Raymond M. Berger
Real Bullet Points

What is it about liberals that makes them anti-Israel?

While the liberal Western press covers Israeli political corruption in excruciating detail, they treat Arab political corruption as non-existent.

In the US, the left-wing of the Democrat Party is increasingly anti-Israel.

So called Democratic progressives accuse Israel of committing human rights abuses, using “excessive force,” stealing land from Arabs, and refusing to make peace. Some on the left oppose the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state.

Left wing Democrats and their enablers in the liberal media employ a well-worn vocabulary of demonizing words: They say Israel is apartheid, colonialist, and militaristic.

The latest accusation from the left is that Israelis are white supremacists—-this despite the reality that half of Jewish Israelis are refugees from Arab countries and their descendants, and thus are not exactly white.

None of the accusations makes sense. For example, the charge of apartheid is more accurately applied to the treatment of Jews by most Arab countries, where Jews have been repeatedly massacred and routinely discriminated against. In Israel on the other hand, despite some discrimination, Arabs are fully free and their freedoms are guaranteed by the Israeli state.

Despite the millennia-long history of Jews in Arab countries, these countries today are almost entirely Judenrein—-free of Jews—as a result of expulsions, threats and discrimination.

The Liberal-Conservative Divide on Israel across the World

The anti-Israel animus of left-wing governments applies in many places across the world. So for example, the current ruling party in Sweden is liberal and anti-Israel; the conservative opposition supports Israel.

The conservative British government under Teresa May, and now Boris Johnson, has been enthusiastically supportive of Israel. On the other hand, Jeremy Corbin, leader of the left-wing Labor Party, is an outspoken critic of Israel, and has made sympathetic statements about Arab terrorists who have murdered Israelis. He has encouraged a chorus of anti-Semites in the Labor Party.

In Australia, Canada, France and Italy, Israel has found its strongest support among conservatives and some of its harshest critics among liberals.¹

Under liberal President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Argentina allied itself with Iran against Israel and helped the Iranian government continue its cover up of the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aries Jewish Community Center. The new conservative government is pro-Israel and is beginning to act against Iranians who masterminded the bombing.

Not all liberals oppose Israel and not all conservatives support it. But anti-Israel views of liberals and pro-Israel views of conservatives are so pervasive, that this divide should be questioned. Why does it exist?

The answer lies in differing liberal-conservative world views. In what follows I suggest some ways in which these world views determine attitudes toward Israel.

  1. Liberals have a benign view of human nature.

A liberal is more likely than a conservative to tell you that parties to a disagreement can have constructive dialog and resolve differences. More so than conservatives, they are oblivious to the intransigence of centuries-long hatreds. They don’t understand the fanaticism of religious views and the values of people unlike themselves. They are unaware of the role that religious doctrine and clan loyalty play in human events. They put great value on life in the here-and-now and they cannot fathom how others may worship death and place all emphasis on life after death.

All of these views put liberals at a loss to understand the magnitude and intransigence of Jew hatred and Israel-hatred in the Muslim world.

A good example of this liberal-conservative divide are the opposing views of Israelis of Ashkenazi origin—-rooted in European enlightenment values—-versus those of Sephardic or Mizrahi origin, the latter rooted in the Muslim world.

Although less marked today, it has been a truism in Israeli politics that liberal political parties such as Labor draw their support from the Ashkenazim, while conservative parties rely on support from Jews with origins in Arab countries. Ashkenazim, with their Euro-centric world view, believe in the sanctity of human life, rational discourse, enlightened self-interest, negotiation, open attitudes toward human differences, essential human decency and a predictable and rational world.

Jews from Arab countries—-and their descendants—-view these values as naïve. Their harsh experiences at the hands of a brutal Arab culture have taught them that brute force is more powerful than rational self-interest or negotiation. They believe that some conflicts are so deeply rooted that millions of their opponents would rather die than compromise. They understand that these opponents view death as a reward when achieved in service of defeating one’s enemy. Thus they are less likely to support liberal policies of negotiation, appeasement and territorial compromise. They are more sympathetic to Israel and its need to remain firm against Arab onslaughts and international pressure.

  1. Liberals identify with the underdog.

When they see human suffering, liberals seek to make sense of the situation by viewing the weaker party as a victim. And wherever there are victims, there are, of course, perpetrators.  There is a natural human tendency to view the world this way.

When frightening violence breaks out, people seek explanations for it. To the extent that people can believe these explanations, their anxieties are soothed. If Jews are blown up on Israeli busses, that need not affect the liberal. He tells himself he would never oppress a group of victims. Thus he is safe from retribution by those victims.

The victim-oppressor narrative is reinforced by the liberal’s desire to be a rescuer. The rescuer role brings with it many benefits. Some are psychological—-for example, feeling powerful and morally superior. Other benefits are social. Chief among these is virtue signaling. By taking the side of the victim, the rescuer tells the world he is a decent, moral and caring person—-even in the absence of self-sacrifice or concrete action on behalf of victims. Virtue signaling is all benefit and no effort.

Thus, the liberal narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that the Jews are perpetrators and the Arabs, victims. This view is reinforced by academics, politicians and journalists. Poor Palestinian governance and a warlike attitude guarantee that Palestinians will lag behind Jews on economic and social well-being, so that the liberal will always see Palestinians as victims. At the same time, Israeli defensive actions—-checkpoints, military operations to ferret out terrorists, the Gaza blockade, and so on—-convince the liberal that Jews are the bad guys.

Conservatives, on the other hand, believe in personal responsibility for life’s circumstances. They are thus more likely to consider Arab contributions to their own suffering.

  1. Liberals have weak self-identities.

Liberals put greater moral worth on the values and behaviors of people unlike themselves. Thus, liberals believe that people in the developing world—-including Arabs—-have views and attitudes that are superior to those in the West. And Jews are seen as Western actors.

This explains a general phenomenon: When things go wrong in the developing world, liberals believe that is due to western aggression, colonialism, white supremacy, militarism or economic exploitation. A liberal is unable to see the ways in which people in the developing world create and contribute to their own problems. So for example, while the liberal Western press covers Israeli political corruption in excruciating detail, they treat Arab political corruption as non-existent.

Conservatives are more like to have a balanced view of international relations. In addition to the sins of Westerners, they also see the flaws of third world governance and the benefits that Western influence has had on the developing world. Thus, they see Israel, a Western nation, in a more positive light.

  1. Liberals are egocentric.

More so than conservatives, liberals understand international conflicts in terms of their own values and perspectives, as if people from all cultures share their values. This egocentric stance leaves liberals unprepared to understand many world conflicts.

I once heard liberal actor Robert Redford say about the Muslim riots in France: “These Arab youth need job programs.” This reflected Redford’s understanding of “urban riots” in purely Western terms.

Those who truly understand Muslim riots in France know that this is a false narrative. The real problem is the deep seated hatred of Muslim youth for French culture, due to their belief in Muslim superiority, their humiliation at the hands of the infidel Europeans, and France’s brutal history of repression in North Africa. Give the rioting Muslim youth good jobs and all you will have given them is more money to carry out revenge attacks against the French.

A similar dynamic is at play in liberals’ views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Speaking of the conflict, I have heard liberal friends say, “After all, Arabs and Jews all want the same thing for their children.” Some do.

But many Arabs believe in Jewish inferiority, the unacceptability of Muslims living under Jewish rule, the need to seek revenge, and the glorification of the afterlife. Thus, a Jewish mother likely hopes her son will marry, get a good job and raise a family. I imagine many Arab mothers feel the same way. But an alarming number of them, including prominent Palestinians such as Yasser Arafat’s wife, proclaim publicly that their greatest hope for their sons is that they will become martyrs—-that is, they will murder Jews to assure honor to their family and a coveted place for themselves in the afterlife.²

Conservatives—-aware that in many places in the world, people do not share their views—-are better able to understand this.

  1. Liberals have a collectivist mentality.

Many collectives—-the United Nations, the European Union, university intelligentsia, and liberal human rights groups—-have identified Israelis as the culprits in the Israeli-Arab conflict. It is almost impossible for liberals to resist the siren call of these seemingly legitimate voices.

A corollary to this is that liberals believe the Israeli-Arab conflict can only be solved by a collectivist solution. So it is common to hear liberals say, “Why doesn’t Israel obey the United Nations, give up territory and thereby solve the conflict?”

A well-informed conservative is unlikely to fall into this trap. That is, he is unlikely to believe that the UN has true moral authority or that its decisions have anything to do with keeping the peace.

Conservatives know that international conflicts are not resolved by nice-sounding resolutions or territorial concessions. They know that the UN is a collection of competing interests dominated by the Non-Aligned Movement, that is, by countries that are often anti-Semitic, are Muslim countries, or are dependent on oil from Arab states hostile to Israel.

Conservatives understand the particularistic—-rather than collectivist—-nature of securing a nation’s peace and security. They understand that coercion is the key element in keeping one’s enemies at bay. It involves threats of harm to the enemy; military actions; harsh economic measures (such as sanctions and embargoes); and projecting a nation’s strength.

Liberals believe in group solutions that involve decency, collaboration and compromise. Conservatives understand that this view is naïve and ineffective.

By necessity, Israel’s enemies have forced it to pursue particularistic solutions—-for example, the pre-emptive attacks of the June 1967 war, the bombing of the Iraqi and Syrian nuclear reactors, the invasion of Southern Lebanon, and constant military efforts to neutralize terrorist forces, including Iranian-backed proxies. In all cases these actions were particularistic: they were undertaken without the agreement or participation of allies. They were seen as lacking international legitimacy and were widely condemned by the international community.

Conservatives understand—-but liberals do not—-that without these particularistic solutions, Israelis would have faced genocide long ago.

Those who opine about the Israeli-Arab conflict would do well to understand a simple truth. The views of liberals and conservatives about the conflict are determined in large part by characteristics that have more to do with them than they have to do with Israelis and Arabs.

Footnotes

  1. Pipes, D. Who Supports Israel-Conservatives or Liberals? New York Post. September 3, 2003.

Retrieved August 10, 2019 from:

https://www.meforum.org/4177/who-supports-israel-conservatives-or-liberals

  1. Suha Arafat, wife of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, had only one child, a daughter. Speaking in praise of suicide bombers (martyrs) she told a London-based newspaper that “there would have been ‘no greater honour’ than sacrificing her son to the Palestinian struggle for independence if she had one.”

Arafat’s Wife Hails Martyrdom. News 24 Archives. April 12, 2002. Retrieved August 14, 2019 from: https://www.news24.com/xArchive/Archive/Arafats-wife-hails-martyrdom-20020412

About the Author
The author is a life-long Zionist and advocate for Israel. He believes that a strong Jewish state is invaluable, not only to Jews, but to the world-wide cause of democracy and human rights. Dr. Berger earned a PhD in Social Welfare from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has twenty-seven years of teaching experience. He has authored and co-authored three books as well as over 45 professional journal articles and book chapters. His parents were Holocaust survivors.
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