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The following is an interview conducted by Dr. Eunice Pollack, University of North Texas and Board Member of H-Antisemitism, with Stephen H. Norwood. Stephen H. Norwood's latest book, ANTISEMITISM AND THE AMERICAN FAR LEFT, has just been published by Cambridge University Press. The following is an interview I conducted with Professor Norwood (University of Oklahoma) POLLACK: Why did you decide to write this book? NORWOOD: I was interested in the course of American antisemitism over the last century and its intensification in recent decades. I specifically wanted to trace the role of the American far left because contemporary antisemitism and anti-Zionism appear frequently to be propagated by the far left, even though, I found, it is often only recycling the shibboleths of the far right. POLLACK: What period do you cover? NORWOOD: I examine the years from 1920 to the present, although I also explore the roots of far left antisemitism in the mid-19th century. I was struck by the extent to which early far left economic antisemitism had been shaped by Christian theological antisemitic stereotypes and charges. POLLACK: Do you cover the New Left as well? NORWOOD: I devote considerable attention to examining the antisemitism and anti-Zionism of the late 1960s New Left and to comparing them with earlier manifestations of antisemitism in the Old Left, particularly those of the Communist Party (CP) during the Third Period (1928-1935). The CP's support for the 1929 Arab pogrom against the Jews of Palestine, for example, set a precedent for the late 1960s New Left's endorsement of Palestinian terrorism. POLLACK: So you also address anti-Zionism... NORWOOD: Definitely, anti-Zionism is very often intertwined with antisemitism. Many anti-Zionists characterized Israel's policies and behavior as demonic or Nazified, singling out the Jewish State for overwrought and often unsubstantiated criticism and condemnation. POLLACK: Do you distinguish among leftist groups? NORWOOD: I give greatest attention to those groups that exerted the most influence--the CP and the late 1960s New Left along with its black nationalist allies. But I also analyze the positions of Trotskyists, some of whose views were later absorbed by the mainstream--for example, universalizing the Holocaust and claiming a moral equivalence between Allied bombing and Nazi atrocities. POLLACK: Four years ago you published THE THIRD REICH IN THE IVORY TOWER. How does your current book differ from it? NORWOOD: The earlier book was more an examination of American mainstream antisemitism, exploring the complicity of American universities in helping legitimize Nazi Germany. This book, by contrast, focuses on the far left, though it demonstrates that many of the far left views of Jews have influenced those of the mainstream. POLLACK: Do you discuss the American far left and the Holocaust? NORWOOD: I discuss the deficiencies of the far left's analysis of Nazism and of the Holocaust. In the thirties and in subsequent decades most of the far left remained committed to a narrow class analysis, ignoring the centrality of antisemitism, including theologically rooted antisemitism. POLLACK: Do you address changes over time in the far left's positions? NORWOOD: Yes, the CP undergoes some very significant changes in its views of Jews. During the immediate post-World War II period, for example, it temporarily abandoned its longstanding antipathy to Jewish culture--and its opposition to creating a Jewish state. POLLACK: What was the impact of its more positive view of Jewish culture? NORWOOD: The CP in those years helped spearhead a movement to promote secular Jewish Studies, even establishing a School of Jewish Studies in New York, which offered a wide array of courses on Jewish history, culture and literature, along with Yiddish and Hebrew, a language the far left had long disdained. Notably, this was at a time when American universities devoted almost no attention to Jewish Studies. The work of the Jewish CP scholar Morris Schappes was respected by mainstream Jewish Studies scholars, such as Jacob Rader Marcus and Bertram Korn. POLLACK: You not only trace and explain the American far left's convoluted views toward Jews over time, but also its position toward the Jewish State. NORWOOD: Yes, between 1946 and 1948 the CP followed the lead of the Soviet Union, abandoned its longstanding opposition to creating a Jewish State, and supported partitioning Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. It joined mass post-war demonstrations demanding that the British permit unlimited Jewish immigration to Palestine and denouncing the British blockade. The CP referred to Israel's War of Independence as the Jewish War of Liberation. I discuss at length Henry Wallace's condemnation of Harry Truman's and Thomas Dewey's insufficient support for Israel during the 1948 presidential campaign. POLLACK: You also analyze the subsequent shift among American Communists toward hostility to Israel. NORWOOD: Yes, the CP became intensely hostile to Israel by the 1960s, although never as much as the Trotskyists. But I also found that much of the mass departure of Communists from the Party in 1956 resulted from concerns about Soviet antisemitism and the USSR's opposition to Israel during the Suez War, not just in response to Khrushchev's secret speech and the Soviet invasion of Hungary. POLLACK: I assume you distinguish between Jewish and other members of the CP. NORWOOD: Yes, and I specifically examine the Jewish identity and Jewish "self-hatred" of some of those in the American far left. POLLACK: When discussing the New Left, do you address its alliance with black nationalists? NORWOOD: Of course. While the New Left always gave priority to the issue of Vietnam in the late 1960s, the black nationalists were heavily engaged in defaming Israel, considerably influencing the New Left outlook on the Middle East. I point out, however, that thirty years later, the remnants of the far left were considerably less enthusiastic about Louis Farrakhan's so-called Million Man March than were mainstream liberals and the American mass media. -- Dr. Eunice G. Pollack Department of History University of North Texas firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com 940/565-4514 -- Yocheved "Yo" Menashe H-Net Certified Editor H-Antisemitism & H-Holocaust H-Net Council H-Net Networks & Teaching Committees --