Why the Left Declares ‘We Are All Hezbollah Now’
Britain’s National Union of Students (NUS) offers a compelling case study of the British (and perhaps wider, European) Left. There can be no better snapshot of the moral black hole into which many progressives have fallen than two decisions by the National Executive Council of NUS. First, in October, a vote not to support a motion condemning the unspeakable atrocities committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; then just last week, a vote to support a boycott of Israeli goods.
My own political activism in the U.K. began with NUS and student politics. I attended my first NUS Conference as a callow 19-year old. In those days, the executive council was run by more moderate figures who opposed the far-left groups. The most problematic of the latter for Jewish students was the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a revolutionary Trotskyist party that was (and is) fanatically anti-Zionist. Raised as I was in a liberal home, I had believed until then that to be on the left meant to be opposed to discrimination and racism; that as a Jew, my allies against anti-Semitism would invariably be found on the left.
I was disabused of that notion by the SWP who, whilst ostensibly backing NUS’s “no platform” policy for racists and fascists, supported and indeed fought for the right of Islamist speakers on campus because they railed against Israel and the United States. On one occasion, the SWP defended a public appearance by a member of Hizb’ut Tahrir, a particular noxious organization who, along with the usual racism and incitement to violence, was also a published Holocaust denier. This is the Far-Left that now runs NUS.
Though I’m no longer surprised by the eagerness with which sections of the Left play the role of “useful idiot” to the forces of Islamic fascism, I can still be shocked by it. So it was in the summer of 2006, when a massive crowd gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in London (where I was working at the time) to protest Israel’s alleged “war crimes” in the Second Lebanon War. Alongside the usual banners calling Israel an apartheid state, a Nazi state and the like was something else. A great many people, not Muslims but white, British, card-carrying Leftists, were holding aloft placards proclaiming “We are all Hezbollah now”.
This is instructive. Consider the following thought experiment. Imagine a white, Christian supremacist movement that believed in imposing its racist ideology on society through violence; that persecuted religious minorities and preached and practiced the murder of Jews. How would self-defined liberals, progressives, left-wingers respond to the emergence of such a political force, anywhere in the world? We all know the answer.
And yet, substitute “white, Christian” for “Muslim” and, not only is there no mass denouncement by the Left, but there is sympathy, apologetics, and even support. Would any civilized person, let alone someone who identified with the progressive values of the Left, march down the street with a banner supporting neo-Nazis, or the Ku Klux Klan? No. But “We are all Hezbollah Now.” We are all an Islamist political party that murders its ideological opponents, launches rockets at civilians, incites Jew-hatred, and is a proxy of perhaps the only regime in the world with an explicitly genocidal foreign policy – the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The same appeasement of fascism by those who claim to be its principal opponents could be seen in the decision of Ken Livingstone, then-Mayor of London, to welcome, host, and embrace the Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Livingstone, whose political career had been based on his championing of progressive politics and minority rights, wanted to show his support for London’s Muslim community by associating himself with a representative of what he termed “moderate Islam.”
Sheikh al-Qaradawi is a leading theologian of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Sunni Islamist movement which synthesized a radical reading of the Quran with ideas taken from European fascism. “Moderate” is always a relative term, but one wonders to whom Livingstone was comparing a man whose sermons exhort believers to kill Jews as a response to Zionism and to execute homosexuals for, well, being homosexual.
As the two NUS votes perfectly encapsulate, the Left’s bizarre alliance with Islamism goes hand-in-hand with an obsessive focus on, and singling out of, the Jewish State.
An old friend of mine is a proud revolutionary socialist, and the supporter of a party called Left Unity. Before the recent UK elections, at her prompting, I had a look at the party’s political platform on its website. The party declares itself to be: “socialist, feminist, environmentalist, anti-racist and against all forms of discrimination”. Okay. I went to the section outlining its foreign policy. There were general commitments to “internationalism” (of course) but also opposition to “intervention in other people’s countries”. No word of course how that would square with “anti-racism’ and “internationalism” in a situation where such intervention puts an end to genocide. (Tony Blair, seen by many as a traitor to the Labour Party that he led, was an internationalist in the best traditions of the left when he spearheaded military efforts to end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and Sierra Leone.)
There was but one reference in the Left Unity manifesto to a specific international situation deserving of support from a British socialist party:
“Left Unity stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against oppression and dispossession.”
Really? Only Palestinians? No “solidarity” with the Syrian people being butchered by their own government and by the barbarians of Islamic State? No solidarity with the citizens of the mass concentration camp that is North Korea? You’re socialists! What about the workers enduring conditions of slavery in Qatar and Saudi Arabia?
This is not a complicated moral choice. If you believe in the principles of liberal democracy: in equality before the law; the inalienable rights of each individual; freedom of expression; an independent judiciary; governments that can be freely criticized and booted out of office by popular vote; then you stand with Israel, not with the forces of political Islam.
Israel is not, and should not be, above criticism, but the obsessive focus on it, and the topsy-turvy morality employed to condemn it, point to something much darker than “concern for the Palestinians.” Israel, and only Israel, has its very legitimacy as a state questioned; its very right to exist denied. Only Israel. Only the Jewish State.
Liberals and leftists who align themselves with a totalitarian ideology are betraying their own values. And not only have they become – as did their predecessors, those western socialists who backed Soviet communism – the handmaidens of Jew-hatred , but with their Orwellian singling out and demonization of Israel, they have crossed the line into anti-Semitism themselves.
Paul Gross is the Director of the Israel Government Fellows program, an internship and educational program based in Jerusalem. He also writes and lectures on Israeli politics. Before immigrating to Israel from the UK he worked for the Israeli Embassy in London as the Ambassador’s speechwriter. He is writing here in a personal capacity.