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Behind the headlines

The warped logic of “oppressors vs oppressed”

Protesters in London earlier this month. Aisha Nazar/Getty

Why is it, says Yascha Mounk in The Spectator, that after the worst day for Jews since the Holocaust, huge demonstrations filled the streets of Berlin, London, Paris and Brussels, “not in solidarity with those who had been brutally murdered, but in support of the terrorists”? The most charitable interpretation is that protesters were expressing a desire to protect Palestinian civilians from Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes. But if that is the true motive, where were the throngs of people mourning the hundreds of thousands of Shias – “or, for that matter, 3,000 Palestinians” – murdered by Bashar al-Assad in Syria? Or the millions of Uighurs oppressed by the Chinese government in Xinjiang?

The “simple, sobering truth” is that the progressive left has largely ignored these appalling crimes, and instead reserved its rage for the “only state in the world that happens to be Jewish”. To understand why, it’s important to see how “the meaning of racism has changed”. Where once it meant simply believing that a person with a different ethnicity is inferior, the new definition divides the whole world into “oppressors and oppressed”. By this warped logic, Jews, who have been in the Middle East for thousands of years, become “colonisers”; Israelis are viewed as whites, and thus incapable of being victims. As Vice Magazine says: “It’s literally impossible to be racist to a white person.” The progressive left claims to be fighting colonialism. The irony is that ignoring the reality of non-Western countries and blindly imposing quintessentially American ideas on the rest of the world is itself a “neo-colonial enterprise”.

👍👎 Opinions in Britain on the conflict fall along predictably tribal lines, says Aris Roussinos in UnHerd. Yet not so long ago the poles were entirely reversed: support for the “Israeli socialist experiment” was the “righteous left-wing cause”, and sympathy for the Palestinians was an “almost parodically right-wing opinion”. In 1948, The Spectator was heaping praise on the Arab Legion’s “Bedouin chivalry and élan”. In the late 1960s, Martin Amis wrote a letter home from Oxford marvelling that he had met an “incredible reactionary yesterday who supports the Arabs vs Israel”.