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  • Die schweizerische Linke und Israel: Israelbegeisterung, Antizionismus und Antisemitismus zwischen 1967 und 1991
  • Angelika Timm
Die schweizerische Linke und Israel: Israelbegeisterung, Antizionismus und Antisemitismus zwischen 1967 und 1991, by Christina Späti. Essen: Klartext Verlag, 2006. 360 pp. €29.90.

Various reports prove that antisemitism did not disappear after World War II but continues to influence the political culture in Europe even in the 21st century. It can be found in West European countries on the right and the left of the political spectrum, in liberal circles and—as a new phenomenon—among the growing Moslem population. While the hatred of Jews by the right is obviously linked with Holocaust denial, xenophobia, and racism, the left is very often accused of merging anti-Zionism with antisemitism. The association of anti-Zionism with antisemitism is not new but intensified after the foundation of the State of Israel and especially after the Six-Day War of 1967. When does criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism become antisemitic? How can it be explained that many left-wing circles in Europe and North America substituted their enthusiasm for the Jewish state and its socialist agenda for a harsh criticism of Israel after 1967?

Christina Späti examines the Swiss Left for answers to these and other questions. She first introduces definitions of antisemitism and anti-Zionism and underlines antisemitism's transformations in Europe after 1945. While an open hatred of Jews remained "politically incorrect" after Auschwitz, new issues appeared: the denial or trivialization of the Holocaust and Israel. In addition, philosemitic attitudes emerged. The author sets up three interesting propositions for Swiss approaches to antisemitism after 1945: First, antisemitism was limited to Nazi Germany and did not exist in Switzerland. Second, antisemitism was regarded as a marginal phenomenon existing on the extreme right; the antisemitic attitudes of broader population groups and their articulation in daily life were ignored. Third, antisemitism was associated with the ideology and politics of the Third Reich and "disappeared" together with the Nazi regime. Once merged, these views prohibited a deeper debate on anti-semitic incidents in Switzerland after World War II (p. 32f).

The author does not ignore the fact that anti-Zionism very often includes antisemitic tendencies; however, she does emphasize that it cannot be characterized [End Page 179] as antisemitism. According to Späti, criticism of Israelis or Zionists becomes antisemitic when the persons criticized are explicitly characterized as Jews and Israeli politics is described as the politics of "the Jews" (p. 49).

Späti focuses her research on the Swiss Left, including Social Democrats and trade unionists, communists, the "New Left," new social movements, autonomous and antifascist groups of the 1980s, and independent Leftist journals and newspapers. She bases her study on many published and unpublished primary sources, including rich archival material. Interviews with journalists or political actors were not conducted.

The author analyzes publications across the Left in Switzerland during four periods: from the Six-Day War to the Yom Kippur War, from 1974 to 1982, from the Lebanon War to 1987, and from the outbreak of the first Intifada to the Iraq War of 1991. There was no unified Left position regarding Israel (p. 325), she concludes, but rather a range of attitudes from the principled opposition to the Jewish state and its delegitimization, to the unconditional support of Israel. The periodization follows the Middle East conflict and attaches only minor significance to international developments and domestic issues. The reader unfamiliar with the history of Switzerland would appreciate some introductory information on concrete numbers, leading figures, and the political role of the Left in society. In addition, a short overview of the development of Leftist attitudes towards Israel until 1967 would have been helpful.

With her research on the Swiss Left, the author joins earlier studies on Germany (Martin W. Kloke: Israel und die deutsche Linke, Frankfurt a. M. 1994) and Austria (Margit Reiter: Unter Antisemitismus-Verdacht. Die österreichische Linke und Israel nach der Shoah, Innsbruck 2000). She obviously knows the relevant literature published on the subject and refers several times to similar attitudes of the European Left toward Zionism and Israel. Späti concludes that a similarity exists between the...


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