On Saturday morning in southern Israel, Hamas murdered hundreds of people at a music festival and kidnapped others at gunpoint to serve as human shields in Gaza. On Sunday afternoon in Midtown Manhattan, a speaker at a rally of pro-Palestinian and left-wing groups celebrated that atrocity — one of thousands suffered by Israelis over the past few days, which we later learned included the killing of babies and toddlers.
“As you might have seen, there was some sort of rave or desert party where they were having a great time, until the resistance came in electrified hang gliders and took at least several dozen hipsters,” a speaker said. “But I’m sure they’re doing very fine despite what The New York Post says.” He was met with cheers.
I went to see the rally for myself: Would there be even perfunctory condemnation of Hamas’s methods? A brief nod of sympathy to Israel’s anguish? Some banal nod to the cause of peace and nonviolence? Not that I heard. What I saw was giddiness and gloating, as if someone’s team had won the World Cup. Hamas had perpetrated the largest single-day massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, and the crowd was euphoric.
Similar scenes unfolded across the world. In London, an estimated 5,000 demonstrators gathered near the Israeli embassy and shot off fireworks toward the building. At a rally at the Sydney Opera House in Australia, chants of “Free Palestine” gave way to the underlying emotion: “Fuck the Jews.” At Harvard, almost three dozen campus groups issued a joint statement holding “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” A statement from Yalies4Palestine insisted that “Breaking out of a prison requires force, not desperate appeals to the colonizer.”
Whatever else might be said about these demonstrations and declarations, give the protesters and manifesto writers points for honesty. “Pro-Palestine,” to many of them, is pro-Hamas. “Anti-occupation” is opposition to Israel’s right to exist in any form. Israelis are guilty by virtue of being Israelis, so their murder and humiliation is something to laugh at. When “Zionism Is Genocide,” as placards at the demonstration put it, then no means are too awful to put a stop to it.
If twice as many Israelis had been murdered on Saturday, would it have chastened the demonstrators or made them doubly glad, by the algorithm in which the terminally self-righteous become cheerleaders for slaughter?
Not all the far left was quite as far gone. The New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America had promoted the rally on social media, but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the group’s most prominent member, denounced the rally and issued a 66-word statement in which she condemned “Hamas’s attack in the strongest possible terms.”
That was followed by a demand for “an immediate cease-fire and de-escalation.” Someone should tell the New York congresswoman: To call for a cease-fire, now, is to shield the killers from consequences and deny their victims the right to effective self-defense. It is, in the language of the old left, “objectively” pro-Hamas, even as it masquerades as a call for peace.
Something similar must be said about a much broader swath of the left that looks in heartfelt horror at what happened on Saturday but rarely stops to wonder whether it played any role in creating the moral and intellectual climate for what has unfolded.
I’m talking about the bien-pensant for whom anti-Zionism — not just legitimate opposition to various aspects of Israeli policy, but the denial of Israel’s right to exist in any form — is a respectable political position, rather than simply an updated form of antisemitism. I’m talking about United Nations rapporteurs and once-great human-rights organizations who traffic in the lie that Israel deliberately created an “open-air prison” in Gaza, never mind that Gaza shares a border with Egypt, or that Israel vacated the territory nearly 20 years ago only to be repaid by endless assaults from above and below the ground.
I’m talking about the university presidents who stand for free speech when it comes to antisemitism but become notably censorious when it comes to other forms of controversial speech. I’m talking about the political leaders who repeatedly promise solidarity with Israel only to quickly demand restraint when Israel seeks to destroy the infrastructure by which Hamas maintains its war machine. I’m talking about narratives that seem calibrated to create the outrageous impression that Israeli soldiers deliberately kill Palestinian children. I’m talking about the people whose fury at the Israeli government never seems to abate but who barely pause to observe that Hamas is a dictatorship of religious zealots or that President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority is a fulminating antisemite.
Taken separately, none of this directly threatens a single Israeli life. Taken together, it goes far to explain how Israel, the nation of the Jews, is routinely treated, as some have said, like “the Jew of nations,” with consequences spelled in blood. If some of the anti-Israel left find themselves looking on in horror at what happened on Saturday, now is a good time for them to take a long, hard look at themselves.