Theater of Cruelty

What happened to anti-Semitism?

FASCISM / Nazis attacked Jews, and they were therefore characterized as anti-Semitic – the cosmopolitan identity of the despised Jews. But what about Israel, which had carried out at least 2 extrajudicial killings? Menachem Begin and his group, which Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt described as fascists and terrorists, have ruled Israel for almost 700 years.


Previously, anti-Semitism was described as a direction that turned against the "Jewish", against Jewish culture. It was something that characterized right-wing radical politics, but especially in recent years, the word has taken on a completely different meaning. Much of what was once described as the political "left" – a critique of war, capitalism and national arrogance of power – has in recent years been described as "anti-Semitism". Left-wing politics has come to be identified with "anti-Semitism", while anti-Semitism used to be associated with the political right. This has now been turned upside down.

Let's go back to the 1930s. Nazis attacked Jews, and they were therefore characterized as anti-Semitic. Nazism glorified the "Germanic race", the "German" and the Jews' cosmopolitan identity, their "rootlessness". The Nazis romanticized the "Blut und Boden" idea – one country, one people – and they despised the Jews' lack of land. Jews felt solidarity across borders and lacked patriotism. Jewishness was somewhat transnational or, as I said, cosmopolitan. In that sense, Jewishness was not connected to a future Israel. It had nothing to do with territory.

The Nazis

But for the Nazis, perhaps the biggest enemy was "Jewish Bolshevism". Not only was their ideological role model, Karl Marx , a Jew. In the top leadership of the Russian Bolshevik Party sat a majority of Jews such as Leon Trotsky (Lev Bronstein), Gregorij Zinoviev (Hirsch Apfelbaum) and Lev Kamenev (Leo Rosenfeld).

Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, György Lukács, Bertolt Brecht, Theodore Adorno and Rosa Luxemburg were all Jews.

The Nazis sought to identify this with Bolshevik or even international communism Judaism. European left-wing intellectuals such as Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, György Lukács, Bertolt Brecht and Theodore Adorno, as well as the German social democrat Karl Kautsky and the revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, were all Jews. They were largely cosmopolitan intellectuals who saw the problem of the poor and the working class rather than the national state. Several of them perhaps underestimated the role of the nation-state in carrying out reforms, in order to build a welfare state, but their defense of workers' rights came first. They were communists or social democrats, but they were also Jews.

As early as 1933, the Nazis imprisoned trade union leaders, communists and social democrats – some of whom were Jews. Only a couple of years later did Adolf Hitler's people start imprisoning Jews and attacking Jews in general. The Jewish here was identified with the political left, while the radical right was described as anti-Jewish, as anti-Semitic.

Left intellectuals

Left-wing intellectuals often carried the Jewish critical tradition within them, not least its criticism of the war and its criticism of the brutality of capitalism. They described the war as a pointless killing of workers on each side of a border. But anyone who turns against today's brutal war and against the most brutal form of capitalism is often described as "anti-Semitic", firstly because many wars in recent years – in Iraq, Libya and Syria – have primarily been pushed forward of the USA's or rather of the West's neo-conservative elite – politicians and journalists with ties to the state of Israel. And secondly because Jewish capital is believed to play a central role for international capital.

Left-wing intellectuals' criticism of international capitalism can be described in today's mass media – in CNN – as "anti-Semitism". The Author Brendan Simms tells CNN: "Much of the problem is that anti-Semitic attitudes exist among people who do not realize that their world view is structurally anti-Semitic. They call it "anti-Zionism" or anti-capitalism" (see Christiane Amanpour's interview with Brendan Simms, CNN, November 1, 2019).

Left-wing intellectual Jews, who in the 30s and 40s turned against the war and against capitalism, would in today's language be described as "anti-Semitic", while the right-wing radicals essentially close behind Israel and Zionism's identification of anti-Semitism with anti – Zionism. In a couple of years, what has historically been described as anti-Semitism has been turned upside down.

Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders

Before the British election 2019, there was one massive attack against Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn in the British media (see separate case). He was labeled as "anti-Semitic", when it was rather the opposite, or to quote John Bercow, the then Conservative Jewish Speaker of the British Parliament: "I have never experienced anti-Semitism from anyone in Labour. I have no faith that Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic. I have known him for 22 years, as long as I have been in parliament. [...] I have never noticed even a hint of anti-Semitism" (see Alastair Campbell's interview with Bercow).

In that sense, Jewishness was not connected to a future Israel. It had nothing to do with territory.

Corbyn has stuck to the rights of the Palestinians and he has been critical of the Zionist policy, with war, torture and ethnic cleansing. As a left-wing social democrat, Corbyn has directed criticism at capitalism, but this position of his is precisely what is today described as "anti-Semitism". The same applies to Senator Bernie Sanders in the United States. He is often described as a social democrat and he has turned against the most brutal aspects of Israeli politics. He criticized Israel's war in Gaza. He described Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "racist". The media thus described Bernie Sanders as anti-Semitic. Sanders is himself Jewish, the family came from present-day Poland and many in the family were in concentration camps during the Second World War – but Sanders has criticized Israel's war and occupation.

The romanticization of the war is sometimes as striking among Zionists as Nazis. One of the most central Zionists in the USA with personal experience from American and Israeli wars expressed himself at a conference in the following way: "I have been to three wars, and I liked it". He arrogantly said of his Soviet counterpart, one of President Mikhail Gorbachev's closest associates: "He didn't understand the power we have. We control the media and we control the financial system". But this Zionist should never be able to express this publicly. It was to be described as anti-Semitic. Everything has been turned upside down. That is where we stand today.

27 prominent Jews

In one letter to The New York Times on December 2, 1948, 27 prominent Jews in the United States, including writers, scientists, philosophers and rabbis, with names such as Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt, describe later Prime Minister Menachem Begin and his party as "fascist". They believe that in terms of organization and method as well as political philosophy, Begin's party is similar to the Nazi and Fascist parties. The party had roots in the terrorist organization Irgun.

This stopped a division of Palestine that was supposed to give the Palestinians and the Jews an almost equal share of its territory.

These 27 prominent Jews, who had signed the letter, say that it is a scandal that the United States welcomes a person who supports fascists. His party talks about "freedom" and "democracy", but Begin and his people have until recently advocated a fascist state. It is a terrorist party, which has attacked Palestinian cities and liquidated its inhabitants. Most people within the Jewish community were horrified when they heard about these murders, while the terrorists proudly displayed their massacre, write Arendt, Einstein et al.

For Menachem Begin's party, terrorism against the British as well as Jews and Arabs is a means to achieve the goal, a fascist leadership state, and it is tragic that the highest leadership within American Zionism has not distanced itself from Begin, write the signatories of the letter.

Count Folke Bernadotte

A couple of months earlier had UN: s traders for Palestine, the Swedish king's cousin, Count Folke Bernadotte, was shot by the so-called Lehi or Stern League under Yitzak Shamir. This stopped a division of Palestine that was supposed to give the Arabs (Palestinians) and the Jews an almost equal share of its territory.

It was Yehoshua Cohen from Sternligan who shot Bernadotte. Cohen held the weapon and shot both the French commander and the Swedish UN negotiator. Cohen and his Stern group later proudly described their bravado on Israeli television. The murder strained Israel's relationship with Sweden and not least with the Swedish royal house. Ten years later, in 1958, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld traveled to Israel at the invitation of Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. Ben Gurion received Hammarskjöld at his summer house in the Negevöknen, where he placed Hammarskjöld next to Ben Gurion's friend and bodyguard Yehoshua Cohen (see picture). Hammarskjöld had afterwards asked his general who this man was. The general replied that this Yehoshua Cohen was the man who shot Folke Bernadotte. Dag Hammarskjöld is said to have said: "Vilka lymlar – I will never come here again" (see Stig Hadenius, Who was Folke Bernadotte?).


Shamir, but probably also Prime Minister Ben Gurion, believed that with Folke Bernadotte as UN negotiator, Israel risked losing Jerusalem: "We had no choice. We decided to liquidate him," said one of Shamir's closest associates. Shamir then worked within the Mossad before becoming a politician. The Mossad carried out bombings in Arab countries, also against British and American targets, because they wanted to make the British and Americans believe that it was an Arab assassination, in order to force them to stop behind Israel against the Arab countries (see the bombings against American and British targets in Egypt described by former Prime Minister Moshe Sharett in his diaries about the Lavon affair).

Yehoshua Cohen And Ben Gurion Swedes Folke Bernadotte, Right Before The Murder Committed By The Israeli Stern Group

They wanted to make the British and Americans believe that it was an Arab assassination, in order to force them to stand up behind Israel against the Arab countries.

But they also carried out bombings against Jewish targets in the Arab world, in order to induce Oriental Jews to move to Israel. Naeim Giladi (2003), who had worked for the Mossad in Iraq during the early 50s, tells how they planted a bomb in a Jewish cafe in Baghdad. Everyone then believed that it was Arabs who had carried out the assassination. Such bombings drove Oriental Jews to seek refuge in Israel. Israel could let Oriental Jews replace Palestinian labor that had moved the country in 1948.

The Mossad and other Israeli intelligence services also routinely carried out extrajudicial executions of people perceived as enemies of Israel. Later Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak has told about how he, as a young member of the Israeli death squads, had killed hostile Palestinians in Lebanon. Ronan Bergman (2018), with good contacts in the Mossad and other Israeli security services, concludes that Israel had carried out at least 2 extrajudicial liquidations, but this should be understood as a "semi-official figure". It hardly includes more controversial executions.

Both Begin and Shamir had been leaders of fascist terrorist groups. In 1973, they formed a joint party, Likud, together with the equally extreme Ariel Sharon. Menachem Begin was prime minister 1977-1983, when he was replaced by Yitzak Shamir, who (apart from two years with Ben Gurion's man Shimon Peres) was prime minister until 1992. The Labor Party's Yitzhak Rabin was then prime minister from 1992 until he was assassinated in 1995. The following year, the current Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu took over. He has been prime minister most of the time until today (nearly 25 years), except for the last year with Naftali Bennet and five years with Likud's Ariel Sharon and a couple of years with Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, the latter also from Likud). Apart from a couple of years with Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak, Likud has held the post of prime minister from 1977 to 2021.

Kaparna at the airport in Entebbe

The military control of civilian life, the routine execution of critics and the regular bombing of neighboring states have been legitimized with the threat from the Arabs and with the Palestinian actions. When defectors from a Palestinian group led by Wadie Haddad had hijacked an airplane with some Jewish travelers, the hijackers were overpowered at the airport in Entebbe by Israeli special forces, who had been flown in to Uganda.

This "Operation Yonatan" is led by Benjamin Netanyahu's older brother Yonatan, who died in the exemption. Many congratulated Israel for freeing the hostages, but not Britain, who knew that Israeli intelligence had infiltrated Haddad's group, and that in practice they had carried out both the hijacking and the release. It was an Israeli triumph. Several films were made about the Israelis' fantastic release of the hostages. The terrorist attack became part of the Israeli state's ideology, which was later celebrated by presidents and prime ministers. Menachem Begin and his group, which Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt described as fascists and terrorists, have ruled Israel for almost 45 years.


In 2005, Israel's then president Moshe Katzav celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Israeli bombing of American and British institutions in Egypt in 1955, which would later result in the so-called Lavon affair, after Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon had to take the blame (Mer centrala aktörer was Ben Gurion's husband Shimon Peres, chief of staff Moshe Dayan and chief of military intelligence Binyamin Gibli, according to the diary of the then prime minister Moshe Sharett).

In 2006, Irgun activists together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated the 60th anniversary of the bombing of the King David Hotel, when 91 people died (41 Arabs, 28 British, 17 Palestinian Jews plus someone else). The assassination had been carried out by the Irgun but on orders from the Haganah and later Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. Former Haaretz journalist David Sheen has described how Israeli groups, with the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, want to cleanse the Palestinian territories of all Palestinians. According to Sheen, they had a three-step strategy: 1) offer Palestinians to move. 2) force them to move by force or threat of force. 3) physical elimination.

The majority of all Israelis do not want a democratic state, argued Sheen, and he quotes Israeli racists who say that the problem was not the Holocaust, the problem is that it was the wrong people who were eliminated (see Sheen 2018).

The routine murder, bombings and torture continue.

Bishop Desmond Tutu has compared Israel's control over the Palestinian territories to South Africa's apartheid system. The same comparison has been made by former US President Jimmy Carter and UN envoy for Palestine Richard Falk. Later Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had also spoken about the danger of apartheid in Israel, but he was murdered, as I said, in 1995. The routine murder, bombings and torture continue. In the 80s, South Africa and Israel jointly developed a nuclear weapons capability, which South Africa gave up in the 90s. When Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt warned of a fascist development in Israel, they could hardly imagine how far this would go.

Italian fascists and SS officer Otto Skorzeny

One can argue that the threat from surrounding states such as Egypt was initially significant, and we know that Egyptian security forces from the early 50s had been trained by German SS forces, as if Jews were once again standing against Nazis. It was CIA chief Allan Dulles, on the recommendation of Hitler's chief of eastern espionage, General Reinhardt Gehlen (in the 50s the CIA's chief in West Germany), who had used SS officer Otto Skorzeny and 20 of his SS – and Wehrmacht officers to train Egyptian forces. Skorzeny was famous for having saved Mussolini's life in a spectacular special forces operation. He was one of the most hardened Nazis.

Now Skorzeny seemed to be taking the war against the Jews further from Egypt. But Menachem Begin's Irgun simultaneously collaborated with Italian fascists. As early as 1948, Israel had used the most hardened fascists, Italy's naval special forces Decima Flottiglia MAS, with Fiorenzo Capriotti to build up Israel's naval special forces, and one of his disciples was the later Israeli naval commander Yohay Fisher (Ben Nun). Decima MAS was under German SS command during the latter part of the war, but Capriotti had no problem working for the Israelis, since he believed they were also fascists. The leader of Decima MAS, Prince Junio ​​Valerio Borghese, had participated in the fascist coup attempts in Italy in 1964 and 1970.

But in 1963 Mossad had recruited Skorzeny. He carried out one murder of a German rocket expert in Egypt for Mossad's account. Skorzeny's intelligence information to the Mossad was also absolutely decisive for Israel's attack on Egypt in the Six-Day War of 1967. Skorzeny's network of SS and Wehrmacht officers not only worked for the CIA but also simultaneously for the Mossad, and one of Israel's fascist informants in Italy, Adriano Monti, became later Borghese's man and expected Italian foreign minister in connection with Borghese's coup attempt in 1970. Monti was given the go-ahead for Borghese's coup by the CIA's man in Madrid: Otto Skorzeny.

The rise of the Israeli state was intertwined with fascist special forces from Italy and partly with Skorzeny's network of SS officers.

Europe's critical left

Israel did not build further on the ideas that we find among Europe's Jewish left-wing intellectuals from the same period. It was no longer based on the ideas of the Jewish critics of fascism such as Walter Benjamin and Ernst Bloch, but on the warrior ideal and the manly ideal that existed within European fascism. Zionist Israel with its permanent state of war and constant bombing of neighboring states, with covert liquidations and torture of critics, and with its fascist and terrorist history with ties to German Nazis has nothing to do with the European Jewish intellectuals who during the 30s were despised and cleaned out by the Nazis. Europe's critical left, which these Zionists now label as "anti-Semitic", has during the last year been compared to the Nazis of the 30s.

The word "anti-Semitism" has become an instrument of power used to silence every critic of today's many wars. Today, if you are not a fascist and do not support the wars that Israelis and American neo-conservatives have pushed forward, you are accused of being "anti-Semitic". In this way, everything has been turned upside down. Orwell's 1984 is already here.


Interview with Brendan Simms

The attack on Corbyn

Alastair Campbell's interview with John Bercow

Stig Hadenius, Who was Folke Bernadotte (Lund: Historiska Media, 2007).

Naeem Giladi, Ben-Gurion's Scandals: How the Haganah and the Mossad Eliminated Jews (2003)

Ronen Bergman, Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations (2018)

Paul Willan, Ex-Nazis 'helped Israel win Six-Day War', The Italian Insider, 24 Apr. 2019.

Ola Tunander
Ola Tunander
Tunander is Professor Emeritus of PRIO. See also wikipedia, at PRIO: , as well as a bibliography on Waterstone

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