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OpinionIsrael at War

The moral collapse of the West

Refusing to distinguish between Hamas aggressors and their Israeli victims, liberals scream for a ceasefire. No one is calling for Hamas to surrender, which would stop all the killing immediately.

A home in Kibbutz Be'eri after Hamas terrorists attacked civilians of all ages, Oct. 25, 2023. Photo by Edi Israel/Flash90,
A home in Kibbutz Be'eri after Hamas terrorists attacked civilians of all ages, Oct. 25, 2023. Photo by Edi Israel/Flash90,
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir, Guardian Angel, has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, The Legacy, in 2018. To access her work, go to: melaniephillips.substack.com.

The evidence is becoming overwhelming of a profound moral collapse in the West.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in Israel, it’s been open season on Diaspora Jews with an enormous increase in antisemitic attacks.

Students from American universities provided impassioned testimony this week to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce about the antisemitism crisis on campus. The problem isn’t just people picking on Jews; worse, it’s being fueled by others who should know better but who are facilitating it.

They claimed that university administrators and faculty were either turning a blind eye to the intimidation of Jewish students or actively participating in it.

Congress heard about physical assaults on Jewish students, calls on campus to “gas the Jews” and taunts that “Hitler was right.”

Eyal Yakoby, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, spoke about how he and other students had been forced to take refuge in their rooms as classmates and professors chanted for the genocide of the Jews. They had spoken of “the glorious October 7” and said things like “You’re a dirty little Jew, you deserve to die.”

MIT student Talia Khan, the daughter of a Jewish mother and an Afghan Muslim father, said that 70% of Jewish students on campus felt forced to hide signs of their Jewish identity.

After one post-doctoral student asserted that Jewish people wanted to enslave the world through a global apartheid system, falsely claimed that Israel harvested Palestinian organs and implied that the average Israel was a Nazi, his department’s diversity officer stated, said Khan, that none of this was “hate speech” and that the organ harvesting theory was “confirmed.”

Other diversity staff at MIT had claimed that Israel had no right to exist, while faculty members told Jewish students that if they were scared they should just “go back to Israel.” The presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT—Claudine Gay, Liz Magill and Sally Kornblut—also appeared before the committee. Their responses caused jaws to drop.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) asked them whether the genocidal chants heard on campus, such as “Long live the intifada” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” violated these universities’ own policies against bullying or harassment.

To Stefanik’s mounting incredulity and disgust, the three refused to give a straight answer and said it all depended on the “context.” What conceivable context can there be to find acceptable any calls for the genocide of the Jews?

When Rep. John James (R-Mich.) asked the three presidents what they were doing to fight anti-Jewish hatred, he was met by silence as they looked at each other to check that they were all in line—in doing nothing.

The behavior of these three Ivy League school heads was shocking in the extreme. But how can anyone really be astonished, given what’s been happening to education over the past several decades?

In many cases, educationists and administrators are failing to act against antisemitism not just out of cowardice but because they themselves subscribe to all or parts of the warped and morally bankrupt mindset at the core of this. They have allowed identity politics, “intersectionality” and victim culture to infest campuses across the West, refusing to take condign action against bullying and harassment in the fields of ethnicity, sexuality and gender.

These dogmas involve a wholesale breakdown in norms of morality and rationality. They hold that certain categories of people—such as men, heterosexuals and Israelis—can’t be victims because they are deemed to hold political and economic power over women, gays and Palestinians who therefore aren’t responsible for any wrongs they may do.

More perniciously still, identity politics, rooted in the Marxist doctrine that the world is divided between the powerful and the oppressed, views Jews as possessing supreme power over the entire Western world through a capitalist system they supposedly deploy in their own interests and to the disadvantage of others.

Campus administrators such as the three presidents may believe they are upholding neutrality and free speech. They are actually guilty of double standards since they don’t uphold for Jews the protection they give to groups that “intersectional” dogma presents as “oppressed.”

All this also helps explain the astonishing silence by women’s groups and other liberals over the extreme sexual assaults that Hamas perpetrated on women whom they attacked and took hostage on Oct. 7. Evidence has now surfaced of the horrific barbarism and sadism with which these women were assaulted. They were subjected not only to multiple rapes with extreme violence but also to the mutilation of their sexual organs.

Yet although there was undeniable evidence of widespread rape during the pogrom right from the start, it took the United Nations eight weeks to say anything about this carnage, finally saying feebly this week that it was “alarmed” by accounts of “gender-based atrocities and sexual violence” during the Hamas attacks. Meanwhile, women’s rights organizations and human rights NGOs have still said next to nothing about this hideous depravity.

The shocking reason for this reticence is that the barbaric onslaught upon Israeli women undermines the narratives with which such liberals identify.

The slogan of the performative “#MeToo” movement, which in demonizing all men as potential rapists undermined proper horror and revulsion at unambiguous rape, is “Silence is violence.” The Hamas pogrom, which has so sickeningly demonstrated what real violence against women looks like, has shown up “#MeToo” as insultingly vacuous.

It also conflicts with the liberal narrative that demonizes Israelis as “oppressors” and sanitizes Palestinians as their victims. The unthinkable suffering of the Israeli women (and we now learn that men were sexually assaulted, too) at the hands of Hamas just doesn’t fit.

At the core of this perverse reaction to the Hamas atrocities lies the fundamental progressive mantra of moral relativism, the abolition of objective truth and the dismissal of the need to distinguish between types of behavior. But without such distinctions, morality doesn’t exist.

Liberals thus ignore the distinction between the deliberate slaughter of civilians and the unintentional killing of civilians in a justified war. They ignore the fact that Hamas tries to maximize the number of Israelis they kill (as well as deliberately using Palestinians as cannon fodder), while Israel goes to lengths unknown in any other country’s military to spare civilian lives as far as possible.

Liberals ignore the fact that among the Palestinians being killed are thousands of Hamas terrorists, and conversely present Israel falsely and venomously as deliberate child-killers. They call the Palestinian attempt at the genocide of the Jews “resistance” and Israel’s resistance to being annihilated “genocide.”

Refusing to distinguish between the Hamas aggressors and their Israeli victims, they scream for a ceasefire by Israel. None of them is calling for Hamas to surrender, which would stop all the killing immediately. A ceasefire by Israel, by contrast, would sentence yet more Israeli civilians to be murdered, tortured and raped.

Those who want Israel to “stop the killing” therefore aren’t gentle pacifists devoted to the ideal of the brotherhood of mankind. They are moral cretins. Alas, there are now a very large number of them in the West.

Now we can see why the genocidal incitement on campus is studiously ignored by university administrators; why those screaming to “globalize the intifada” are demonstrating alongside liberals who say they merely want the killing to stop; and why feminists have been silent about the barbaric rape, murder and sexual mutilation of Israeli women by the Palestinians of Gaza.

Liberal dogma has produced a society of moral depravity that is marching shoulder to shoulder with the savages of Islamic holy war.

The Hamas pogrom and the war in Gaza are acting as a kind of barium meal in the body of the West, illuminating from the inside a profound sickness in this poisoned civilization that may prove terminal.

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