Dialogue Becomes Debate on Whether New Left is Good or Bad for Jews, Zionism, Israel

Participants in the American Jewish Congress’ tenth annual American-Israel Dialogue debated vigorously today whether the New Left was good for the Jews, Zionism and Israel. The debate was launched Monday night by Foreign Minister Abba Eban, who assailed the New Left, and continued yesterday by Histadrut Secretary General Yitzhak Ben-Aharon, who disagreed with Eban, but with reservations.

“We assume that anti-Semitism on the left can be rectified,” said Marie Syrkin of New York, Zionist editor of the Herzl Press. “It’s a myth to say the New Left is anti-Jewish,” countered Paul Jacobs of San Francisco, who once ran for the Senate on Black militant Eldridge Cleaver’s Peace and Freedom ticket. Leftist anti-Semitism can be purged more easily than rightist anti-Semitism, Miss Syrkin claimed. “There’s a wide spectrum of belief among the New Left.” retorted Jacobs, citing Noam Chomsky and I.F. Stone as nonanti-Zionist New Leftists.

Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg. AJ Congress president, said the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel had led Jews to desert the political right. Prof. Theodore Draper of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University suggested that Jews would be better off if they did not “mortgage” their future to either side.

Some speakers took pains to deny any anti-Semitism in the New Left. Others sought to discredit the notion that anti-Semitism was the brainchild of either modern socialism or the American Jewish New Left. Prof. Abraham Udovitch of Princeton pointed out that anti-Semitic tendencies had cropped up in “all redemptive movements” of Christian Europe, a full 600 years before the advent of socialism. (Yesterday, Ben-Aharon claimed that anti-Semites were omnipresent in the Old Left.) Prof. Henry Feingold of City College, New York, insisted that anti-Semitism had been “tacked on” after the New Left adopted its political views.

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