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The keystone theory

Viewing Israel as the keystone of the global system of power
We’ve already mentioned that the Soviet hostile perception of Israel had a deep effect on the Far-left in the West. This can be clearly seen in the years following the Six Day War, when the radical Left of the late 1960s and early 1970s was gaining strength as part of the rise of the anti-Vietnam, anti-war, and human rights movements. It was during these years and the years that have followed that the Far-left began shifting from their initial focus of liberating the working-classes. Instead, a new worldview of competing camps arose, in which the central divide was no longer between social classes but rather between those perceived by the left as oppressed and oppressor nations of the world.
As part of this shift, anti-Imperialism became an absolute principle. Following the Communist narrative, and in correlation with the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel was increasingly perceived as a key site of this imperialist system, becoming the ultimate oppressor, and Zionism was equated with racism and fascism, and even Nazism. There’s a worldview which splits which … - well look - it says, “Keep your eye on the ball!” right. “Keep your eye on what’s important!” and this worldview says that what’s important is this global system of power. And you might call it modernity or capitalism or imperialism. But it’s global. It’s a system of power which operates throughout the world. It makes people starve. It makes people hungry. It denies them health care.
It alienates them. It makes their lives poor. And this machine is backed up by the state, and the media, and armies, and the United States, and all of this. And the global struggle becomes, in that telling, the struggle between good and bad, between capitalism modernity or imperialism - however you want to describe it - and the people who oppose it. Now, of course, there is, as always, a kernel of truth. You know capitalism, and empiricism, and modernity have been responsible for you know countless awful atrocities and acts. And you know modernity is also a story of slavery.
That whole story you might ask me: how do the Jews fit into this? How does Israel fit into this? And that would be a good question because there’s no reason why Israel should fit into it. You know what a keystone is? When you have a brick arch and it has a special shaped stone at the top which keeps everything in place and if you took the keystone out the whole arch would fall. I think there’s a temptation for people to think about Israel as the keystone of the system of global imperialism. People … and people do it in a whole number of different ways. They kind of think … Israel was called the guard dog …
America’s guard dog in the Middle East; or the idea that Israel pioneers technologies of surveillance and oppression; or the idea that Israel … what Israel does now everybody else will do later. But in one way or another and in many ways … or the idea that there’s an Israel lobby which is responsible for drawing the whole world into wars that are against its interests; or the idea that Israel is involved in this hugely powerful effort to silence criticism of it by mobilizing the victim power of the Holocaust.
You know all of these different ways that Israel gets taken into the center of this global system and, when that happens, it’s always a worry it’s always a worry because antisemitism, all kinds of different antisemitisms have always said that the Jews are at the center of everything bad that happens in the world. Antisemitism has centered the Jews.

Dr. David Hirsh

Following the vitriolic anti-Zionist narrative, and in correlation with the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, scholars have noted that Israel has increasingly been perceived as a keystone of the imperialist system by some in the Far-left.


  • Hirsh, David, Contemporary Left Antisemitism (London: Routledge, 2018).

  • Lindemann, Albert S. and Levy, Richard S., eds., Antisemitism: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

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