Every country’s government and policies should be up for debate, including Israel’s. Despite knowing this to be true, we cannot ignore that anti-Israeli bias exists in North America and it is important that we recognize its origins.
Anti-Israeli bias largely exists in institutions that are predominantly leftist. In academia, professors sign petitions to boycott Israel, students are assigned readings solely from ardent critics of Israel, and conspiracy theories are often endorsed, all contributing to a poisonous atmosphere on campus. In addition, the media has displayed a never-ending obsession with the perceived flaws of the Jewish state and a willingness to downplay the Palestinian role in perpetuating the conflict, with numerous news items published with no basis in fact. Last April, the New York Times published a “news analysis” following the Palestinians’ protest at the Gaza border, referring to the Hamas provocations as an “experiment with nonviolent protest” and choosing to ignore the fighters planting explosives and hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails in an attempt to breach the border.
So why is this happening? And how did it start?
Some would argue that this bias simply comes from anti-Semitic sentiment, misinformation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or political identity displayed by Muslims. While these are all valid arguments deserving an analysis of their own, there is one factor that is rarely mentioned: The Left’s socialist ideology that interpolates the so-influential media and academia.
The root of the American Left’s socialist ideology lies in Marxism, a flawed and unworkable system that aims to bring about a classless society and communist utopia. The American Left sees the United States as a place of property-owners who suppress their inferiors, replete with bigotry, racism, sexism and evil and where institutionalized discrimination is constantly at play. Shaped by romantic idealism, their worldview argues that happiness and a prosperous society can only be achieved by eliminating any differences in status, power and wealth.
Given the sheer volume of American civilizational self-loathing in the mainstream media, it is understandable why this worldview is so attractive and why socialism is once again trendy, especially amongst millennials. Often out of ignorance, they see the Left’s socialist ideology as the solution to all of modern society’s shortcomings.
Many factors contributed to the rise of this counterculture that views Western civilization as inherently repressive, one of which emerged in Germany of the 1920s. The Frankfurt School birthed the development of a group of Marxist intellectuals at the University of Frankfurt in 1923. These intellectuals were hoping for a socialist revolution in Germany, but got the Nazi Party instead. They fled Germany to seek asylum in the U.S. and published a great deal of popular material over the years, including Critical Theory, which is a perpetual criticism of the status quo.
As time progressed, numerous legitimate social advocacy groups, like the Civil Rights Movement, erupted in the US. For the Frankfurt School, this was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of, and the release of Repressive Tolerance in 1965 widely popularized their anti-establishment ideals. The condemnation of institutions of any kind caught on like wildfire in the ranks of leftist movements and universities, primarily due to the greater volume of social activists within the student population.
One of the ideals coined in this time period was the notion of “liberating tolerance”. This ideology defined by Herbert Marcuse, a prominent member of The Frankfurt School, posits that certain forms of speech must to be barred if they belong to a supposedly repressed (namely right-wing) political movements, as freedom was “serving the cause of oppression”. He argued that special privileges must be given to victimized minority groups, “the objective of tolerance would call for the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed”.
A timely comparison today that is rooted in Marcuse’s liberating tolerance, is the concept of political correctness. The dismissal of freedom of speech and avoidance of language that may be insulting to a marginalized group, in spite of science or fact, is just one way of promoting social equality.
Another is Third-Worldism, a variation of Maoism in the context of the developing world. According to this school of thought, the world has been divided into two camps – the rich and powerful First World countries and the poor, long-suffering and weak Third World countries. Both of those camps are constantly in the state of mutual antagonism, where the First World exploits the Third World. Through the lens of this theory which has seeped into the American Left’s consciousness over the past few decades, the people in the Third World are romanticized rebels, soldiers in the army of global resistance against the West’s supposed evil colonialism and tyranny. This unequal relationship must come to an end, with the Third World asking Westerners to see their own civilization as the root of all evil and inequality. The combined effect of “liberating tolerance” and Maoism–Third Worldism theory, highlights a key driver in creating the anti-Israel bias industry, as both ideals restrain freedom of speech and condemn the more powerful of two bodies across all circumstances, without any critical thought.
Much of this reflects a political strategy adopted by the PLO in the early 1960s where they adopted a discourse centered on “freedom fighters” and “the liberation struggle”. This same political strategy is being used today by organizations like BDS and Students for Justice in Palestine. Indeed, For the American Left, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Palestinians are the vanguard in undermining the perceived brutality of the West that Israel symbolizes. As the foundation of the Leftist ideologies suggest, there is a war to be waged and a revolution to support. By putting facts and reason in the backseat and restricting freedom of speech for the privileged, there is a focus on granting a voice to the oppressed minorities and to replace all of the ideals and values Western civilization was founded upon, like democracy, freedom, and rationality. The new and improved values are being called more progressive, with socio-economic equality, multiculturalism and trans-national identity at the forefront.
Nowadays, being a progressive leftist means embracing the fashionable ideals of multiculturalism and trans-national identity and to reject any adherence to ethnic or religious nationalism. At its core, Israel as a country founded by the Zionist movement does not align with that, embodying many features of Jewish nationalism which are a source of pride, not shame. It was less than a year ago, on July 2018, that the Nation-State Bill was adopted by the Knesset – a law that anchors everything that Israel is, and should always be – a nation-state of the Jewish people with Jerusalem as the capital, Hebrew as the official language, Jewish symbols as the flag, anthem and emblem, a Hebrew calendar and an unconditional openness to Jewish immigration. As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, it was “a defining moment in the history of the state”, given the hostile foreign and domestic elements that seek the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.
The leftist ideology of ignoring facts and reason in order to promote equality, while renouncing all the founding values of the greatest civilization in history, is one of the main reasons for the birth and rise of the anti-Israeli bias. As an inherently Jewish state with Jewish values, Israel is and will remain at odds with the new identity of the Leftist West. As long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved and as long as Israel remains a state grounded in Jewish national identity, this bias will continue to rule the Western leftist agendas.
To fight it, we must first acknowledge its origin.