Democrats demand the suppression of speech they disagree with, but they cannot seem to unify against crass antisemitism.
When Hamas attacked Israel in a genocidal pogrom targeting men, women, and children, it was not the start of a war with the traditional goals of strategic victory or conquest, but a war to annihilate the Jewish People.
Let’s tell it like it is: The Arab/Israeli conflict has never been about self-determination for Palestinian-Arabs, who have no historical footprint or ancient pedigree in the land, but about the destruction of Israel and extermination of the Jews, whose ancestral connection to their homeland is, unlike Palestinian Arab claims, incontrovertible.
The root of the conflict – the true basis that nobody wants to acknowledge – is the doctrinal hatred of Jews.
Though there was an unprecedented show of support for Israel after the initial attack in which Hamas terrorists slaughtered families, raped women and girls, burned people alive and murdered children, it didn’t take long for the UN Secretary-General to contextualize Hamas’s savagery by saying it “didn’t happen in a vacuum.” Or for progressives in the US and elsewhere to accuse Israel of concocting accounts of atrocities, or to admit they occurred but justify them as natural consequences of an “occupation” that does not exist.
Soon after came calls from the global community for Israel to temper her response or agree to a ceasefire, followed by specious allegations of Israeli war crimes. True to form, the mainstream media showed its bias by publishing Hamas propaganda as news without seeking verification from Israeli sources or employing the kind of rigorous fact checking that set the standard when I was a young journalist starting out in the 1980s. The abdication of objectivity was clear when most news outlets falsely reported that Israeli rockets had blown up a Gaza hospital killing hundreds, when in fact the missile was fired by Islamic Jihad. The stories were later retracted, but not before such reporting had inflamed tensions and instigated worldwide condemnations of Israel.
And now, a month into the war and in the midst of Israel’s intense campaign to destroy Hamas, progressives have become the terror organization’s most prominent boosters by stepping up their pathological demonization of the Jewish state. Violent anti-Israel demonstrations are sweeping liberal college campuses and cities across North America and Europe, where rioters can be seen chanting Nazi-like slogans, assaulting Jews, and openly calling for genocide.
Despite reports that extremist elements of the Jewish left are sympathizing with the demonstrators, moderate liberals are finally starting to acknowledge the anti-Jewish hatred permeating the progressive movements and identity communities they have traditionally championed. This realization was slow in coming because liberals always considered other progressives their natural allies and thus rarely acknowledged left-wing or minority Jew-hatred, no matter how blatant. Their immediate reflex, rather, was to blame white supremacists or right-wing extremists for all acts of antisemitism – even when committed by leftists or members of minorities (like the Jersey City massacre perpetrated by two antisemitic Black Hebrews in 2019).
Despite their tendency to ignore or excuse left-wing bigotry, many liberals were roused from their moral torpor by Hamas’s atrocities and spurious allegations of Israeli war crimes in Gaza. Whereas in the past they might have responded by lecturing Israel about the incorrectly understood “disproportional” use of force or blaming “the occupation” for provoking terrorism, many are now conceding that: (a) there is no occupation; (b) Israel has the sovereign right to defend herself; (c) only Hamas is committing war crimes – including rape, murder and torture of Jewish civilians and using noncombatants as human shields, and (d) Palestinian-Arabs generally reject the two-state paradigm.
Though this newfound awareness is encouraging, it does not reflect a sea change within the wider progressive establishment, which thus far has failed to take a clear moral stand against leftist, Islamic, or minority antisemitism. The internet is full to bursting with images of demonstrators praising Hitler, calling for death to Israel, and chanting “Jews back to the ovens,” but there has been no unified, plenary condemnation of antisemitism from progressive or Democratic Party leadership.
The problem is that protests in which Jews are threatened, harassed, and assaulted are being perpetrated by many of the same identity groups that are courted by Democrats and comprise the core constituency of their party’s progressive wing.
Nothing epitomizes this more than the “Squad,” a group of Congressional Democrats including Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and other radicals, who have expressed anti-Israel or antisemitic rhetoric, have refused to condemn Hamas terror, and who nonetheless have avoided unequivocal reprimand by their party (the majority of which voted against a recent House Republican resolution censuring Tlaib).
Though White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre finally denounced offensive comments from the Squad (without mentioning any members by name), Joe Biden has remained silent, perhaps for fear of alienating the Squad’s radical base. And despite the press secretary’s somewhat generic denunciation, she waffled when asked about increasing antisemitism in the US, choosing instead to rail against Islamophobia – which pales in statistical significance to hatred and violence against Jews.
Such equivocation begs the question; are there any voices of principled decency on the progressive left?
Political conservatives had their moment thirty years ago and rose to the occasion, when the late William F. Buckley confronted accusations of antisemitism against certain contributing writers to the National Review (the political journal he published and edited) in a feature-length essay entitled, “In Search of Anti-Semitism.” Whereas defenders of those authors tried to distinguish criticism of Israel from hatred of Jews, Buckley identified antisemitic themes where he found them on both the right and left. He thereafter republished the essay in a book that incorporated other writers’ responses to his thesis. It was not the most definitive work on antisemitism to be sure, but it was a high-watermark of conservative moral self-evaluation.
The problem today is that there has been no similar ideological soul searching on the left. What we have seen instead is denial, blame shifting, false equivalence likening Islamic terrorism to Israeli self-defense, and pervasive disparagement of Jews and Israel. We’ve also seen how ignorant (or revisionist) progressives are when it comes to Jewish history and modern Israel’s ancient underpinnings.
It seems the left cannot bring itself to unconditionally condemn all those who demonize Israel, deny Jewish history, legitimize terrorism, or justify atrocities against Jews. Buckley clearly was not overreacting when he undertook to expose antisemitism and illustrate its ubiquity in society and banalization by intellectual elites. And the impact of his book on conservative America was culturally seismic, as reflected by a Republican Party that for decades now has generally shown stronger support for Israel and a greater commitment to eradicating antisemitism than the Democrats.
In contrast to Congressional Republicans, the Democrats cannot even all agree on the need to condemn party caucus members who side with terrorists or engage in anti-Israel or antisemitic hate-speech. Barack Obama got it very wrong when he implicated the role of “the occupation” leading up to the war, although “occupation” is a dissimulative term meaning the entire Jewish State and Gaza was not occupied. He also drew incongruous moral comparisons between Israel and Hamas by stating “nobody’s hands are clean” in the conflict. No surprise there. He simply stopped hiding his antisemitism.
Democrats are quick to demand the suppression of speech they disagree with, particularly when it questions climate change, condemns genital mutilation of children, or decries the excesses of identity politics. But they cannot seem to unify against the crass antisemitism that infects their constituency and the progressive wing of their party. Though individual Democrats are finally coming around, they have failed to take unequivocal, collective action against Jew-hatred, whether directed at Israel or individual Jews, who are routinely harassed and assaulted by mobs in progressive cities and universities across the country.
Progressives often assert that antisemitic hate-speech must be evaluated “in context” and cannot be judged without considering Arab-Muslim grievances; and when their logic fails, they invoke the First Amendment, which admittedly protects even odious speech. Their usual contempt for the Constitution does not seem to prevent them from using it as a shield to avoid intellectual engagement. And though free speech is indeed a fundamental American right, so is the right to criticize the words of others. The First Amendment only prohibits government from stifling expression; it does not preclude citizens individually or collectively from condemning hate-speech or incitement.
Suppressing the right to disagree only chills dissent and the free exchange of ideas.
The real reason many progressives will not condemn antisemitism unconditionally is that doing so would require them to criticize ideologies and identity groups they support; and because Jew-hatred is omnipresent on the left and therefore often deemed morally acceptable.
More disappointingly, no moderate liberal icons have spoken out against antisemitism the way Buckley did so eloquently in 1992. It seems the liberal mainstream is more concerned about alienating radical haters than in doing what is correct and decent in civilized society.
And that should scare everyone.
©2023. Matthew Hausman, J.D. All rights reserved.