The mystery of the Left and Israel

Do you sometimes wonder why some segments of the left are so irrationally hostile to Israel.

I do.

And I wish there were simple answers.

One of the strange things about the left’s animosity to Israel is that it absurdly goes against most of the values it purports to believe in.

Try this: those on the left talk about their love of democracy, about their passion for women’s’ and gays’ rights and about their concern for the rule of law.

Yet it’s only Israel that has a robust democracy, an independent judiciary, and civil and political rights for women and for gays in the Mid-East.

Keep in mind that most on the left opposed America’s war on the Taliban, even though it led to the liberation of women from that regime’s horrific treatment.

Here’s another thought: Those who advocate peace with, say Hamas, or Hezbollah, have no real solutions as to how the west should achieve this.

The standard responses are full of misplaced idealism: we should find a common cause, we should ignore their terrorism, we should withdraw, poverty is the core reason (yeah right: Bin Laden did not kill 3000 Americans so America would provide more aid to Africa).

Or, as actor Matthew Modine told CNN a few years ago, we should ask why they hate us: “Imagine if somebody were to really sit down with Osama Bin Ladin and say, “Listen man, what is it that you’re so angry at me about that you’re willing to have people strap bombs to themselves, or get inside of airplanes and fly them into buildings?” That would be the miracle if we can get, sit down and talk to our enemies and have a fine way for them to hear us. “

Yup, a group hug should do it.

This naiveté, this attitude, which causes people to put on the blinders and refuse to see or hear the truth, reminds me of the sentimental, idealistic counter-culture youth of the 1960’s.

Flowers in their hair, holding hands while singing Kumbaya, they preached “make love not war”, believing that if you simply love your enemy things will just work out.

And for the record, I like the 60’s, especially the music.

British historian David Caute correctly points out that the usual arsenal such people hold consists of “double standards and a myopic romanticism.”

There is a segment of the far left that in the face of rejectionism and fundamentalism cannot admit the existence of real evil, of an enemy beyond the reach of reason, of an enemy that can never be appeased.

The late Christopher Hitchens, with whom I rarely agreed, did get this right when he wrote: “The very first step that we must take therefore is an acquisition of enough self-respect and self-confidence to say that we have met an enemy that is not us…with whom co-existence is, fortunately, not possible.”

Of course, it’s easier to conclude that Jews and Israel are the cause of the murderous acts against them.

Discussing the new anti-Semitism, Professor Martin Jay writes that it would foolish to assume that “the victims are in no way involved in unleashing the animosities they suffer.”

Yeah, blame the victims.

Now, here another thought for you to reflect on

When communism in Eastern Europe fell, and South Africa’s apartheid regime was dismantled, those who lost touch with history looked for another cause to rally around.

A tiny country and a few million Jews (keep this mind, 998 out of 1000 people in the world are not Jews) became a tempting and convenient target for these Rip Van Winkles.

After all, the Jewish stereotypes and myths were still alive and well and could be quickly recycled.

And so, the whole debate about the Arab-Israeli dispute was turned upside down.

The Arab states, who imposed an international boycott on Israel, who initiated several wars, who launched and financed terrorist attacks, who refused to accept a Jewish state in the Middle-East, who abandoned the Palestinian refugees and exploited their situation (Jordan held the West Bank for 19 years and could have handed it to the Palestinians so they could have their own state) were given a free pass.

Israel was now the aggressor and the oppressor.

A worldwide campaign to discredit and destroy Israel’s image was pursued.

And then something strange happened.

Some Jews not only started to believe the propaganda, they sought to dodge the negative association being linked with Israel came to mean.

They wanted to escape the role of defending a state, which according to media, was always doing wrong.

And so, the spectacle of Jews publicly and disproportionally censuring Israel, disclaiming any responsibility for Israel’s ‘sins’, lobbying on behalf of Israel’s foes and against Israel became the norm.

Conveniently suffering from historical amnesia, they choose to put Israel on trial, not its repressive enemies, and exhibit a staggering lack of understanding.

Taking the moral high ground and touting their Judaism, they are often the first to blame Israel, the first to call attention to its failings.

In most cases, they are the last, if at all, to express outrage when Israel is attacked.

But the malaise in the left goes deeper.

The problem, as one commentator put it, is that the left are like the man who only wants to look for his wallet where the light is good.

It’s still gripped by a staggering refusal to let the facts get in the way of their unsustainable beliefs about the conflict.

The most glaring example is the insistence that Israel still has negotiating partner in Hamas/Fatah and that Israel withdraw to the Green Line.

When you say, “60% of Israeli citizens and infrastructure lie within a 96 kilometre strip, Ben Gurion Airport would be 6.5 kilometres away from a militarised Palestinian state, vulnerable to rocket attacks as would most of the Israeli coastline” they shrug their shoulders.

When you point out that in 2005 Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and that instead of showing how they could co-exist with Israel, Hamas seized power and inflicted rocket attacks on Southern Israel, they respond that it’s Israeli intransigence to blame.

When you mention the 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon that resulted in Hezbollah moving in and stockpiling missiles that were later used against Israeli cities, but why bother — they are off to post another damning indictment of Israel on their Facebook.

When they say Israel should institute a building freeze, and you point out that in 2009 Netanyahu enacted a 10-month freeze of new construction in West Bank settlements (a move Hilary Clinton described then as “unprecedented”) and Abbas suspended talks, they respond that it’s not enough.

Really? For the last 20 years Israel has offered a series of concessions and evacuated settlements. In return, the Palestinian leadership has not budged on any of its demands regarding the right of return, Temple Mount or borders.

I will let Israeli author A.B Yehoshua, a pillar of the Israeli left, have the last word. More than 25 years ago, he pointed out the dangers of such extreme behaviour:

“When I saw the depths of crazy self- hatred to which some of my leftist friends had sunk, I started thinking. I decided that I would judge Israel by the same standards as I judge the rest of the world— not by absolute standards… I’m afraid of this self-hatred, because I know that it can be exploited. When Englishmen and Frenchmen hate themselves… it doesn’t put their countries at risk.”

Makes sense to me.

About the Author
Dr. Dvir Abramovich is Director of the Program in Jewish Culture and Society at The University of Melbourne and the Israel Kipen Senior Lecturer in Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He is also Chairman of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission. He served as President of Australian Association of Jewish studies and editor of the Australian Journal of Jewish Studies. A widely sought out speaker and media commentator, he has authored and edited three books and numerous articles.