Why Does the Left Hate Israel?

As over 3,000 rockets are fired into Israel by Hamas, the establishment of the Democratic Party seems paralyzed over how to respond to the latest Middle East war. 

It is not just that they fear that the squad, Black Lives Matter, the shock troops of Antifa, and the woke institutions such as professional sports, academia, and the media are now unapologetically anti-Israel. 

They are in terror also that anti-Israelism is becoming synonymous with rank anti-Semitism. And soon the Democratic Party will end up disdained as much as was the British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. 

The new core of the Democrats, as emblemized by Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), has in the past questioned the patriotism of American Jews who support Israel, and often has had to apologize for puerile anti-Semitic rants. 

The Left in general believes we should judge harshly even the distant past without exemptions. Why then, in venomous, knee-jerk fashion, does it fixate on a nation born from the Holocaust, while favoring Israel’s enemies, who were on the side of the Nazis in World War II? 

It was not just that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, was a Nazi sympathizer. Egypt, for example, welcomed ex-Nazis for their hatred of Jews and their military expertise—whether the infamous death camp doctor Aribert Ferdinand Heim or Waffen-SS henchman Otto Skorzeny. The Hamas charter still reads like it is cribbed from Hitler’s Mein Kampf

The Left claims it champions consensual government and believes the United States must use its soft power clout to isolate autocracies. But the Palestinian Authority and Hamas refuse to hold free and regularly scheduled elections. If an Israeli strong man ever suspended free elections and ruled through brutality, U.S. aid would be severed within days. 

If history and democratic values cannot explain fully the hatred of Israel on the Left, perhaps human rights violations do. But here too there is another radical asymmetry. Arab Israeli citizens enjoy far greater constitutional protections than do Arabs living under either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. 

Is the Left bothered by the allies of Hamas? After all, most are autocracies such as Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia. 

We return then to other reasons for the woke furor directed toward Israel. 

In part, the Western Left despises the unapologetically successful—as if they are always beneficiaries of unfair privilege. Underdog Israel was not so hated from 1947-1967. Then it was poor, more socialist, and in danger of being extinguished by its many neighboring enemies. 

But after the victories in the 1967 and 1973 wars, the Israeli military proved unconquerable, no matter how large the numbers, wealth, and armaments of its many enemies. 

For the Left, Israel’s current strength, confidence, and success mean it cannot be seen as a victim, but only as a victimizer. The more its Iron Dome missile defenses knock down the flurry of Hamas rockets, the more its planes take out those who launched them, so all the more the Left bizarrely believes Israel wins too easily and acts “disproportionately.” 

In the virtue-signaling world of the contemporary West, Israel has become caricatured as playing the role of the American white police, the Palestinians a foreign version of the oppressed Black Lives Matter movement. The Palestinians then are woke, the Israelis not so much. 

The Left also has a strange idea of current “imperialism” and “colonialism.” The general rule is that Westerners cannot settle in numbers in the non-West. But the reversal is certainly not true. Millions of Middle Easterners are welcomed into Belgium, France, Germany, the U.K., and the United States. 

Yet, Jews have been in what is modern-day Israel since nearly the dawn of civilization. And their 1947 borders only grew after they were attacked and threatened with extinction. 

Again, the Left always claims that its anti-Israelism has had nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

But it is almost impossible now to make that distinction when woke criticism obsesses over democratic Israel and ignores far greater oppressors and oppressed elsewhere. 

Why are there no demonstrations in major Western cities damning the Communist Chinese government that has put 1 million Muslim Uighurs in camps? Why are the world’s millions of former refugees—the Volga Germans, the East Prussians, the Cypriot Greeks—long ago forgotten, and yet the Palestinians alone deified as perpetually displaced by the Jews? 

Our formal NATO ally, Turkey, received little global pushback for its treatment of the Kurds, or its frequent intolerance of religious minorities. Why then does the Jewish state alone always earn such venom? 

Hating democratic Israel while it is under attack is not just a reflection of the new woke and ethically bankrupt Left. It is also a symptom of a deeper pathology in the West, one of moral equivalence, amoral relativism—and self-loathing. 

Hating Israel, then, has become the surrogate Western way of hating oneself.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

Photo: Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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