After the tragedy, the farce.
While Israelis and Palestinians bury their dead, pundits and activists in America are busy contradicting their principles to advance their political claims.
Take America’s self-proclaimed free speech warriors on the right and the so-called intellectual dark web – you know, the ones who rail against it Cancel culture and triggered censorship, earned millions of dollars, and complained about being excluded from the institutions of journalism.
Suddenly, after the votes of the far left were eliminated, the reaction was… mixed.
Meanwhile, the left’s tactics and rhetoric contradict everything progressives stand for when it comes to solidarity and security, and at times result in outright anti-Semitism.
Case in point: Harvard University, where a group of left-wing students made a (in my opinion) outrageous, short-sighted and offensive comment opinion They hold Israel “fully responsible” for Hamas’s massacre of over 1,400 Israeli civilians, including the elderly, babies and, as it turns out, numerous Peace activists as well as.
There is much about this statement that is repulsive: it conflates legitimate resistance with the kidnapping of infants and grandmothers, denies Hamas its moral agency (after all, they cannot be expected to engage in moral reasoning), and doesn’t even mention the slaughter part innocent civilians.
But even if the statement is false, offensive and even borderline anti-Semitic in its gross indifference to the mass murder of Jews, it is ultimately a political speech.
But in response, students have had their job offers rescinded, been tortured (exposing them to death threats and harassment), and confronted by far-right trolls Calls of CEOs to blacklist them.
Meanwhile, Harvard, for the sin of not condemning the students (the president of Harvard did this). condemn the attacks and rightly stated that student organizations do not speak for the university), was widely condemned even by donors and donors at least one Jewish foundation to withdraw their support. (Notably, there was widespread support for this reverse BDS decision among my online cohort of mostly liberal American Jews.)
This is cancel culture on a grand scale: Unpopular political opinions are met with reprisals, firings, harassment, and worse. And it’s not just Harvard—similar controversies are brewing at Columbia, Penn, and elsewhere.
And yet “classic liberal” YouTube host Dave Rubin has called for pro-Palestine protesters deported, retweeting a silly post comparing this week’s Jewish Voice for Peace protest at the Capitol to the January 6th insurrection. (Another alleged free speech absolutist, Ben Shapiro, retweeted Rubin’s remark.) Newsweek senior editor-in-chief Josh Hammer tweeted a video of a protest outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, with the text: “Every single person here who supports Hamas and is not a US citizen should be deported immediately.” (Meghan McCain retweeted it.)
To be fair, there are also voices who apply the principles of free expression even to offensive speech. “Let the activists hold their vile rallies,” advised Thomas Chatterton Williams The Atlantic. FIRE, the civil libertarian, heavily Koch-funded free speech organization, has defended the right to freedom of expression for pro-Palestinian voices and “recommends a pause” on companies that want to punish students for exercising their right to free speech.
And Bari Weiss’s Free Press site ran a Piece by Nadine Strossen (formerly of the ACLU) and Pamela Paresky entitled “Anti-Semites Deserve Free Speech, Too.” (Weiss herself used Columbia professor Joseph Massad’s recent extreme remark to continue her 20 years of work feud with him and does not appear to have condemned the widespread suppression of left-wing voices.)
And because irony really isn’t dead, the center/right has even tried to adopt a rhetorical turn from the left and complain that pro-Palestinian professors are creating a hostile, “unsafe” environment for Jewish students.
Certainly this is sometimes true, as was the case with a lecturer at Stanford University left Jewish students standing in a corner, claiming that Israel is doing this to the Palestinians. Meanwhile, left-wing students who last month focused on ensuring every campus is a safe place for everyone have done so harassed and targeted Jewish students in a disgusting way. So much for “your opinions unsettle me.”
It is also true that some statements are not just political statements, but rather (potentially criminal) calls for violence. For example, a professor at UC Davis required Harassment or violence against “Zionist journalists” on the grounds: “They have houses with addresses and children in school.” They may fear their bosses, but they should fear us even more.” This is frightening and way outside the bounds of the civil discourse.
But it’s not like a professor supports Palestine ipso facto hostile toward Jewish students, who are portrayed as snowflakes that melt when exposed to anti-Israel opinions. Part of the problem is the efforts of some Jewish organizations (often aimed at their right-wing donors) to define as anti-Semitic any speech that “demonizes” or “delegitimizes” Israel. But that’s simply not trueno matter how many times it is repeated.
Jewish Voice for Peace is an anti-Zionist Jewish organization. Are they all self-haters, trapped in a neurosis of internalized anti-Semitism? Or are they actually sincere Jewish people with extreme left-wing political opinions?
To reiterate, not only did I find the Harvard students’ letter poorly worded, but it was also personally painful to read, especially since it came out while I was at a festival I attended a few years ago , flipped through videos of murder and kidnapping. But should all of these students be canceled? Doxxed? Pilloried?
And conversely, is it not possible for left-wing activists to express their solidarity with Palestine without equating all Jews with right-wing Zionists, bullying and mocking us while we are still suffering from the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust? The left has done more to alienate progressive Jews in the last two weeks than in the last 20 years.
Of course, neither left-wing activists nor American Jews are the real victims here. The victims are thousands of dead, kidnapped, orphaned or traumatized Palestinians and Israelis caught between two extremist governments that reject the very idea of coexistence and do everything to undermine it.
It seems like many Americans behave the same way.