They might not agree on much else, but the political far left and the far right strive to perfect and project their hate of Jews and Israel. They converge in this hatred, as in many other aspects of politics.
Conventionally, following the spatial distribution of the French parliament, those who sat to the right were regarded as “the party of stability” and those on the left “the party of change.” But the extremes of these parties took these orientations to far-fetched visions: those on the right favored retrogression to an earlier phase of history; those on the left pursued “progress” to a utopia of perfection.
Clear examples of these two extreme movements are socialists and communists on the far left, and political Islamists on the far right. The socialists’ and communists’ plan is to institute a society of absolute equality in which there would be no selfish motivation and everyone would be devoted to the collective well-being. This requires, as Fidel Castro in Cuba put it, a “new man” and new woman, of course, a change in the nature of the individual. Such a transformation of human being is possible, according to the far-left ideology, because there is no inherent human nature, and people are entirely formed by society.
The Islamists’ plan to reinstitute the religiously pure society as it allegedly was under the Prophet Muhammad during the seventh century. According to this extremist vision, within the umma, the Muslim community, no deviation from orthodoxy is allowed. Punishment is swift and extreme. The fulfillment of God’s plan requires the suppression or extermination of infidels who reject God’s demands.
The far left and far right converge on many important policies. For example, both require conformity to one plan, one policy, one way of life, with sanctions for deviance rapid and severe. No pluralism, no diversity of thought, no choices, no freedom of thought or behavior is allowed. In other words, what is desired and planned by the far left and far right are totalitarian societies, in which everything is dictated and nothing else is allowed.
An inevitable result of the procrustean totalitarianism of the far left and far right is brutal punishment and large-scale murder of real or perceived opponents of the regime.
On the far left, the crushing of the kulak small land owners, the show trials, gulag labor camps, punitive mental hospitals, and security service basement executions were prominent features of the Soviet Union. Communist China and the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia took things even farther, with massive slaughter of millions of so-called “class enemies.”
In America, the far left applied its methods in 2020 by rioting and occupations, including assault, vandalism, looting, arson, and murder, and since then by occasional street assaults by brutal thugs, such as Antifa. Far left intolerance of diversity of opinion is widespread in the Western world, as seen in the silencing and “cancellation” of anyone who disagrees with extremist views, particularly in our schools and universities.
For its part, the so-called Islamic State slaughtered male infidels and took females as sex slaves, a longtime Muslim practice, gang-raping and then murdering their infidel slaves. Foreign adversaries were in many cases beheaded, while others were burned alive, all recorded for posterity and displayed electronically around the world. The clergy-governed Islamic Republic of Iran is systemically brutal to citizens who dissent from allegedly Shi’a requirements and constraints.
The far-right Klu Klux Klan acted to maintain the supremacy of whites over blacks, and to exclude deviants from Protestantism, such as Catholics and Jews, from contaminating their “pure” society. Terrorism such as burning crosses and lynchings were the preferred violent methods of control.
Because the far left and far right converge on many important imperatives—intolerance of those with other views and practices, an enthusiasm to apply maximum coercion, and desire to overthrow pluralist and democratic societies—they should be seen not as opposites, but as spiritual kin in their imposition of totalitarian society. The political spectrum is thus not a straight line with extremes at either end, but a circle with extremes converging.
The latest convergence is active opposition and hate toward Jews and the Jewish state, Israel. The current “red-green” alliance between the socialist/communist far left (“red”) and Islamic far right (“green”) brings to fruition the alliance among totalitarians.
The contemporary far right is exemplified by Iran and Palestinian terrorists—Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fatah, with the support of the Palestinian Authority—and their supporters, who make up fully three quarters of the Palestinian population, who aim to destroy Israel and replace it with Palestine “from the river to the sea.” Hamas, in its founding charter, has promised as well to murder all Jews around the world.
The far left found Jews objectionable for different reasons. Jews offended the Soviet Union by worshiping God rather than the Soviet state, and thus suffered discrimination and suppression by the state. Once Israel was established, Jews were demeaned as “nationalists” and thus traitors to international communist ideals. “Progressive” socialists and communists in North America also reject Israel for being a nation state for the Jewish people, as opposed to an open-borders, multicultural, post-national state, as the United States and Canada are.
The far-left National Socialist (Nazi) Party in Germany imagined their own reason to reject and murder Jews: the Jews’ alleged racial inferiority and the corruption of the German “pure Aryan race.” The methodical Germans managed to murder six million European Jews, a feat expressly and publicly admired by many on the far right, at home and abroad, today.
Even the enthusiastic convergence between red and green extremism has not swayed the more moderate and centralist majorities in Western countries, which remain opponents of anti-Semitic hate and supporters of Israel’s right to exist. But the red-green alliance is gaining strength, especially among the young shaped by the many extremists in our educational institutions.
Philip Carl Salzman is professor emeritus of anthropology at McGill University, senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Past President of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.