan. 5, 1984) which as a guide line of his party’s approach to the American Jewish voters may actually win votes for Reagan. Of course, this is done with the usual leftist bombast. Mr. Perlo recommends that in order to defeat Reagan “the entire U.S. working class and its allies” must make “The fight against Zionism,” of all things, an “important ingredient” in this election campaign.
In our opinion this is a formula that would help assure the defeat of the anti-Reagan coalition.
By “Zionism” Mr. Perlo has in mind the strictly Soviet concept of Zionism as the great evil and menace to the world. It is this concept which most Jews, including the most liberal and anti-Reagan Jews, correctly regard as a crude and insulting distortion of historic truth and a cloak for anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. Progressive people must make certain that the already strong anti-Reagan sentiment of the American Jewish voters will not be even slightly diverted by Mr. Perlo’s divisive recommendation.
What are American Jewish voters to think of the following statement in Mr. Perlo’s Daily World article:
“One must not overlook the sinister role of Zionism in U.S. political life. In alliance with big monopoly generally, Zionists control large amounts of campaign funds. They own important sections of the mass media and influence significant voting blocs in the big cities.”
Why, this is what American Jews have always heard from “our” own anti-Semites, from the Arab nationalist magazines that are financed by Arab oil dollars and from the cadre of professional anti-Semitic “anti-Zionist” hack writers in the Soviet Union such as Lev Korneyev, Yevseyev, Vladimir Begun, Dimitri Zhukov, Vladimir Bolshakov and others.
Mr. Perlo ought to know that spokesmen of “big monopoly” in the United States are sharply divided in their views on how to deal with Israel and many of them regard American support for Israel as damaging to their real objective of greater dominance in the Arab world. This explains the continual strains and frustrations in U.S.-Israel relations. For example, two years ago Pres. Reagan cancelled a “strategic understanding” he had made with the Israeli Gen. Sharon only a few weeks after it was concluded; more, recently Washington was enraged when Israel withdrew its troops from a large part of Lebanon it had occupied in 1982 and moved them closer to Israel’s northern border. One does not have to agree with the policies of the present Israeli government to recognize they serve the nationalist ambitions of the right-wing Likud party and are not simply designed to serve Washington which has other fish to fry in the Middle East.
The anti-Zionist propagandists and the Arab nationalist press love to charge that “Zionists control large amounts of campaign funds” in the U.S. To be sure there are wealthy Jews, not necessarily all Zionists, who contribute money to one or another of the two major parties, but among them there are also sharp differences over Israel. Such Jewish millionaires as Philip Klutznick or Edgar M. Bronfman may be pro-Zionists, but they opposed Menachem Begin and now oppose the Shamir government. Are they, too, playing a “sinister role” in “U.S. political life”? Isn’t it odd that both Gen. Sharon and Victor Perlo think so.
Mr. Perlo uncritically repeats the nonsense of the Soviet anti-Zionist propagandists that ’Zionists,” that is, Jews, “own important sections of the mass media.” The New York Times, for example, is owned by Jews and has some Jewish editors, but no one can honestly charge it is an apologist for the Israeli government. Its regular columnist, Anthony Lewis, is an eloquent critic of the chauvinist politicians in Israel. For these reasons the right-wing Zionists in Israel and in this country despise the New York Times.
As for the U.S. television industry–which is not owned by Jews but has its share of Jews in executive positions–it may be recalled that during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 Begin’s apologists in this country denounced it time and again for supposedly not presenting “a balanced view.” One wonders why Victor Perlo, a Communist Jew, claims the “mass media” is controlled by Zionists when this claim is false and incites anti-Semitism among less knowledgeable people.
As for “Zionists” who influence “significant voting blocs in the big cities,” Mr. Perlo ought to know these are the same voting blocs that usually elect our more liberal senators and congressmen. Very often Communist supporters also vote for them. As it happens some of the firmest opponents of Reagan’s domestic and foreign policies in Congress are liberal Democrats, many of them Jews, who also vote for most of the appropriations for Israel and turn up as speakers at the Soviet Jewry rallies. Does Mr. Perlo want these Congressmen to be defeated this November by “the entire American working class” in line with his “fight against Zionism”?
Mr. Perlo appears to be happy that Jews are turning against Reagan. He writes: “Many of them are already joining with tens of millions of Americans of all races and creeds to stop Reagan and Reaganism.”
It is painful to point out to Mr. Perlo and other Communists who are unaware or indifferent to what really goes on in the Jewish community, that most Jews voted against Reagan in 1980, that if the non-Jewish white voters voted as the Jews did Reagan would not have been elected president.
An analysis of the Jewish vote was made by Prof. Alan Fisher in Moment (Boston, November 1983) in an article entitled, “The Myth of the Rightward Turn.” Fisher wrote:
“According to the most accurate estimates, based on seven major polls, the Jews gave Reagan 34 percent of their vote–about what they had given Nixon in 1972–while giving Carter 47 percent and John Anderson 17 percent.”
In the second major test of Reagan’s popularity, the Congressional elections of 1982, Prof. Fisher observed as follows:
“Nationally, Democrats won 56 percent of the two-party vote. Among white non-Jews, the Democratic vote was 52 percent. Blacks, the group most neglected by Reagan, gave Democratic candidates for Congress about 87 percent of their vote.
“And what of the Jews? Seventy-eight percent of them–more than any group except the Blacks, more than even the lowest income voters–went Democratic..”
More indicative of the liberal stance of most Jewish voters was the 1982 campaign for the U.S. Senate in New York State where a liberal Democrat, Cuomo, was pitted against a Jewish Reaganite Republican, Lehrman. To quote Prof. Fisher again:
“If he (Lehrman) had only managed to spit the Jewish vote, Lehrman would have won. But, in fact, while Cuomo won 42 percent of the white non-Jewish vote (a vote that includes, of course, his Italian paisanos) – he took 67 percent of the Jewish vote.”
Prof. Fisher’s analysis and an earlier survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee in 1981 demonstrate that American Jews are still by and large to be found on the liberal side of the fence in their voting habits and on most social issues including the nuclear freeze, arms cuts and spending on social welfare. There is little reason to assume this will not be the case again in the 1984 presidential election, though we must all work for the largest possible vote to defeat Reagan. (For an analysis of the American Jewish Committee survey see article by Lawrence Bush. “The Tenacity of Jewish Liberalism, ”in Jewish Currents, December 1982).
It ill behooves a Communist spokesman to pat us on the head because he has suddenly realized that “many” Jews want to stop Reagan and Reaganism. Jews already had a better record of opposing Reagan in the 1980 and 1982 elections than did most American white non-Jews, including the white blue-collar workers. A party that fancies itself the “vanguard” party of the working class might be expected to be more concerned with that than with lecturing Jews on how to vote this November.
Still another example of Mr. Perlo’s imitation of the Soviet anti-Zionist propagandists is his “explanation” of what Zionism is all about. He writes:
“We must understand the class basis of Zionism. It is the ideology and practice of the right-wing big bourgeoisie and finance capital...”
That’s it? In 1984 this is supposed to be an “explanation” of a complex historic movement in Jewish life which has had many different schools of thought and whose ranks included not only extreme nationalists, but also elements influenced by Marxism (Ber Borochov and the Labor Zionists) and such humanist figures as Albert Einstein, Martin Buber, Judah Magnes, Reuben Brainin and Sholem Aleichem.
One would never know from Perlo’s article that most of the Israelis in the peace movements in Israel are also Zionists who regard Begin, Shamir, Gen. Sharon, etc., as betrayers of their movement. Perlo’s toomlerei about “the ideology and practice of the right-wing big bourgeoisie and finance capital,” is absolutely meaningless in today’s circumstances.
There is much more that can be said about Mr. Perlo’s exaggerations and distortions in his article which faithfully reflects the “line” of the anti-Zionist hack writers in the Soviet Union who are enemies of the Jewish people.
At any rate, Mr. Perlo’s recommendation to make “the fight against Zionism” an “important ingredient” of the anti-Reagan forces in the coming election campaign is dangerous advice. If it is seriously adopted anywhere it will surely be exploited by Reagan’s Jewish supporters to confuse voters and undercut the anti-Reagan vote.