Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Darkness Visible

Hamas perpetrates a pogrom in Israel itself. And so it begins again.

Oct 13, 2023
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A covered body at kibbutz Beeri near the border with Gaza. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)

“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,” – Hamas Covenant.

“Settlers are not civilians. This is not hard,” – Zareena Grewal, American studies professor at Yale University.

The last couple of weeks, I found myself engrossed in Band of Brothers, the newly re-released 2001 miniseries on the D-Day landings and the aftermath. In the penultimate episode, the Yanks stumble across their first Nazi death camp. Soldiers accustomed to the worst of the worst in wartime, men who’d already seen things that would traumatize anyone for life, were suddenly speechless. Nothing, even in wartime, prepared them for it. A new tear in the fabric of humanity’s moral order opened up in front of them: the sadistic capture, dehumanization and mass murder of women, men, children because they were Jews. “New” isn’t quite the word, of course. Pogroms already had a long-long lineage in Europe. But new in the sheer scale and nakedness of the barbarism.

That’s what we saw last weekend in the south of Israel. That’s the first and most important thing to say. The same ethno-fascism; the same blood-and-soil ideology, but this time blessed by the Almighty; the same fathomless hatred of Jews qua Jews; the same internalization of an entire group of human beings as subhuman, to be treated like dangerous vermin; the same hideous sadism; the same eliminationist ideology; the same glee. This time, in Israel itself, the one place on earth where Jews hoped a pogrom would never arrive.

I’ve been to many raves myself; I know the kind of young dreamers who go to them; no doubt many were still rolling on MDMA as they squinted into the distance to see hang-gliders coming down from the sky. Then the gun-shots rang out, the Einsatzgruppen descended, and the methodical, barbaric, medieval slaughter and rape began:

260 bodies have been found, so far, on the site of the rave. … “Women have been raped at the area of the rave next to their friends bodies, dead bodies.” Several of these rape victims appear to have been later executed. Others were taken to Gaza. In photographs released online, you can see several paraded through the city’s streets, blood gushing from between their legs.

This is what this was: a 21st century pogrom.

One difference between the Nazis and Hamas, of course, is that the Nazis concealed their genocide for as long as they could, while Hamas instantly broadcast their atrocities to the world. Twitter — increasingly geared toward snuff footage in general — is filled with images of dead and kidnapped Israelis. One terrorist uploaded a video of a slain grandmother on her own Facebook page for her family to discover. Hamas says the 150 hostages — among them the disabled, children, and even a 9 month old — will be executed on camera. They have already murdered babies in their cribs. A Jew a few months old is still a Jew to them. And they want you to know this. We do now, if we hadn’t woken up to it before.

The second thing to note is how many in the West instantly celebrated the pogrom. This, I have to say, shocked even me, and I’ve been closely watching the “social justice” left for years. It wasn’t the usual support of Hamas, nor the familiar condemnation of Israel’s settlements. That I anticipated. What shocked me was the vivid and genuine expressions of solidarity with the mass murderers — even as their atrocities were in front of our eyes. That requires real ideological commitment, to repress every human impulse of empathy to uphold your priors.

Yet dozens of Harvard student groups did indeed cheer Hamas. Various chapters of BLM did the same. Ditto the Democratic Socialists of America. University leaders — quick to pontificate on any current topic — went conspicuously mum. The Black Caucus of Young Democrats of America declared support for Hamas because “Black folks and Palestinians both know what it feels like to be oppressed and experience white supremacy.” BLM Grassroots said the pogrom “must not be condemned, but understood as a desperate act of self-defense.” In Australia, demonstrators actually chanted “Gas the Jews!” In London, the Israeli Embassy was besieged. BLM Chicago, one of the biggest chapters, put out a poster showing an actual hang-glider coming to slaughter the innocent, with the slogan “I Stand With Palestine” and a brief explanation: “That is all, that is it!”

Do you see now why some of us have been calling out this “social justice” movement for years? It should not be a shock to know where BLM stands. Their founder, Patrisse Cullors, urged us “to end the imperialist project called Israel” as far back as 2015. And from the perspective of critical theory, Hamas is obviously in the right. CRT emphatically places the rights and dignity of the individual far below the right of the non-white masses to defeat “white/Jewish supremacy.” Of course they support Hamas. Palestinians are merely punching up — and that exonerates them of any moral culpability. Just as African-Americans cannot commit a hate crime, so Hamas definitionally cannot commit terror.

Once you see the world in this way — as groups of the oppressed and oppressors, with the oppressed always justified in their resistance to the oppressors — the rights of individual Jews, or whites, or Asians, or even dissident non-whites are irrelevant. It’s all about “power structures” and “systems” and “context”. All morality is relative to privilege. There is not a trace of universalism among the woke left, not a single objective measurement of morality except what is justified in response to “oppression”. And ideas matter. Grewal, the Yale professor quoted above, responded to this week’s bloodshed with admirable woke clarity: “There is no question who the oppressors are [and] who the oppressed are. And somehow people are confused by this. White supremacy never stops being shocking to me.” The actual victims of the Nazis are now their equivalent.

It has been gratifying to see some liberals this week wake up to what critical theory really is, and who their alleged allies actually are. This is Judith Butler, a campus goddess, and the critical gender theorist behind much of the madness of the alphabet cult, speaking at an “Anti-War Teach-In” at Berkeley in 2006:

Understanding Hamas and Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important. That does not stop us from being critical of certain dimensions of both movements. It doesn’t stop those of us who are interested in non-violent politics from raising the question of whether there are other options besides violence.

A leftist can be critical of “certain dimensions” of Hamas — its brutal theocracy, its subjugation of women, its murder of gays, its Nazi-style anti-Semitism. But they’re still on our side! They’re still battling whiteness. “Extremely important” to remember that. And it is not up to us to condemn their violence, remember, just to explore “options besides violence” ourselves. And you wonder why our leading universities couldn’t quite clear their throats this week? That’s how deep the rot has gotten in academe. I’m increasingly ashamed to be a Harvard alum.

What about the broader context for this latest horror — all the way back to 1948? Yes, that’s a necessary conversation, vital even. But in judging the events of the past week, it’s utterly irrelevant. There is no historical context — none — which can excuse or mitigate what Hamas did and what Hamas is. There is no oppression that justifies the murder of infants in their beds. And from some of the videos, you can see how the act of personally murdering a Jew is cherished by these fanatics, a glorious achievement, a life goal.

But has the Israeli government been reckless, expansionist, and determined to destroy any chance for a Palestinian state for a while now? Yes, it has. Since the excruciating near-miss of 2000, Israel has treated the Palestinians as a menace to be managed and, with any luck, ignored. Has it treated the population in the West Bank appallingly in this century? Yes, it has. Has the Israel lobby supported the unconscionable and relentless establishment of settlements for decades? For all their hand-wringing, yes. Is Israel’s achievement the immiseration and dehumanization of all Palestinians in the occupied territories? I don’t think any objective observer at this point could deny it. The attempt to deny the core problem has only made it worse.

Last week, I linked to a new campaign that some Israeli settlers are currently conducting. From the NYT:

Across remote parts of the West Bank, the mountainous territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Palestinian herding communities are abandoning their homes at a rate that has no recorded precedent, according to the United Nations. Simultaneously, Israeli settlers are establishing wildcat herding outposts at close to record levels, often near Palestinian villages, according to land assessments by Kerem Navot, an independent Israeli watchdog that monitors settlement activity …

“It’s not the nicest thing to evacuate a population,” said Ariel Danino, 26, an Israeli settler who lives on an outpost and helps lead efforts to build new ones. “But we’re talking about a war over the land, and this is what is done during times of war.”

This is ethnic cleansing, enabled by the US government and the Israel lobby. It comes after a series of Israeli triumphs under the Obama and Trump administrations: the annexation of the Golan Heights, a US Embassy in Jerusalem, recognition of Jerusalem as the capital, the collapse of the Iran deal, and no pressure whatever on restraining the relentless growth of settlements by the most fanatical Israelis.

The coup de grace was normalization of relations with some Arab states through the Abraham Accords — all of which simply ignored the fate of the Palestinians, and treated them with contempt. For four years, Middle East policy was crafted by Jared Kushner, a man who had personally funded the very settlements designed to destroy a two-state solution forever. As the Saudis edged toward some kind of deal with Jerusalem, the Palestinians were on the verge of being completely humiliated and isolated in the region. You can see why Hamas wanted to prove that it is still relevant — even if they did so by destroying what pitiful moral credibility they ever had.

And while one can sympathize with Israel’s conundrum on how to take out Hamas within the laws of warfare, since Hamas has embedded itself among civilians and hostages as human shields, that does not, cannot, justify collective punishment. As I write, Israel has cut off water and electricity to the whole of Gaza; hospitals may soon run out of power; brutal carpet-bombing has laid waste to whole neighborhoods; innocents are dying under a bombardment that must be simply terrifying. Israel has ordered the population to move out of Gaza City, Hamas’ base, to the south. Better than Hamas, but still redolent for many of the expulsions that created the state of Israel in the first place.

And I worry that the vehemence of the response will be both vulnerable morally and stupid strategically. The Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, this week denied any distinction between Palestinians in Gaza and Hamas:

It is an entire nation out there that is responsible. It’s not true this rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true. They could have risen up, they could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup ‘d état.

That’s perilously close to: “settlers are not civilians.” From a usually even-tempered moderate. I understand where he is coming from. But I truly, deeply do not want Israel to make the same errors in the same headspace that we did after 9/11. In fighting Hamas, it remains vital not to become them. Or to create new generations of Hamas terrorists. And in the history of the Jewish state, the moral corruption that comes with occupying and controlling another people for decades is real and cancerous. It’s a risk Israel runs. I pray she overcomes it.

The bigger picture? The more I’ve thought and read about Israel, the more it seems that its founding was both a moral necessity and a practical insanity. The moral necessity is proven by last weekend. If Jews can be subject to a medieval pogrom in their own country in 2023, what hope could they ever have without a country at all? The practical insanity lies in the simple fact that the state of Israel was created on land laden with deep religious symbolism, where much of the existing population did not give consent, and despite the early promise, no country for the Palestinians was ever constructed alongside it.

Worse still: in its subsequent wars of legitimate self-defense, Israel found itself occupying the whole region, and then took the fateful step of settling it with the most fanatical parts of its own population, deliberately preventing a two-state solution from ever taking place. For me, that’s where I draw the line. Those settlements are still growing. They are indefensible. They are essentially a form of ethnic cleansing — and they have been protected and enabled by almost every Israeli government and almost every US administration in my lifetime. And any serious American attempt to stop them — from the first President Bush to Barack Obama — has been met with implacable hostility from the Israel lobby.

Israel needs our support right now. And we should give it forthrightly. But in due course, if Hamas is destroyed, and things calm down, we need to confront the Israelis with a sobering reality. There is no future for Israel without a state for the Palestinians, however hard that may be. And the longer we postpone that day, the darker the future will become.

New On The Dishcast: Martha Nussbaum

Martha is a philosopher and legal thinker. She has taught at Harvard, Brown, Oxford and is currently the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, appointed in the Philosophy Department and the Law School. Her many books include The Fragility of Goodness, Sex and Social Justice, Creating Capabilities, and From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law. Her new book, which we discuss in this episode, is Justice for Animals.

Listen to the episode here. There you can find two clips of our convo — on whether fish feel pain, and if we should sterilize city rats instead of killing them. That link also takes you to commentary over episodes with Ian Buruma on conmen, Leor Sapir on transing gender-dysphoric kids, and Yossi Klein Halevi on the history of Zionism.

Money Quotes For The Week

“Until the last few days, the phenomenon of Western lefties defending barbarism in the name of a desired utopian, egalitarian ideal was a historical abstraction to me,” – Julia Ioffe.

“What did y’all think decolonization meant? Vibes? Papers? Essays? Losers,” – Najma Sharif, writer for Teen Vogue.

“Give credit where it is due: Joe Biden gave what might be the most powerful statement in support of Israel ever delivered by any president. There were no qualifications,” – John Podhoretz.

“The incredible thing is Trump dissing the Israeli PM while Israel is at war, a war that could very quickly turn existential. What a disgusting thing! Why did Trump do this? Because he felt disrespected by Netanyahu, because Netanyahu phoned Joe Biden to congratulate him on winning the presidency. That’s it!” – Rod Dreher.

“The Democratic Socialists of America should change their name to the National Socialists of America. … How dare they act as if Hamas is the voice of Palestinians. I don’t think the Palestinians are savages. That’s why they shouldn’t be ruled by savages!” – Eli Lake.

Yglesias Award Nominees

“Today, I am officially renouncing my membership in the Democratic Socialists of America. … There is no place for moral equivocation in the face of unadulterated evil as we have seen from Hamas,” – Shri Thanedar, member of Congress.

“I have morals and I stick by them. I think the BBC’s refusal to use the correct terminology is unjustified. Words impact how we think, how we react, how we act. They have influence. [Hamas] aren’t freedom fighters or, as John Simpson refers to them, gunmen. They’re terrorists,” – Noah Abrahams on quitting the BBC.

The View From Your Window

Nuremberg, Germany, 10.33 am.

A reader adds, “It shows the Way of Human Rights by Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan.”

Dissents Of The Week

A reader writes:

Yes, it’s ghoulish to gloat over Ryan Carson’s death, or Josh Kruger’s, and it’s likely a pathway to something collectively darker. But is it not obvious that the very naiveté they embraced, the very policies they championed, were in a sense responsible for their deaths? Indeed, how many other deaths can be laid at the feet, at least in part, of a social justice movement that advocates for virtually no punishment for the culpable, and insist police are a menace, and that our streets would somehow be safer without them?

You can make a point like this without gloating over another’s murder. And as it happens, the murder of Josh Kruger turns out to have as much to do with the recent crime wave as the murder of Matthew Shepard had to do with homophobia. (Yet this week, President Biden put out yet another farrago of utter lies in honor of the anniversary of Shepard’s death at the hands of his meth-crazed former lover.)

Another dissenter writes:

You won’t catch me mocking anyone who has recently died, because I think it’s in poor taste. However, I think the “Herman Cain Award” on Reddit has some merit.  For the past three years, many right-wingers made a vocal and often willfully misleading effort to downplay the risks of COVID-19 infection and amplify the risks of vaccination. While there is always a risk with any medication, the health risks from getting the live virus are much, much higher than those from the proteins in the vaccines.

So the “Herman Cain Award” isn’t meant to celebrate anyone’s death. It is about trying to bring visibility to an illness that many people have denied.

Sorry but the idea that the “Herman Cain Award” doesn’t celebrate and use someone’s death is preposterous. Another dissent from a Dishhead:

My friend, you jumped the shark with this comment: “critical theory emerged after huge steps forward in civil rights. It was a way to divert attention from the real issues plaguing black Americans.” I’m not a fan of CRT, but the notion that it was perversely devised to take the focus off the real problems of Black Americans is patently ridiculous.

Nope. It was precisely because there was so little progress after the Civil Rights Act that a group of neo-Marxists came up with critical race theory to explain it, without ever dealing with the proximate causes of family breakdown, fatherlessness, a subculture of everyday violence, and resilient poverty.

Lastly, a reader makes a connection:

It took me a moment to realise that your headline from last week’s Dish — “Ever-Polarizing America: Where the Freshly Murdered Are Tribal Weapons” — was written before Hamas attacked Israel, and before many came out to Times Square to rejoice in the slaughtering of innocent Jews under the banner of “Free Palestine.” Though your column wasn’t about the latest atrocities in the Middle East and the American left’s baffling moral relativism, it could have been.

I know. Something is truly sick in the West right now.

As always, please keep the dissents coming:

Mental Health Break

The desert comes to life with a burst of psychedelic color:

In The ‘Stacks

  • Of all the footage of hostages now circulating, “Two videos will especially haunt me,” says Bethel McGrew. Click with care.
  • Zohar Atkins articulates “a middle way between denial and despair” when it comes to deadly anti-Semitism.
  • Armin Rosen sounds an alarm: “this is the largest mass abduction of Americans since the Tehran embassy crisis of 1979.”
  • Noah Smith ponders a three-state solution.
  • Bari on Hamas apologists on campus: “Microaggressions are met with moral condemnation. But actual violence is tolerated — even glorified.”
  • Is multiculturalism to blame for anti-Semitism in the UK?
  • “Biden’s half-hearted attempt to build another 20 miles of Trump’s wall” is too little, too late, Teixeira warns.
  • Should the Dems have saved McCarthy?
  • Why isn’t Biden touting the healthcare parts of the IRA?
  • Abortion post-Dobbs is about to get another big test — in the Virginia legislature.
  • James Harris is slack-jawed: “Cancelling HS2” — high-speed rail — “is the worst decision by a British PM in decades.”
  • On Sunak’s proposal to ban the sale of fags, Christopher Gage calls him a “tech-bro Babbitt governing by whimsy.”
  • Julie Bindel keeps up the pressure on Labour when it comes to trans ideology.
  • Liberal norms are precarious in Poland.
  • Wind turbines kill birds in large numbers, but compared to fossil fuels?
  • The latest example of MSM reporters trafficking in tribalist lies.
  • Fallows reviews Marty Barton’s new book — ‘‘a kind of time capsule of this convulsive era.” The “biggest surprise” involves Bezos.
  • Dracula is raised from the dead on Substack.

The View From Your Window Contest

Where do you think? Email your entry to Please put the location — city and/or state first, then country — in the subject line. Bonus points for fun facts and stories. Proximity counts. The deadline for entries is Wednesday night at midnight (PST). The winner gets the choice of a View From Your Window book or two annual Dish subscriptions.

See you next Friday.

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