As with any extreme, the far left has proven to be polarizing and reductive, prioritizing ideology over pragmatism, neglecting nuances, and shunning any dissent. Academic institutions have further exacerbated extreme leftism by centering identity politics and equipping students with an arsenal of language that simplifies social and political issues into binaries: oppressed vs oppressor, indigenous vs colonizer, imperialism vs anti-imperialism. These dichotomies are zero-sum and, within these binaries, it is abundantly clear which side needs to be uplifted and which needs to be dismantled. This Western-centric framework of understanding weaponizes the power imbalance between warring parties, assigning blame to the side they deem to be more powerful and victimhood to the weaker side. With the assumption of absolute victimhood and perceived powerlessness comes the implicit insinuation of helplessness, even incompetence – ironic given the left’s stated goals of uplifting the oppressed.
There are few geopolitical conflicts more controversial than Israel-Palestine and both leftwing academia and public discourse have failed to equip the peanut gallery with the appropriate lens of analysis and language to unpack it. Quite the opposite, extreme leftist ideology has contributed to the polarity of the conflict with its reductive perspective and an Americanized framework of understanding, eroding a more comprehensive grasp of its roots as well as the aspirations of the parties involved. Perhaps the most notable effect of far-leftism within the discourse of Israel-Palestine is the deeply ironic and inherently racist infantilization of the Palestinian people. This condescending mindset has become more evident post-October 7th when far-left hardliners hold Israel fully responsible for the current humanitarian disaster in Gaza, justify the violence of the recent massacre as resistance, and demand for a ceasefire rather than Hamas to surrender. In this way, the ultra-leftwing inadvertently coddles Palestinians by denying the agency of the people and leadership, framing them as perpetual victims, and sanitizing terrorism as the only option for achieving liberation.
Far left activists have revealed the bigotry of their low expectations for Palestinians and their leadership by holding Israel singularly responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza in the aftermath of October 7th, even though Hamas, the Islamist terrorist organization which serves as the de-facto government of the Palestinians in Gaza, knew that their attack would galvanize a strong military response that would impact Palestinian civilians. A government is responsible for anticipating the repercussions of an offensive attack, weighing the costs and gains in their decision-making, and preparing to protect its civilians in the event of retaliation. Still, Hamas initiated the October 7th invasion and massacre with the knowledge that Israel’s military capabilities far surpass their own and that an Israeli response would be devastating to Gaza. In fact, a senior Hamas official, Khaled Mashal said the organization was “aware of the consequences” of their bloody massacre.
Yet, in the few years they spent planning the attack, Hamas did not build any infrastructure like bomb shelters to protect Palestinian civilians or stockpile food, water, and medical supplies for humanitarian relief. Before Israel launched its ground invasion, Mashal was asked about what Palestinian civilians should do if that occurred, to which he said: “Allah will protect them”. Hamas did, however, build a network of tunnels solely for their use to evade Israeli airstrikes and hoard supplies for their combatants. Thus, it is clear that Hamas’ initiation of hostilities on October 7th was an act of provocation intended to elicit a disproportionate response from Israel to radicalize moderates and garner global sympathy and support. This strategy sees civilians as disposable, serving them up on a platter for sacrifice as a necessary price for the greater cause of “freeing Palestine”. The extreme left, however, appears to have conveniently forgotten Hamas’ role in initiating this war at all, instead choosing to point the finger at Israel while the Israelis who were taken hostage by Hamas on October 7th are nothing more than a footnote in their narrative.
In line with the overly simplistic framework of identity politics, the far left had already assigned blame to Israel even before they retaliated. According to their reasoning, Israel’s very existence positions them as the perpetual villain and Palestinians as permanent victims, regardless of circumstance. This logical fallacy is because their understanding of power dynamics is limited to European colonialism and an Americanized view of race that incorrectly classifies Israelis as being all white and all-powerful and Palestinians as brown and helpless. Their inability to fathom that power imbalances can exist outside of proximity to whiteness prevents a full understanding of the conflict and holds Palestinians to lower standards than Israelis. This racialized oversimplification fails to recognize that the oppressed can also be oppressive and have the power to inflict harm even upon themselves. Extreme leftists’ positioning of Palestinians as a deadbeat actor in this conflict who can do no wrong while simultaneously racializing them reinforces the racist narrative that brown people are inept and dependent on white saviorism.
In another failure to its people for which Israel takes the fall, Hamas misappropriates humanitarian aid. Despite receiving $40 billion in aid from 1994 to 2020, which is more aid per capita than post-war Europe received under the Marshall Plan, Gaza has zero bomb shelters for civilians, deteriorating water infrastructure and a consistently high unemployment rate. While external factors, such as the joint blockade by Israel and Egypt and war-related infrastructure damage, contribute to the lack of economic development, the more immediate concern is internal. Palestinian leaders, particularly in Hamas, take the lion’s share of aid for personal use and divert the rest into rockets and ammunitions. This is evidenced in the enormous net worth of Palestinian leaders, totaling to billions of dollars, and the heartbreaking scenes of Palestinian civilians scrambling for food and water while Hamas continues to fire a seemingly-endless supply of rockets at Israel. Even so, Palestinian leaders are not held accountable by radical leftists. On the contrary, they are viewed as victims, in need of sympathy and support, rather than human beings with the capacity to be held to the same standards as Israelis.
The framing of Palestinians as unconditionally blameless but also incompetent effectively excuses Palestinian terrorism. What is worse than excusing terrorism, however, is glorifying and celebrating it. On October 7th, while 1200 dead Israelis were still warm, ultra-leftwing organizations around the world released statements that glorified the massacre and sanitized the acts of terrorism as necessary resistance. The Harvard Palestinian Solidarity Committee, for example, published a statement on Instagram on October 8th, saying: “We hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence”. In an even more flagrant disregard for Jewish lives and suffering, on October 8th, Black Lives Matter’s Chicago chapter posted a graphic of a paraglider with the words “I stand with Palestine”, referencing the Hamas terrorists that infiltrated Israel by a paragliding over the border on October 7th. To these radical-leftist organizations, the barbaric atrocities that Hamas committed were nothing less than what was to be expected of a dispossessed people with less power than their counterpart.
To be clear: the key differentiator between terrorism and legitimate resistance is deliberately targeting non-combatants versus military targets. By conflating terrorism with resistance in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the far left posits that indiscriminate violence is the only language Palestinians can communicate and understand. This is quite a low bar and certainly not the same standard to which Israelis are held. Thus, the ultra-leftwing will always condemn Israel’s military actions irrespective of the context and always celebrate Palestinian terrorism under the guise of resistance.
Furthermore, despite Hamas instigating the most recent outbreak of violence that violated the ceasefire established in May 2023, left-wing organizations and activists are advocating for another ceasefire rather than insisting on Hamas’s surrender. Given Hamas’ consistent track record of breaking ceasefires, it is fair to assume that the calls for a ceasefire are aimed exclusively at Israel. Asking Israel to cease firing rather than Hamas to lay down its weapons and release the hostages reminds me of when I would argue with my little sister and my parents chastised me for even engaging rather than her for picking a fight. In that scenario, I was expected to be more mature than my younger sister and to take the “high road”, which often felt unfair. The difference here, however, is that the Palestinian leadership is not a little child and should not be treated as such while they aspire to become an official state.
In this way, Palestinians and their leadership are never prompted to take responsibility for their own actions and acknowledge their role in the intractability of the conflict. While Israel also certainly plays a part in the cycle of violence and setbacks, they are routinely held accountable by the international community and reprimanded. Without Palestinians recognizing their own shortcomings, they are destined to repeat the same mistakes which have yielded the same disappointing outcomes in the peace process.
In fact, following the attack on October 7th, many leftist activists responded with: “well, what did you expect after years of oppression?”. I’m so glad they asked: I expect Palestinians not to rape and butcher Israeli civilians. I expect Palestinians to adhere to the laws of war by not converting hospitals, mosques and schools into weapons caches and terrorist command posts. Most importantly, I expect the Palestinian leadership to have a major reality check in which they accept that Israel exists and is not going anywhere. By accepting these truths, the Palestinian leadership can and should strategize how they fit into the equation while achieving their own self-determination as is their right.
While you could argue that Hamas is not a state actor and, therefore, should not be held to the same standards as Israel, which is a sovereign country, that logic negates the whole “free Palestine” argument which, in part, advocates for Palestinian statehood. If you want to be a state, act like one. Put in the work to build a functioning society and economy. Establish a fair and effective governance system that provides for the needs of the people. Encourage and appreciate cultural and religious diversity to repair internal division and promote community engagement in political processes. Develop infrastructure that is exclusively for civilian use.
Ultimately, patronizing Palestinians and failing to recognize their hand in the conflict does little to truly uplift them and only further entrenches the divide between Jews and Palestinians who ultimately need to partner together to achieve peace. Furthermore, by oversimplifying the conflict and negating the diverse perspectives and agency within the Palestinian community, the ultra-leftwing stance hinders constructive dialogue, narrows the discourse on Palestinian aspirations, and negates inclusive approaches that could contribute to a more sustainable, peaceful path toward statehood.