A modern-day pogrom

The progressive left’s justification of October 7

Because what shocked so many of us after October 7 was the hate from the left.

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When Jews talk about modern left-wing antisemitism, the most common response from the left is that they’re not antisemitic, they’re anti-Zionist, and even if some of them are antisemitic, it’s not important because the antisemitism from the far-right is far more dangerous. Well, rest assured, goysplainers, we know how bad antisemitism is from fascists. Many of us have lost large branches of our family tree to it. As recently as 2017 we watched men carrying tiki torches through Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting “Jews will not replace us,” and we heard the then US president, Donald Trump, describe them as “very fine people”. So maybe it’s because we focused so much on antisemitism from the right that we missed what was happening at the other end of the ideological spectrum.

Because what shocked so many of us after October 7 was the hate from the left.

The specific faction of the left that I mean, the one that reacted most virulently against Israel, is variously known as the progressive left, the identarian left, the online left, the intersectional left or the woke left. It is the left that is so popular on college campuses, among the faculty and students. A few decades ago it was known as the far-left or hard-left, when its focus was class oppression. Now it is identity oppression. Yet as David Baddiel famously pointed out in his bestselling 2021 book, Jews Don’t Count, when it comes to identity politics and an awareness of vulnerable minority groups, to the far-left, Jews really don’t count.

Does it ever give leftists pause for thought that they have this myopic hatred of a country that was founded as a refuge for a people who had been expelled from or slaughtered in every other country? Apparently not – or no more than their deluded belief that Israel is “white”. The left always focuses on the European Jews who sought refuge in Israel after the Holocaust (those privileged Holocaust survivors, how dare they?!), but more than half of Israel’s Jews came from Middle Eastern countries, such as Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Morocco, which kicked them out. They did not “colonise” Israel. They came to the country of their ancestors, with the support of the United Nations, because it was the only option they had left.

And yet today’s progressive leftists treat the creation of Israel as uniquely cruel, uniquely artificial, uniquely unjust.

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“In the first half of the 20th century, millions and millions of Europeans were displaced from their homes along ethnic lines and there was forced migration all around the continent,” says Dave Rich, head of policy at the CST, a charity that provides security and advice to the British Jewish community.

“Look at countries today like Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Germany: these are all also relatively new countries in terms of where their borders are. And yet only Israel is treated as some kind of fake country dreamed up by Victorian imperialists.”

I ask him why this is.

“It’s because they don’t want to have to think about Europe’s history,” he replies.

“Instead, they can focus on the Jews and make TikToks saying the Jews were these homeless people who the Palestinians took in, out of the goodness of their hearts, and the Jews then stole their country. You have to remember, a lot of modern activists don’t even remember the Oslo Accords, never mind the Holocaust, so they can invent a completely false narrative that Israel was created by Western powers as a colony.”

After October 7, many politicians on the left, especially in the UK and US, felt compelled to share their thoughts about how Israel should react to the “vicious pogrom”, they thought Israel should do nothing. It is very hard to imagine British Labour councillors feeling entitled to lecture, say, Australia, about how to conduct itself just after had it been brutally attacked.

Just two weeks after October 7, an associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies argued in The Guardian that Israel must stop “weaponising” the Holocaust, but that October 7 should be seen within “the historical context of Israeli settler colonialism”. So Israel shouldn’t mention the Holocaust – in which two-thirds of Europe’s Jews were wiped out – when discussing Hamas, whose original charter called for a genocide of the Jews (which you’d think a professor of genocide might mention in his article, but no). This paradox is common parlance on the left after October 7: the Holocaust is irrelevant, the 1948 war essential. The mental contortions some people will adopt to justify violence against Israel, and to argue that Israel has no right to defend itself, really are extraordinary.

Hadley Freeman is a British journalist and author. The above is an extract from the May issue of the Jewish Quarterly – Blindness: October 7 and the Left by Hadley Freeman, which explores the wilful blindness of elements on the left to Hamas’s atrocities. This issue goes deep into the mentality of the progressive left’s justification of a modern-day pogrom.

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