October 10, 2023
For many, this is not the same discomfort as is felt on the Right and in the center, where there is simple horror and instinctive sympathy with terrorized people who otherwise live freely and peaceably in a high-functioning democracy under the rule of law.
For them, appalling cruelty and sadistic gloating by Hamas murderers unambiguously distinguish evil from good. Common decency and humanity incline ordinary people to side with the victims. These swift reflexes are supported by inescapable conclusions based on considered assessment of the facts. Most people see nothing about which to equivocate — and they are right.
Disquiet on the Left, however, often flows from moral confusion and dishonorable calculation. Where concern about Hamas exists at all among “progressives,” it is troublingly alloyed with tactical and strategic considerations rather than arising purely from humane and honorable sympathy.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) is a good example of the repellent type. She tried to have it both ways on Hamas and Israel, saying, “My heart is with all those impacted,” shamefully side-stepping the issue of who are the victims and who the perpetrators. This was obviously to seem statesmanlike in making a public declaration but simultaneously to avoid offending her many Muslim voters.
This was very different from the revulsion expressed by Lawrence Summers, former President Barack Obama’s treasury secretary, when 31 Harvard student groups wholeheartedly supported the killers. When the students held “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,” Summers responded, “In nearly 50 years of @Harvard affiliation, I have never been so disillusioned and alienated as I am today.”
Between the radical students and the former Obama official, with the Michigan governor in between, there is a range of responses ranging from total support for the killers to utter disgust, with contemptible mush in the middle.
Likewise, members of the “Squad” of leftist female Democrats in Congress varied. All called for a “de-escalation” of violence to delegitimize Israel’s justified response when it comes, but all also produced different gradations of nuance. The most intelligent of them, Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), condemned “hatred and antisemitism,” while Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) engaged in the worst sort of bothsidesism by depicting Israeli defensive action as morally equivalent to the grotesqueries of Hamas’s initial attack.
The reason the Left twists itself into these contorted attitudes is that it normally supports Hamas precisely because the terror group detests and seeks to destroy Israel.
The Left’s sympathizers are engaged because Israel is successful, lets its citizens thrive, prosper, and be happy, and protects them as best it can against mortal threats. It is a nation built on what we loosely think of as a Western model, and this gets to the heart of the problem for the Left’s, which cannot abide the West, with its systems of governments and societies that conduce to human flourishing.
Hamas, in contrast, has created a ruthless tyranny in Gaza that immiserates the 2 million Palestinians who live under its thumb, allowing them no choice in how they are governed, no opportunity to prosper, and no chance of living in peace. It indoctrinates children with a vile racial hatred, steeping them in lies as soon as they can walk and talk, so they grow up to be willing and enthusiastic cannon fodder in the effort to destroy Israel while their overlords live in luxurious safety in the Persian Gulf.
The Left wants Israel wiped off the map not despite its being an admirable and successful civilization but because of that success. Similarly, the Left cleaves to Hamas-run Gaza because it is an utter failure. A defining feature of modern progressivism is that it venerates and supports dysfunction and degradation while excoriating and reviling competence, good order, and traditional values. That’s why it hates America.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict fits neatly into the Left’s Manichean moral order, in which backward nations of the “global South” are to be excused and supported because their miserable conditions are allegedly due not to failings of their own but to predation by successful developed democracies.
Through this distorted lens, the awfulness of Gaza has nothing to do with Gazans ruining the functioning territory Israel handed them 18 years ago, then choosing a terrorist government that abandoned elections, tyrannized the populace, and spends all its energy and resources killing Jews.
The Left’s ideology rejects personal responsibility and reflexively blames economic, social, and cultural forces for all inequalities in the lives of different peoples. It is a fundamentally dehumanizing way of thinking. In denigrating success and excusing failure, it is also, of course, naturally revolutionary.
Its problem today is that Hamas’s outrages have helped expose it as a colossal lie.