Why the Left seems to think it’s perfectly acceptable for Jews to die in the name of Palestinian self-determination
By: Richard L. Cravatts
Even for Congressional Democrats who, in recent years, have shown a growing animosity and even cruelty toward Israel, last week’s effort to remove $1 billion of funding to maintain Israel’s Iron Dome defense system was particularly grotesque. Congressional “Squad” members, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and including Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), pressured the Democratic House leadership to strip funding to Israel for this key military technology that tracks and intercepts incoming rockets and has a success rate of doing so of over 90 percent.
It is one thing to seek to deprive a country of offensive weapons out of a wish to minimize further conflict, reduce casualties of that country’s enemies, or based on a record of abusive or disproportionate use of weaponry in previous military engagements. But Iron Dome is a defensive weapon, which, in neutralizing incoming and potentially lethal rockets, saves Israeli lives by ensuring that Hamas rockets never reach their intended targets. It also, of course, saves Arab lives, as well, since the inevitable political and military Israeli response to high numbers of its citizens’ casualties that might well occur in Iron Dome’s absence would be more aggressive and prolonged retaliation against Hamas, along with unfortunate, but inevitable, civilian casualties—especially since Hamas regularly (and in violation of international law) embeds itself and fires its rockets from Gazan neighborhoods, mosques, hospitals, and other non-military locations.
Any sentient being understands that Iron Dome reduces deaths of both Israelis and Palestinians, and therefore its use ought to be continued and supported, but not, apparently, the radical Leftist Squad, whose decision to push for these funding cuts cannot be explained away by any other interpretation than that these members of Congress do not care at all about Jewish lives and are willing to sacrifice them in a hollow, though long professed, desire to promote Palestinian self-determination. In seeking social justice for the Arabs, these policymakers, and their fellow Israel-hating travelers, wish to level the playing field of military engagement, favoring the weak in the name of equity and justice.
One moral challenge in asymmetrical war is that observers in the world community, apparently including the Squad, intuitively feel that Israel’s disproportionate military strength makes the conflict fundamentally “unfair,” that because it is technologically and logistically able to exact more harm on the Palestinians, Israel should always restrain itself to minimize enemy casualties. That may be a compelling emotional response, but it is, of course, not a legal or moral argument with any weight. In fact, it is precisely because of Israel’s military superiority that a rational adversary would have been deterred from attacking in the first place.
In May, as will be remembered, during the latest escalation of the conflict, Hamas and Islamic Jihad had fired more than 4300 rockets at Israeli neighborhoods from the Gaza strip. While more than 1,500 of those rockets were successfully targeting Israeli citizens, it was only because of Iron Dome’s efficiency in neutralizing more than 90 percent of these rockets that there were not more casualties. Even though it was Hamas’s aggression and lethal belligerency that initiated the renewed fighting, on university campuses, unsurprisingly, dozens of statements were issued that grotesquely proclaimed support for Hamas through Palestinian solidarity and denounced Israel for its aggression, disproportionate response, and overall perfidy in its attempt to protect its citizenry from being slaughtered.
A statement from a group of Rutgers University faculty, as one odious example, refers to the imbalance in the military might of both parties, pointing to the unfairness of Israel’s strength and justifying Hamas’s terrorism as a justifiable and understandable tactic of the weak. In its May 23rd statement, “We Stand in Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” the virtue-signaling faculty made the same assumption that the Squad did in seeking to strip Israel of the use of Iron Dome; that is, because they disapprove of Israel’s policies and military strength, they excuse—and, in fact, celebrate—the Palestinians’ use of terror, precisely because Israel, in their minds, is too strong, too powerful, and unlawful in being an occupying power.
“While we mourn the loss of civilian life in Israel,” the statement disingenuously asserts, “we also refuse to engage narratives that demand an ‘equal sides’ approach to a fundamentally unequal reality. The demand to center Israel’s right to ‘self-defense’ erases the colonial context and delegitimizes the Palestinian right to resistance and to self-defense, both principles enshrined in international law.”
The Rutgers faculty and the supporters of the bill to deny Israel Iron Dome share one common view: terrorism against the Jewish state is acceptable, in their minds, because they devalue Israel’s existence and because justice for the Palestinians is desirable—at any cost—including Jewish lives. Why should Israel have the advantages of modern technology and weaponry—even with strictly defensive purposes—if the ever-aggrieved Palestinians are dispossessed, occupied, suppressed, and stateless? Why should Israelis be spared the threat of being murdered in their homes, schools, discos, and pizza parlors if terrorists—and their apologists—have decided they have a moral and legal right to carry out such acts because they seek social justice and are victims, it is falsely asserted, of Zionism’s imperialism, colonialism, and militarism?
This explains why the Left has regularly glossed over terroristic behavior on the part of Islamists—Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah, the Al Aqsa Brigades, or others—and has romanticized this violence as “resistance.” But that idealized world requires that state actors behave in rational ways, something that is clearly absent in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in which theology, apocalyptic views of the world, a longing for martyrdom, and genocidal ethnic hatred underlie the ideology of Israel’s current enemies, all of whom are terrorist groups and not conventional armies.
This rationalization, that violence is an acceptable, if not welcomed, component of seeking social justice—that is, that the inherent “violence” of imperialism, colonialism, or capitalism will be met by the same violence as the oppressed attempt to throw off their oppressors—is exactly the style of self-defeating rationality that in this age has proven to be an intractable part of the war on terror. America-hating and Israel-hating academics and policymakers have not infrequently wished for harm to come to these countries at the hands of the victim groups to whom they readily give their sympathies. They frequently, and mistakenly, ascribe to poverty and helplessness the inclination to lead to terrorism on the part of otherwise weak and oppressed individuals. And, like Leftist apologists for other examples of revolutionary violence, they see an opportunity for the tables to be turned on the oppressors and an equal distribution of suffering to be brought about in the resulting power shift.
Additionally, the Left’s being in the thrall of multiculturalism has meant that radical members of Congress like the “Squad,” not to mention university faculty and students, have been seeped in an ideology that refuses to demarcate any differences between a democratic state struggling to protect itself and aggressive, genocidal foes who wish to destroy it with their unending assaults. For the multiculturalist Left, the moral strengths of the two parties are equivalent, even though the jihadist foes of Israel, for example, have waged an unending struggle with the stated aim of extirpating the Jewish state through the murder of Jews.
Thus, this inclination to worship multiculturalism forces liberals to make excuses for those cultures which have obvious, often irredeemable, moral defects, such as the Islamist foes who currently threaten Israel and the West.
It also, apparently, justifies stripping Israel of its very right to defend its citizens from being murdered by the genocidal impulses of Hamas, even when those defensive weapons protect Arab and Muslim lives as well as those of Jews. But in the name of social justice, only the suffering, human rights, justice, and very lives of the downtrodden Palestinians are of interest to Leftist radicals, and if Jews have to die as part of Palestinian self-determination, so be it.
If this is not naked anti-Semitism played out very publicly so that anyone with a moral compass can see it, then nothing is.
Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.