columnIsrael at War

Why the left united around hatred of Israel

Since Oct. 7, woke ideology brought together a diverse coalition of advocacy groups eager to stop the war on Hamas. The Democratic Party will never be the same.

A pro-Palestinian rally in Washington, D.C., one day after the terrorist attacks by Hamas in southern Israel, Oct. 8, 2023. Credit: Ted Eytan via Wikimedia Commons.
A pro-Palestinian rally in Washington, D.C., one day after the terrorist attacks by Hamas in southern Israel, Oct. 8, 2023. Credit: Ted Eytan via Wikimedia Commons.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

Something curious has happened in American politics in the last six months. Liberal activist groups on a host of disparate topics ranging from the economy, labor-union organizing, homelessness and housing shortages, “anti-racism,” climate change and support for illegal immigrants have suddenly all been speaking with one voice on an issue totally unrelated to their primary purposes.

They are demanding an immediate end to the war on Hamas that Israel has been waging in the Gaza Strip since the Palestinian terrorist group launched a barbaric attack on 22 Jewish communities and the Nova music festival in southern Israel on Oct. 7. Their rhetoric, tactics and lobbying efforts have made no secret of their intense hostility to the Jewish state and their desire to punish it for its efforts to eradicate a group that perpetrated the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust.

There’s no denying the considerable political impact of this movement or its potential to ultimately destroy the U.S.-Israel alliance. But at this point—with the full consequences of this extraordinary coming together of a broad coalition of interest groups still yet to be determined—it’s important to ponder why this happened, and what it means for both American public discourse and the future of the Jewish community in this country.

The coalescence of the American left behind what The New York Times is calling in a major explanatory feature the “pro-Palestine movement” is a remarkable turn of events for a number of reasons. It’s not just that they have all rallied around the stands of some of the most extreme positions on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Nor is it just that the anger of the left has been generated against the response of a democratic nation to an unprovoked attack, including murder, rape, torture, kidnapping and wanton destruction.

Woke origins of a movement

What makes it even more astonishing is that the object of the sympathy of these activists is a radical Islamist group whose values are utterly antithetical to what matters most to left-wingers, including the rights of women and the LBGTQ+ cause. The image of banners proclaiming “Queers for Palestine” may provoke both guffaws and ironic commentary from supporters of Israel, who wryly point out that such persons would be swiftly and cruelly killed by Hamas with the same bloodthirsty fervor that it feels for Jews. But that absurd juxtaposition of opposites is exactly why it’s so important to understand this support for Hamas—and that is exactly what those who advocate for immediate ceasefires in the conflict are doing, whether they want to admit it or not—has gone from marginal to one that is now firmly entrenched in the mainstream of American society.

The ability of radical anti-Israel groups to get virtually everyone on the political left behind them is partly, as the Times explained in its feature on this subject, the result of multi-causation. It happened because Hamas sympathizers are expert manipulators of public opinion and good organizers. It was also made possible by the funding of liberal financiers who are primarily interested in other issues. And there is no underestimating the impact of certain corporate media becoming Hamas’s stenographers by hyping bogus casualty statistics—and almost immediately flipping the narrative of the war from a necessary reaction to unspeakable terrorist atrocities to one about Palestinian victimhood.

The willingness of the left to unite around the cause of preventing the suffering of Hamas and the Palestinians as a result of their decision to launch a brutal war is due to the pervasive influence of what, for lack of a better term, we call “woke ideology.” Without a generation of young liberals being indoctrinated in the toxic ideas behind critical race theory and intersectionality, which falsely identifies Jews and Israel as “white oppressors” and likens the Palestinian war to destroy the Jewish state to the American civil-rights movement, none of this would have happened.

Intimidating Biden

We already know that this movement has shaken up American politics. It has caused President Joe Biden to abandon his initial strong stance behind Israel and agreement in eliminating Hamas. Biden’s threats of aid cuts and no longer preventing the United Nations from turning Israel into a pariah state may well have caused the current pause in the war, just as the administration’s incessant criticisms seemed to have slowed down and imposed restrictions on the campaign to destroy the terrorists in the months that preceded it. Biden has been clearly intimidated by the enormous pushback from Democratic activists both inside and outside his administration, including his campaign staff, with concerns about his ability to win in Michigan, with its large Arab-American and Muslim population at the forefront of his thinking.

This is the result of a general revolt against the backing Biden gave to Israel in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 atrocities. As the Times noted, the left-wing outrage against U.S. support for Israel wasn’t a subsequent reaction to lies about Israeli “genocide” in Gaza since it began in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks and well before the Israel Defense Forces began its counter-offensive.

Nor should we buy the excuse that the anti-Israel fervor is a justified abhorrence for an out-of-control Israeli military campaign or an astoundingly high number of casualties such as had not been seen in a recent war. On the contrary, the Israel-Hamas war is dwarfed by other recent conflicts that took place in Syria or Sudan. And the number of victims is not to be compared to actual genocides such as those that are ongoing in the Congo or the Chinese campaign against Muslim Uyghurs, in which it is estimated that more than a million people have been put into concentration camps. Nor are the losses or the devastation comparable to the slaughter going on in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

What makes this conflict so special is not the scale of the warfare or the especially dire plight of its victims. It’s the fact that the one Jewish state on the planet is one of the combatants. No war involving any European, Arab, Muslim, African or Asian antagonist with no direct American participant has prompted such a response from the American left, including those in which the United States was backing one of the parties, as is frequently the case.

That’s why it is clear that the reason so many Americans who identify with the political left have adopted the Palestinian cause—and forced Biden to abandon Israel—has to do with something other than the objective facts of the conflict. Only by placing the Israel-Hamas war in the context of intersectional ideology and the critical race theory mindset, in which the world is divided into two perpetually warring camps of “white” racist oppressors and “people of color” who are their victims, does this make sense. That’s why virtually every leftist interest group can now be found behind the effort to save Hamas.

The Marxist roots of wokeism also help explain why left-wingers who claim to be against every conceivable kind of prejudice have not only aligned themselves with a vicious and tyrannical hate group like Hamas but also find themselves indifferent to actually supportive of a surge in antisemitism that has blighted American life in the past six months. Despite the persistent attraction of the Jewish left to socialism, Marxist dialectic has, from its origins, viewed Judaism and Jews with suspicion and hostility. The stubborn refusal of Jews to bend to others’ will or simply disappear contradicts the Marxist belief that the homogenization of mankind is part of achieving the dubious goals of its ideology.

And it is the appeal of intersectionality—the false belief that all allegedly oppressed people are part of the same struggle—that has created the ludicrous meme of “Queers for Palestine.”

Soros money behind it

Other factors have contributed to the current shift on the left. As the Times explained, the funding of anti-Israel groups that have taken over the streets of U.S. cities and college campuses by leading liberal philanthropies has been an essential part of this story. Of interest are two major donors leading this effort who have Jewish origins: billionaires Tom Steyer and George Soros.

In recent years, Democrats have denounced any criticism of these two men by Republicans as inherently antisemitic. Soros’s Open Society Foundation is the largest political donor in the world, and he is personally responsible for a national campaign to elect prosecutors who are against jailing criminals who have rendered American cities unsafe for honest citizens. He has funded anti-Israel groups, including those that engage in open antisemitism and even, as in the case of the mislabeled Jewish Voice for Peace, those who trafficked in blood libels against Israel and its Jewish supporters.

But all the leftist money in the world could not have purchased the impact that came from the conquest of American education by progressives whose long march through its institutions has taken critical race theory from the political fever swamps of the far left to a position where it is the reigning orthodoxy in universities, corporations, journalism, popular culture and the fine arts. Without it, the political phenomena that cowed Biden into trying to rescue Hamas by threatening Israel would have been impossible.

The full impact of this movement has yet to be seen. Should Israel ignore Biden’s diktats and (as it must do if it is to protect its people) finish the job of eliminating Hamas, the storm of left-wing outrage and open antisemitism will only increase. Democrats willing to stand against Jew-hatred will grow even fewer and far between. Notably, the anti-Israel protests at this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Chicago will probably eclipse even the violence seen when the party held its convention there in 1968 during the Vietnam War. The Democratic Party—once a stronghold of support for Israel that had already been drifting away from that position for the past two decades—will likely never be the same.

Biden has often said that he entered the 2020 presidential race because of his supposed outrage over the 2017 neo-Nazi “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., which generated the myth that liberals still believe, against all the evidence, that former President Donald Trump claimed was held by “very fine people.” In 2024, the political right has, with few conspicuous exceptions like former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, united behind Israel. The real irony of this election cycle is that it is the political left that has truly united behind the cause of saving a murderous antisemitic terrorist group and its supporters from the consequences of their crimes.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him: @jonathans_tobin.

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Topics
Comments
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates