The heirs to Soviet antisemitism

Today’s anti-Israel protesters parrot the hatred of Israel the USSR used to justify its empire.

An illustrative image of Soviet KGB officers. Source: DeepAI.
An illustrative image of Soviet KGB officers. Source: DeepAI.
Gregg Mashberg
Gregg Mashberg is a member of the board of directors of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism. Follow him on X @gregg_mashberg

I wish I could blame the chaos sweeping across American campuses on the war in Gaza. If the war were the root cause of the fury, then the hatred of Israel, Zionism, Jews and even America might end along with the war.

But the war cannot explain this meltdown. It can’t explain students and faculty identifying with the Hamas death cult, denying the Oct. 7 savageries and demanding the eradication of the Jewish state. It cannot explain why the protesters have turned against their Jewish, pro-Israel and pro-American fellow students, sometimes violently.

It cannot begin to explain why students who claim to champion diversity and inclusion, who denounce racism, hate and bigotry, are celebrating the mass murder, rape and kidnapping of Israelis as “legitimate resistance.”

If the cause of the outrage was the war itself, then the protesters would be calling on Hamas to release all the hostages and surrender unconditionally. After all, this would end the war immediately. But the protesters are not calling for Hamas’s surrender and they never will.

This is because their fury emanates from a deeper place: A hatred of what Israel represents to them. They despise Israel because they have convinced themselves that it is a capitalist, settler-colonialist, racist ethnostate. And yes, many of them despise Israel because it is the state of the Jewish people.

To them, Israel represents the villain in the oppressors-and-victims narrative they’ve imbibed since they first opened a Howard Zinn book in middle school.

In short, they believe that the Palestinians are George Floyd and Israel is Derek Chauvin.

How did this happen? It is likely the legacy of the antisemitic and anti-Zionist propaganda that originated with the USSR and the KGB.

Channeling centuries of Russian scapegoating of Jews, the Soviets made antisemitism and anti-Zionism the cornerstones of their agitprop. For decades, they proclaimed that the Jews were the enemies of the Soviet state. The U.N.’s obscene 1975 “Zionism is racism” resolution was not a spontaneous creation of U.N. member states. It was the handiwork of the Soviets, who wanted to curry favor with the Arab states and the Third World in general. Despite being repealed in 1991, the resolution gave international legitimacy to rank bigotry. As a result, anti-Zionism became the latest incarnation of antisemitism.

Dutifully parroting the Soviets, academic post-modernists demonized Zionism. Scholars of Middle East studies branded the state of the Jewish people a “settler-colonialist” invasion. From there, delegitimization of the Jewish state metastasized through the academy. Zionism was enshrined as the modern-day manifestation of Western colonialism and racism. Anti-Zionism became the rallying cry it is today: “From Ferguson to Palestine!”

The results are before us. For example, on May 12, The New York Post reported on a manifesto found at Columbia University titled “National Liberation Struggles.” It demands “divestment from companies profiting off the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to end Columbia’s complicity with the Zionist project.” The excerpt reproduced by the Post is an exact copy of Soviet bombast, calling for freedom from “colonial and imperialist domination,” celebrating “guerilla warfare” and calling on useful dupes to “study anti-colonial and anti-imperial movements.”

Is should not be shocking that campuses have been hijacked by pro-Hamas protestors, their faces veiled by masks and keffiyehs, clamoring not just for a Hamas victory but to “globalize the intifada.” They are the heirs of the Soviet imperialists who demonized Israel and Zionism in order to justify their empire.

In many ways, Yuri Andropov, the late Soviet-era KGB chief and general secretary of the Communist Party, is the patron saint of this movement and its vilification of the Jewish state. If only his young disciples waving Palestinian flags and screaming for intifada had any idea who he was.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates