By: Tamara Yeshurun  | 

 The Paradox of Islamist Progressivism

I used to think that there were two types of anti-Israel sentiment.

In conversations with my family and friends, I remember insisting that the jihadist terror bloc, hell-bent on the destruction of the Jewish state, was very different from — even unrelated to — the righteous criticism launched by political progressives. The former was psychotic; the latter was simply misguided.

Of course, I was aware that Israel had fallen out of the good graces of the progressive left. Everybody knew that. But while it was obviously impossible to negotiate with terror groups who sought the annihilation of the Jewish people, I still felt that it was possible to have a coherent conversation with proponents of human rights. Right-wing voices might even do well to listen to them on occasion, I thought.

At any rate, I was sure that most liberal Westerners would sympathize with Israeli victims of terror. Their apparent apathy toward the stabbing attacks, car rammings, bus bombings, and abductions of Israeli citizens was the fault of poor media coverage, which placed the Gaza Strip and the West Bank center stage. Surely politically progressive Americans — for whom offensive speech is often treated as violence — would see brutal acts of terror as a complete disservice to the Palestinian cause, and a total violation of human rights. If only they were aware of them! 

Repeatedly, I reasoned the ways in which the two forces of genocidal antisemitism and passionate activism were disconnected, existing on entirely different planes. It was clear that Hamas did not desire peace and coexistence, but Americans who raised Palestinian flags and wept for the occupation, wanted it more than anything. Hamas’s brutality only delegitimized the plight of the Palestinian people, who would continue to suffer at the hands of those very same tyrants. Ignorant and impassioned, the progressive left’s trust of the leadership in Gaza merely betrayed naïveté, not malicious intent. 

But I have changed my mind.

Seven months after Oct. 7, I am done speculating whether or not these protestors are aware of what, precisely, they are advocating for. Though they do not use the language of fundamentalist Islam, their fanaticism is alarmingly cultish. We have seen the riots on the streets, the encampments at universities, the vandalized monuments, the harassment of Jewish students, the silencing of dissent, the closing of doors to Zionist professors, the casual swastikas at pro-Palestinian demonstrations. It speaks for itself: these people are not seeking peace. They are seeking a world where the State of Israel does not exist, and they shout it with pride. They laud the bloodbath from last October. Their mantras of “believe all women” do not apply to the Israeli women brutally raped and tortured by Palestinian terrorists on that day. If progressive anti-Zionism and jihadist antisemitism ever were separable, they are no longer.

The alliance between the two movements is incredibly bizarre. Culturally speaking, left-wing progressivism is the crooning voice of the gentle parent, the defender of the marginalized, the bastion of the participation trophy, the “ones who speak for the trees.” The progressive left is the bitter enemy of fundamentalist religion, in particular for the latter’s historic bigotry against women and the LGBTQ+ community. In many ways, it has also presented itself as history’s radical repulsion of fascist ideology. The Third Reich idealized the straight white male; identity politics spits on him. Where Germany was hyper-nationalist, progressivism is anti-nationalist. The Nazis worked to eliminate homosexuals, people with special needs and people of color; whereas the progressive left positively dotes upon them. 

How could it be that proponents of utmost sensitivity would embrace tactics of intimidation and rage? What could ally a movement which despises religious radicalism with a group of religious radicals? How on Earth did Jews become the lone exception in what appears to be the ultimate “anti-Nazi” agenda? What is responsible for the formation of such an unnatural alliance?

This sudden kinship between Islamist antisemitism and progressive anti-Zionism is no coincidence, nor is it that sudden. In an article titled, “The Inside Story of How Palestinians Took Over the World,” award-winning copywriter Professor Gary Wexler reveals that the Arab civil rights movement had anti-Zionist ambitions all along. The insinuation of Arab elements into the Left laid the groundwork for current anti-Israel unrest, most prominently via America’s top universities.

Which means … there never were two separate anti-Zionist entities. Though they operated in two disparate ideological spheres, they always were a single unified force, a bridge mid-construction. 

Importantly, when the movement for Palestinian liberation began in Western countries, I do not believe its adherents wished any actual harm upon the Jewish people. They were told that there were innocent people suffering, and they truly wanted peace. Arab orchestrators of the movement conveniently blotted out the close relationship between Arab opponents of Zionism, such as Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini, with the Nazi regime. This erasure of Nazi ties certainly endeared the Palestinian cause to Western minds. However, it did not represent an actual, substantive departure from a fundamentally anti-Jewish agenda. In the new ideological landscape, Arab hatred for Jewish self-determination was simply rebranded. Contrary to expectation, given, you know, the Holocaust, Jews (who are quite racially diverse) were deemed “too white”, and, instead of being catapulted to the top of the fancy intersectional pyramid, again sank to the bottom. It is so counterintuitive that it seems almost laughable. But here we are. 

Americans did not know that it was the beginning of a clever libel, which would spiral from “split the land fairly” to “apartheid” to “Jews have no right to be here” to “Israel is committing genocide.” The vilification of Israel over the decades was incremental, but so potent, that when the moment came for the Palestinian liberation movement to reveal its true colors — October 7th — the Left did not bat an eye. Their goals are now one and the same, and the kippah-wearing Jew is their common target. The game is up.

I cannot explain to you the mind of the individual Ivy League student who dons a keffiyeh, joins a human chain in the quad, spits on the Star of David, smashes a window and hollers about genocide, apartheid and occupation. (Note to self: if you find that you’re being thanked profusely by Islamic Republic of Iran, then you might just be on the wrong side.) I can make neither head nor tail of the sign of an Israeli Flag with the words “Final Solution” beneath it, and a sign that reads “Jews against Genocide” right beside it. In the fever of confusion, the swastika itself has resurfaced as a symbol of solidarity with Palestine. It is incoherent. However, while I cannot explain this individual’s mind to you, I can say with certainty that they have not been fooled into supporting something of whose bloody consequences they are unaware. No. The student actually believes that the violence is valiance.

As astonishing as it may be, these college students, professors and beyond, unequivocally justify Hamas’s past, present, and future actions, even in the absence of any coherent ideology. They have not been duped about the movement’s intentions, they have bought totally into it. True, there are plenty of ignoramuses at these protests who don’t understand the word “intifada,” let alone anything about the history of the conflict. But their ignorance does not make them any less pernicious. Nor does our ability to understand our adversaries make them any more benign. It matters little that we know they are holding hands with the people they ought to hate the most. They continue to hold hands.

We cannot continue to tiptoe around and apologize for the paradoxes of contemporary anti-Zionism. Menachem Begin said it best: “[I]f an enemy of our people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him.” As evidenced by the impossible kinship between the progressive left and radical jihadism, the great unifier of peoples is the hatred of the Jew. 


Photo Caption: Propaganda truck spotted on the campus of UCLA, May 2, 2023

Photo Credit: Anonymous UCLA student