Aleksander Dugan: Rasputin Redux?

Speculation is percolating about an emerging “new fascist international”—stretching from France (stamping ground of the Le Pens and the National Front), to Spain (whose extremist rightist figure head is Prince Sixtus Henry of Bourbon-Parma, leader of the Catholic-monarchist Carlist movement), to Austria (where Heinz-Christian Strache heads the fascist Freedom Party), to Greece (where “Golden Dawn” is headed by Nikolaos Michaloliakos), to Hungary (where Marton Gyongyosi heads the vicious Jobbik Party), to Bulgaria (where Volen Siderov is founder to the far-right Ataka Party), to Vladimir Putin’s expansive-minded Russian Federation.

To the extent that there is a nucleus of fact beneath overblown hype, the question emerges who might provide the ideological glue for such a new alignment?

The cultural and religious gaps among these right-wing forces is such that the probable answer is nobody. Yet Putin’s Russia—the prime mover behind the new far right—is also providing the movement with a primus inter pares.

His name is Aleksandr Dugan who is being pictured, not without some plausibility, as a sort of reincarnated Rasputin, the “Mad Monk” whose unbridled charisma helped lead the Russian Empire presided by the last of the Romanovs over a cliff. His roots are uncovered in several recent books including James D. Heiser’s “‘The American Empire Should be Destroyed’: Aleksander Dugan and the Perils of Immanentized Eschatology” (2014).

The Presbyterian Church and the Ku Klux Klan

At their General Assembly on Friday, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to divest from three companies that supply Israel with equipment used in the West Bank and in the blockade of Gaza. Enemies of the Jewish community are rejoicing.  Former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke  exulted, “Bravo to the Presbyterian Church for standing up to Jewish racism and supremacism!”  Duke is right to praise the Presbyterian divestment vote, which supports what the Ku Klux Klan stands for.

David Duke’s endorsement will undoubtedly embarrass the Presbyterian Church, since it underscores the anti-Semitic character of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  Regardless of the Presbyterian delegates’ intentions, they have made common cause with a global movement that aims to marginalize and delegitimize the Jewish state.  In this sense, the BDS movement continues longstanding efforts to marginalize and delegitimize the Jewish people.

The connections between BDS and anti-Semitism have not been lost on the Presbyterian Church.  The divestment resolution (Resolution 04-09contains an unusual formal comment by the Church’s Advocacy Committee for Racial and Ethnic Concerns (ACREC).  In this statement, ACREC addressed the anti-Semitism charge explicitly, endorsing the unusual argument the Jewish community should “suspend their campaigns against anti-Semitism indefinitely” in order to focus exclusively on the Palestinians.  In other words, their official position is that it does not matter whether their resolution is anti-Semitic, since anti-Semitism is not as important as Jewish organizations say it is.

This extraordinary argument is taken from American-born Israeli journalist Larry Derfner, whom ACREC quotes as arguing last year:

The ADL [Anti-Defamation League] goes after anti-Semitism with a fist, it goes after Israeli racism with a sigh. As a matter of fact, the ADL and the entire American Jewish establishment should suspend their campaigns against anti-Semitism indefinitely and take a look at what’s going on in Israel.

It is not hard to see why this would be appealing to David Duke, but it is disappointing to see it adopted by a mainline Protestant denomination.  This argument, coming from within the Jewish community, supports Duke’s efforts to convince people to tolerate anti-Semitism. Derfner may not be a household word, but if he is known for anything, it is that the Jerusalem Post fired him a few years ago after he tried to justify terrorist attacks on Israelis, writing, “I think the Palestinians have the right to use terrorism against us.”  Derfner has apologized for his apparent defense of terrorism, which may be explained by his tendency to write hyperbolically.  Unfortunately, the Presbyterians have taken his arguments literally.

What is remarkable is that the Presbyterian Church would find it necessary to adopt Derfner’s argument about anti-Semitism as part of a resolution that does not purport to address anti-Semitism at all.  But the connection makes sense.  After all, the Church delegates must have felt some discomfort at advancing the BDS movement in light of that movement’s unsavory aspects.  Derfner’s argument gives them the blessing they need, even if it comes from a man who seems to have tried to justify terrorism against the Jewish people in the past.

This argument, if taken as literally as ACREC appears to take it, is that Jews exaggerate the extent of anti-Semitism in order to diminish the suffering of other peoples.  This is an example of what is called “anti-Semitism denial,” because it mimics the logic of Holocaust denial.  The global resurgence of anti-Semitism is now well-established.  Those who deny the existence of global anti-Semitism, or argue that it is greatly exaggerated, do not merely express an erroneous opinion.  Rather, their position is that Jews abuse their power to intimidate governments and major institutions, deceiving others in order to gain unfair advantage.  This argument would be entirely implausible, except that it relies on deeply entrenched anti-Semitic stereotypes, that even well-meaning Presbyterian delegates have apparently found convincing.

Brandeis Center and AMCHA Initiative Seek Answers in Potential Misuse of Taxpayer Dollars

The Brandeis Center has joined the AMCHA Initiative in pressing for an investigation into San Francisco State University Ethnic Studies Professor Rabab Abdulhadi’s potential misuse of public university funds.

The organizations have sent a letter asking California State Controller John Chiang to investigate “a serious and blatant misuse of University and state funds.” Documents obtained by AMCHA through a California Public Records Act request suggest that Professor Abdulhadi received more than $7,000 from the University, after she misrepresented her intended destinations on forms needed for insurance and administrative purposes. On these forms, Abdulhadi had claimed she would be presenting a paper in Beirut at an academic conference, but she in fact went on a “political solidarity tour.” The AMCHA letter continues, “As part of the delegation organized and led by Abdulhadi, the group met with known PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled, as well as with Islamist leader Sheik Raed Saleh, who has been incarcerated by Israeli authorities for aiding and abetting Hamas, an organization who charter calls for the murder of Jews.”

Good News from Western Washington

StandWithUs is reporting that the student government at Western Washington University unanimously voted yesterday not to consider boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) based on national origin.  The Student government’s “Resolution Regarding International Divestment, Boycott, and Sanctions” is an extraordinary response to the BDS resolutions adopted at other schools. In a powerfully written statement, the Western Washington student…

Left, Right, and “What’s Good for the Jews”

The resurgence, now on both sides of the Atlantic, of what is usually interpreted as extreme conservative politics—but might better be called right-wing populism—is likely to spark a new debate about present and future threats posed by political extremism to Jews.

Since the Revolution of 1848—when according to a story an Orthodox rabbi with a long beard who preferred to sit on the left side of the Frankfurt Assembly was asked “why” and answered “because Jews have no Right”—the predilection of Jews to believe that they have enemies only on the Right has been demonstrated and documented. Sometimes, it has had disastrous consequences as with the Old Left’s blind spot to Stalin’s anti-Semitism and the New Left’s flirtation with Stokely Carmichael’s.

But the history of Jews in relation to right-wing politics has yet to be fully written. The reflexive anti-Semitism of the European Right—from France’s Dreyfus Affaire to the Russia’s “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” to the pre-WWII French Right’s declaration “Better Hitler than Blum”—is of course well known. There is even an American parallel in the propensity to anti-Semitism of late nineteenth-century American Populists obsessed with the world’s crucifixion on “a cross of gold,” though New Left historians are still arguing that Populists like William Jennings Bryan (who wanted the U.S. declared “a Christian nation”) were somehow immune to anti-Semitism because their “progressive” economic nostrums somehow cancelled out their right-wing religious and racial prejudices.

Does Anti-Semitism Threaten American Jews?

The following article by LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus is distributed via — In a recent issue of Time magazine, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, former president of the Union for Reform Judaism, writes that anti-Semitism is “not a threat to American Jews.” He could not be more wrong.

Let us start with the obvious. Any threat to world Jewry is a threat to American Jews.

According to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) important newstudy, there are now one billion adult anti-Semites in the world. As Rabbi Yoffie acknowledges, this is fully a quarter of the world’s adult population. Can American Jewry shrug this off?

One can quibble with the ADL’s methodology, but it is not far-fetched. ADL considers a person to be anti-Semitic if they give a positive response to six out of 11 survey questions like these: “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars,” “People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave,” and “Jews have too much control over the United States government.”

Consider the magnitude of this finding. In 2012, according to the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, there were 686 reported incidents of physical violence, direct threats, and major acts of vandalism against Jews and Jewish institutions worldwide. This is bad enough on its own, representing an increase of approximately 30 percent over the prior year.

Worse, these figures understate the problem. According to the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency, 64 percent of European Jews who have experienced physical violence or threats do not report even the most serious incident.  If this holds true for Jews elsewhere, the actual incident rate is approximately three times higher than reported, reaching 2,000 serious incidents annually.

But it gets worse. Even the adjusted figures suggest that Jews and Jewish institutions are enduring only one serious anti-Semitic incident per 500,000 anti-Semites annually. This means that in any given year, the overwhelming majority of anti-Semites are not acting on their aversions. Their reasons may be lack of opportunity, want of courage, fear of consequence, or adherence to convention. Economists call this “pent-up demand.”

As the post-Holocaust taboo against anti-Semitism erodes, the ramifications are troubling. Suppose that one in ten thousand anti-Semites should physically harm or threaten Jews or Jewish institutions in a given year. Under this scenario, serious anti-Semitic incidents would increase to 100,000 per year, even if anti-Semitic attitudes remain constant. In other words, things can get much worse.

Terrorism and Anti-Semitic Violence: Complex New Realities Defy Simple Ideological Labels

It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that we live in an age when almost every headline story has become a Rorschach Test for spin doctors on cable news or in cyberspace. Their purpose is not to promote dialogue leading to some sort of shared understanding but to further fuel current political polarizations with wildly different, ideologically driven interpretations.

A case in point: Elliot Rodger who went on a killing spree near UC Santa Barbara. He was a product of America’s misogynist culture. Or he was a gun fanatic acting out violent video games or shock films like “American Psycho”—the moral: censor pop culture and more gun control. Or he was a psychotic loner driven by homicidal-suicidal delusions—the moral: more mental health spending. Prepackaged, often contradictory theories were offered up almost before the crime scenes were roped off.

Another dynamic fueling polarization is built into the psychic economy. Across the political spectrum, there seems to be a compelling need to prove novelist Charles Dickens’ at least half right when he wrote: “These are the best of times. These are the worst of times.” Our current updates of Voltaire’s arch-optimistic Dr. Pangloss believe that—despite the last century’s calamitous wars and economic depression—human life has never been healthier, longer-lived, or more literate and economically advanced than today. But we also have our Doomsayers who see Apocalypse around the corner because of climate change or the next pandemic or a new nuclear-chemical-biological-cyber world war triggered by global inequalities.

The Horror of Holocaust Denial

Over the last few weeks, the Holocaust has appeared surprisingly often in the news.  In most cases, the reason has been the surprising degree of ignorance or denial that so many people have about this cataclysmic event.  The most disheartening reports have addressed the role of educators in spreading misinformation.  Worse, they have illustrated that Holocaust denial is not just an ordinary form of ignorance but rather a modern cloak for the return of old-fashioned anti-Semitism.

The Anti-Defamation League’s much-heralded ADL Global 100 survey showed that 35% of adults worldwide have never heard of the Holocaust.  Of those who have heard of it, 21% think it was a myth or exaggeration.  One may quibble about the ADL survey’s methodology,  but this study presents the best available evidence that we have about global attitudes.  This revelation has been accompanied by three disturbing recent stories over the last few weeks.

First came news that the Rialto California school district had assigned 2,000 eighth-graders at five middle schools in the Rialto Unified School District east of Los Angeles to compose an essay on whether or not they believe the Holocaust was “an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme.”  The district thought this to be an appropriate assignment to teach “critical thinking” skills.

Although the district has subsequently apologized, its apology reflects little understanding of why the assignment was so obscenely inappropriate.  People who debate the Holocaust are not merely foolish or ignorant, like those who insist that the earth is flat.  Rather, Holocaust denial is a particular form of bigotry.  In order to deny anything as vast and well-documented as the Nazi Holocaust, one must assume that the world’s peoples have been victimized by a hoax of extraordinary proportions.  Such a hoax could only be perpetrated by an enormously powerful and malevolent group of deeply crooked people who are able to control global media for their own sinister purposes.  Unsurprisingly, these outlandish claims perfectly correspond with traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes.  In encouraging students to debate this topic, as if it were merely a difference of opinion, Rialto gave credence not merely to absurd misinformation but also to virulent ant-Semitic defamations of precisely the sort that led to the Holocaust in the first place.

Next came reports that Temple Adjunct Professor Alessio Lerro was arguing that Jews are exaggerating the extent of the Holocaust to obtain policitcal advantages.  In the course of supporting the Modern Langue Association’s new anti-Israel resolution, Lerro wrote this about the Holocaust:  “6 million? Mh … we all know [ or should know] that the counting of Jews is a bit controversial.””  Lerro is a reportedly a gamer, and CBS Local’s Don Giordamo reports that “mh is internet slang for map hack, a term meaning cheating to gain an advantage. In other words, Lerro is arguing that Jews are “gaming” the Holocaust numbers in order to gain a political advantage in public debates.  Lerro also reportedly accused “Jewish scholars” of manipulating academia and charged that it is “time that Zionists are asked to finally account for their support to the illegal occupation of Palestine since 1967.” Here we have a fine example of the ugly stereotypes that underlie Holocaust denial and Holocaust minimization.  It is highly disturbing to finds these stereotypes circulated by a university professor.

Holocaust Survivors, Too, Need to “Check Your Privilege”

In a twitter exchange with MSNBC host Touré Neblett, a child of Holocaust survivors asked: “How much do I owe for what Dems did in the first half of the century, while my family was in Europe running from Nazis, or in Dachau?” In other words, Jewish victims of the Nazis don’t owe “reparations” to African Americans for the injustices of the Jim Crow Era when “Dems” controlled the South.

Neblett responded: “The power of whiteness.” This follows a tweet by Ed Schulz, also associated with MSNBC, that gays “really [were] the ones being persecuted in Hitler’s Germany.”

Tal Fortgang, a Princeton student who refuted the blanket demand that whites “check your privilege,” wrote in the college paper that his family of Holocaust Survivors gave him the upbringing that paved his way to the Ivy League without any “privilege” except one: “It was their privilege to come to a country that grants equal protection under the law to its citizens, that cares not about religion or race, but the content of your character.”

An essay could be written on the growing cottage industry accusing Jews—even Holocaust Survivors—of enjoying “white privilege” compared to African Americans. After all, if even Hitler’s victims were “privileged,” then the argument is confirmed that all Jews must be.

Stung by criticisms, Neblett has since apologized for “oversimplifying.” But the implication remains. The question is where does such a distorted view—and related notions diminishing the Holocaust compared to the alleged “sixty million” (a figure inflated by around 50 million) victimized by the Atlantic slave trade—come from?