I understand the complexities of the Israel-Palestine debate; I am one of those rarified individuals who can be said to be “pro-Israel” and “pro-Palestine” at the same time. I want a Palestinian state not because it will be good for the Jews, but because it will be good for the Palestinians, whom I like. But at the same time, I think that Jews ought to be allowed to keep their homeland. Not everyone gets a homeland. The Uighurs don’t have one, the Kurds don’t have one. Both of them should, and soon. The Jews have one now, and it’s protected under international law, like it or not.
International Law Recognizes Israel’s Right to Exist
The Jewish homeland is recognized under international law within the Green Line, which should pretty much end the debate.
If you don’t like France, don’t go to France. You don’t get to wipe it off the face of the Earth and kill all the French.
The same goes for Israel.
In 1946, you could make an anti-Israel argument without considering international law, but not today.
Denying a stateless people a state is permissible; invading and wiping out a recognized state is not.
The same international law that the Palestinians cite (correctly) to argue that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is illegal also prohibits the Palestinians from invading Israel and liberating Palestine “from the River to the Sea.”
Progressivism Failed on October 7
It seemed to me that October 7 was something unique in the world’s history, and what is distressing to me, beyond the obvious horror that any civilized person would feel hearing about the shocking details of this particular massacre, is how quickly everyone reverted to form. Especially, in this case, the “pro-Palestinian” camp, who, upon hearing of a shocking massacre in Israel, took to the streets to protest against … Israel? You know the things that were said. You heard about Ryna Workman. I don’t need to repeat it here.
As the weeks and then months passed, Jews in Israel and around the world wondered why their fellow progressives refused to condemn the Hamas massacre, even as more atrocities came to light, including the large number of Jewish women and girls who were raped during the atrocity.
Pramila Jayapal Goes on TV and … Doesn’t Help Matters
Enter Pramila Jayapal, representative from Washington state, to explain, on CNN, why the “progressive” wing of my Democratic Party doesn’t especially care when Jewish women and girls are raped and murdered.
Rep. Jayapal sounded … bored.
“Terrorist organizations like Hamas obviously are using [rape] as tools,” she said, dismissively.
“However,” she added.
And here she laughed.
“I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians,” she said.
She couldn’t just condemn the mass rape and mass murder of Jewish women and girls, because she had to be balanced.
Asked again, seven minutes into the interview, to condemn rape and murder, she said, “Of course. But.”
And she attacked Israel again.
She’s against rape and murder, of course.
Sometimes a lot, sometimes just a little.
“Ok, with respect,” the CNN anchor, Dana Bash, responded. “I was just asking about the women, and you turned it back to Israel.”
Rep. Jayapal responded again by dismissing the crimes against Jewish women and girls, and she continued attacking Israel.
This is maybe the weirdest example I have ever witnessed of “whataboutism,” which my colleague Steven S. Drachman has written about elsewhere.
What is whataboutism, and what is it for?
When you are criticized, you might respond by saying, Yeah but X did bad stuff too.
The USSR championed this method. When asked about some human rights violation or other, the Soviets would mention the Native Americans.
When Trump is criticized, Republicans will say, What about Hunter Biden — why aren’t you talking about that?
When Biden is criticized about some policy issue, the Dems will say, Why are you focused on something this minor, when Trump is a threat to American democracy?
Whataboutism, then, is the most defensive of debating techniques, an entirely morally bankrupt form of argument. When you have no possible defense, you defect attention away from your inexcusable perfidy by pointing out that some other people are also assholes like you.
Why, though, when asked to condemn Hamas, a brutal terrorist organization, does Rep. Jaya resort to whataboutism?
She is asked point-blank: what do you think about a brutal terrorist organization raping and murdering little Jewish girls, and she says, “I think we have to be balanced.”
Because the Jews are awful, aren’t they?
In the interview, Rep. Japayal’s cheerfulness was matched by her smugness. She came off as a truly horrible person, the worst spokesperson for the progressive movement I can imagine.
A couple of other really notable points from the interview; while she cited Hamas’s reports about casualties without question (not mentioning the source), she then said it “isn’t clear” whether the Biden administration was being truthful when it claimed that Hamas was to blame for the collapse of the most recent cease fire.
“You don’t believe the Biden administration?” Ms. Bash asked, incredulously.
“We don’t have all the information in front of us,” Rep. Jayapal deflected.
But she’d made her point. When asked whom she finds credible, President Biden or Hamas, she was sticking with Hamas.
While she said in passing that “Hamas must be taken out,” she continued to insist on an unconditional ceasefire that would leave the terrorist group in charge of Gaza.
The Corbyn Syndrome
Look, I’m a loyal Democrat, and this column isn’t intended as a hit job on the party. Indeed, President Biden got it right when, in the wake of Rep. Jayapal’s disastrous self-immolation, he said, “What Hamas did is reprehensible. Full stop.”
But the reaction of too many of my fellow lefties have ranged from dismissiveness to downright glee to the thoughtful amoral navel gazing of university presidents. One must consider the “context” in which little Jewish girls were raped and murdered by the hundreds?
And while I am outraged by the behavior of my comrades, I am more concerned about what it means for the electability of any Democrat in 2024.
Remember the triumph that UK progressives felt when Jeremy Corbyn became the Labor leader? Finally, Labor was Left, with no compromises, which, meant many good things.
But this radicalization also meant, unfortunately, that the idealistic far-left members could unapologetically go all-in with Hezbollah and Hamas, whom Corbyn had once described as his friends.
Jewish party members left in droves amid complaints about antisemitism, and Labor subsequently and consequently suffered one of its worst drubbings ever at the polls.
Rep. Jayapal complains that President Biden’s support for Israel after the massacre could hurt him with progressives and Muslims, but we should all remember the Jeremy Corbyn example. Dismissing terrorism isn’t the way to win elections; praising an atrocity that includes rape, or pointedly failing to condemn it (both of which have been the response of many, many progressive organizations) isn’t the way to win women to your side, and driving away progressive Jews is not the way to maintain a progressive coalition. The progressive movement needs its Jews.
This dispute could mean the Corbynization of the Democratic Party, and the reelection of Donald Trump.