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Israel, America and the left

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in London on Saturday. Mark Kerrison/In Pictures/Getty

The terror attack on Israel has been a revealing moment for the identity-obsessed left, says Helen Lewis in The Atlantic. Chicago’s Black Lives Matter chapter posted a picture of a paraglider, appearing to celebrate the gunmen who descended on a music festival from the air. Groups like Queers for Palestine have had to be reminded that being queer in Palestine is “difficult and dangerous”. Progressive activists often denounce policies they dislike as “violence”, even “genocide”. But confronted with “real violence by genocidal terrorists”, many are sticking up for Hamas. The problem is that the “intersectional” left has morphed into a “crude tallying of oppression points” and a belief that social justice struggles “fit neatly together”, with the marginalised on one side and the powerful on the other. This cartoon morality cannot deal with the complexity of real life, where we are all, in Jean-Paul Sartre’s phrase, “half victims, half accomplices”.

There’s something else going on, says Mary Harrington in UnHerd. Leftists view Israel as “a proxy for American geopolitical hegemony” – and, more specifically, as the purest possible example of the failures of Washington’s “nation-building”. To some extent, they’re right. The US was instrumental in the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and has since provided it with considerable financial assistance. As such, the Jewish homeland stands as the most potent symbol of America’s “strange cocktail of high idealism, reach and ruthlessness” – and its ability to “reshape the world in its own image”. So when you hear Jeremy Corbyn and friends complaining about Israel’s “settler colonialism”, they’re really talking about the US. They think “a defeat for Israel is a defeat for America” – and if a great many Jews have to be “sacrificed in pursuit of that noble goal”, so be it.