Is there an award for radical leftist longevity? If so, it must surely go to 85-year-old Hedy Epstein – Holocaust survivor, great-grandmother, author and inveterate peace activist. For thirty-five years Ms. Epstein has been roaming the world, advocating for her special brand of civil rights and social justice. Her causes have included fair housing, abortion rights and antiwar protests which have taken her as far a field as Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cambodia and Africa.
However it is in Israel that this avowed peace proponent has found her true bête noire. Since 2003 Ms. Epstein has traveled to Israel a total five times and participated in several demonstrations in opposition to the construction of Israel’s defensive barrier, (designed to deter suicide attacks) and to protest the demolition of Palestinian homes and olive orchards.
Most recently Ms. Epstein was reported as being in Cairo where she participated in a hunger strike to shame the Egyptian government into granting visas to an international brigade of activists seeking a ‘peace’ march in Gaza to commemorate the one year anniversary of Israel’s three week long war against Hamas in 2009.
After many weeks of lobbying, the Egyptian government finally relented and granted 80 of the 1400 members of the international delegation ( known as Viva Palestina , a two day visit to Gaza to demonstrate solidarity with Hamas.
But according to a report in Ha’aretz, Hamas did not quite offer the welcoming party Ms. Epstein and her starry-eyed activist friends had anticipated.
None of the protestors was allowed to stay in a private home, despite the fact that this had been expressly organized before the visit; they were forbidden from communicating with ordinary Gazans, even to speak through chain linked fences; they were shadowed by Hamas security personnel wherever they went and told exactly what they could or could not say to the press.
The ‘march’ the Viva Palestina organizers had been planning for nine months transformed into little more than a sightseeing excursion, retricted to specific sites such as bombed out community centers and U.N. stuctures (that no one had been permitted to repair) and of which the Hamas militia invited the foreign press to snap photos.
So disenchanted with the entire process did the protestors become that one of them was overheard acidly commenting: ”Now I understand that the call for ‘Freedom for Gaza’ has another meaning.”
Indeed. How many leftist peace activists like Hedy Epstein have encountered exactly the same kind of conduct that they had come so far to protest?
One doesn’t need to travel too far back in history. During the Spanish Civil War, many American Jews signed up to fight for the International Brigade to fight for the Republican cause in its struggle against the Fascism. It didn’t take them long to find themselves completely betrayed by the Soviet-backed communists they had arrived to support. Many were shadowed, imprisoned and even executed by their leftist comrades, leaving such commentators as George Orwell with a life long and abiding hatred for the radical left.
One famous American dissident learned first hand what the other side of the fence really looks like. In 1959, Lee Harvey Oswald renounced his American citizenship to defect to the Soviet Union, expecting to be happily embraced by his fellow communists. But the Soviets had little time for the malcontent Oswald and he eventually left, expressing a bitter disenchantment with the dark and miserable life of the average Soviet citizen and the flippant way in which he had been treated by his Soviet handlers.
So too today do those who wish to link arms with Islamic terrorists often encounter the harsh realities of who they have befriended. The irony can’t be lost on anyone that these so-called seekers of peace, who earnestly spout left wing ideologies such as feminism, gay rights, liberation politics and radical environmentalism are scorned by Islamic terrorists who treat such notions with contempt. They see in these dreamers nothing more than cash machines to be milked for their American dollars or else for their inordinate public relations value. But never are they taken seriously as comrades-in-arms.
Bereft of her life experience, Hedy Epstein’s fellow travelers might be forgiven for their naivete in failing to recognize the signs of internal oppression. But that doesn’t excuse Hedy herself. Having once been its victim, she should now be able to recognize fascism when she sees it.
Without such recognition however, they all, after a while, begin to resemble the Western sympathizers of the Soviet Union during the 1930s, individuals such as George Bernard Shaw, Beatrice and Sydney Webb, Jean Paul Satre and numerous American journalists. These were travelers who became quite aware of the extent of Stalin’s crimes but did nothing, upon their return, to publicize them. As a result, they became his implicit, willing accomplices.
Perhaps those who traveled on the Viva Palestina Peace March will now have second thoughts about their alleigence to their Hamas brethren. Perhaps not. But whatever their current views, it is almost certain that they now understand that the other side of the fence is a pretty grim place and not just because of the things the Israelis have either done or not done.
They might finally recognize that Hamasistan is the kind of place that would never tolerate their kind of peace activism nor their inviolable right to protest, privileges they take so much for granted when they are at home in the West.