Oct. 1, 2015
At bottom, the bien-pensant view is that (a) Israel is wrong because it’s strong; (b) Israel has no right to exist because it is a European state in the Muslim Middle East; and (c) Palestinians and fellow Muslims are not responsible for their fate, or their crimes, because they are oppressed victims.
The left hates Israel’s military strength and its willingness to use it for the same reasons it hates American power. As right-thinking cosmopolitans, they would never approve such brutality. Obama captured this perspective in a Freudian slip. “Whether we like it or not,” he explained, “we remain a dominant military superpower.” The left doesn’t like it. They don’t like it in America, and they don’t like it in Israel. As for Russia, China, Iran, or North Korea brandishing military threats, well, let’s not think about that. The threats may vanish from their minds, but they still threaten everybody else with working synapses.
Not only is Israel powerful, the left (like the Muslim world) sees Israel as a remnant of Europe’s crimes: imperialism and the Holocaust. University faculties are preoccupied with imperialism and post-colonial legacies, which they blame for many of the world’s ills. They see Israel through that lens, as a colony of white settlers in an Arab-Muslim region. They blithely ignore the Jewish people’s age-old connection to the land, its continuous presence there, and its central religious significance. And they ignore how many Israelis were driven out of Arab countries, which have become virulently anti-Semitic.
The combination of Israel’s religious heritage, its nationalism, its prosperity, and its unapologetic self-defense combine virtually everything loathed by secular, cosmopolitan intellectuals. That’s why Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech offered such a tepid “defense” of Israel’s right to exist. Israel was needed, he said, because Jews needed somewhere to go after the Holocaust. That is the view of the average professor of French literature: Israel is the bastard child of Europe’s crimes.
In the left’s worldview, Palestinians and fellow Muslims are not seen as agents of their own history, for good or ill. They are righteous victims. This condescending view is grounded in Jean Jacques Rousseau’s gauzy, romantic vision of “noble savages,” not yet cursed by civilization. What can be expected of such people? Their crimes are merely “weapons of the weak.” And who are we, the oppressors, to criticize them? That would commit an unforgivable sin, blaming the victim.
For years, this coalition of anti-Zionists has marched across campuses shouting “Palestine, Palestine, must be free, from the Jordan [River] to the sea.” The state they demand, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, means Israel should disappear completely. So, when Bernie Sanders says Israel has a right to exist, they sit on their hands. Their shameful silence says Israel’s very existence is a no longer a “progressive position.” (h/t Cliff)