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Jen Gerson: This is a real mask-off moment for the left, eh?
Justifying rape and baby beheading is irreconcilable with a version of the "left" that presents itself as secular, humane, compassionate, and committed to social justice.
By: Jen Gerson
I had a fascinating conversation with one of my more left-ish friends earlier this week — yes, I do have some! Though I will hide this person's identity to protect the innocent.
This individual had reluctantly listened to one of The Line's recent podcasts, and cottoned on to a phrase uttered by my co-founder, Matt Gurney: "You cannot simultaneously say words are violence and that mass rape is resistance."
My friend admitted that she had been repulsed by much of some of the vocal left in the wake of Hamas' attack on Israel. Of course, of course most people had been sensible and humane — but very far from all.
Between CUPE, and academia, to the corrupted Twitter-verse, I think we've found ample reasons to be horrified. The largest attack against Jews since the Holocaust seemed to elicit a resounding cheer of "Go Palestine!" Usually under the same sterile, dorm-room rubric of "decolonization," "resistance," and my favourite, "Settlers are not civilians." Good to note.
Gurney and I have long subscribed to the pendulum theory of social cohesion: that public sentiment seems to swing eternally between the forces of "progressivism" or "revolution" vs. "conservatism" or "traditionalism." The specifics are constantly in motion, but the polity is always moving, thinking, evaluating; embracing new ideas, or opposing them. There is no end to history, just a cycle
In this latest incarnation, the "progressive" swing reached its apogee — the zenith of its cultural power — roughly in 2020. It's been swinging back ever since, and at an accelerating pace for the last year. Watching the war in Israel play out, I am more certain now that this is true. The shockingly broad support for Hamas is a full mask-off moment for a big chunk of the modern North American left, and I think most ordinary people are recoiling from what the self-styled progressive movement has revealed itself to be.
I do wish to be fair. I believe a lot of lefties were caught up in the latest Hamas incursion, and expressed support for it before we had a full view of how brutal and, yes, barbaric it was. I also assume that a lot of lefties are well-meaning, and struggle to acknowledge the significant overlap between a noble Palestinian cause in abstract, and the violent resistance movement that seeks to support its ends. I suspect very few have read Hamas' charter, which is explicitly and openly genocidal. This is not a militancy that is engaging in violence with the ultimate goal of a peaceful, two-state solution. Hamas — the political entity running Gaza, whether we like that fact or not — wants to run the Jews into the sea, and to establish a theocratic Islamic state in its stead.
There is nothing more bizarre than seeing pictures of soft-headed proggies holding signs like "Queers for Palestine," seemingly oblivious to the fact that a Palestine run by Hamas is one in which the Queers would be pushed from the top floors of whatever is left of Gaza's multi-story buildings once Israel is done bombing them. One can be deeply sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians as a people while noting that there is nothing liberal, humane or progressive about Hamas' actual, stated goals, let alone its recent actions.
Support for Hamas — not just Palestinians, but rather, for the specific violent acts that were committed two weeks ago on behalf of the "resistance" — reveals this lefty jargon for the straightforward power play that it always was.
The fact that this terrorist organization has garnered so much public support from the likes of unions, professors and groups like Black Lives Matter, is darkly ironic.
Let’s look at a few examples; CUPE was, perhaps, the most infamous supporter of Palestinian “resistance” in the hours after it had been revealed that Hamas militants had killed more than 1,000 Jewish civilians, and taken hostage hundreds more. Fred Hahn, Ontario’s CUPE president, reveled in the news last Sunday, noting that he was thankful for “the power of resistance around the globe.” And: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — presumably (?) unaware that this is a phrase that is commonly associated with the destruction of Israel.
Hahn did apologize. Sorta. “My social media posts became a giant lightning rod for both legitimate anger, and also for bad faith actors with a divisive agenda.” Sure, Fred. Timing and those with a divisive agenda. That’s what got ya.
This week, we had a student group at Toronto Metropolitan University issue a public statement insisting “Israel not a country, but rather the brand of a settler colony” and supporting “all forms of Palestinian resistance and efforts toward liberation.” Credit is due for not mincing words. There is no mealy equivocation between Hamas and the innocent people of Palestine, here.
“All” “resistance” is legitimate.
Or perhaps we should consider the words of Harsha Walia, the former director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. Walia decided to speak at a pro-Palestinian rally in Vancouver this week, in which she said: “How beautiful is the spirit to get free that Palestinians literally learned how to fly on hang gliders.”
Or let’s take this favourite, from McMaster University professor Ameil Joseph, who noted in a tweet: “Postcolonial, anticolonial, and decolonial are not just words you heard in your EDI workshop.” This sort of commentary was incredibly and depressingly common among academics these last few weeks. Child murder is not what sane lefties agreed to when they went gung ho for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion seminars. But, hey, the more you know…
There is no shortage of examples like this. These comments are not representative of the entire “left,” of course, but it offers a pretty good sample of a vocal element within it — the dominant strain of late. So, just for fun, let's take a few moments to review some of the highlight reels of the last six years of "The Discourse" and compare and contrast these moments to where we are this week: Jordan Peterson is a comic book evil fascist; Ben Shapiro et al. speaking on university campuses are a threat to well being; Offensive Halloween costumes will make Yale students unsafe; the concept of "Free Speech" is a tool of the white supremacist oppressor; news outlets should eschew both-siderism for Moral Clarity; protests are traumatizing; words are literal violence; and Believe All Women.
I could go on, but I trust you get the point. None if it is compatible with cheering on atrocities — literal violence of the the most base and brutal kind. Justifying rape and baby beheading is irreconcilable with a version of the "left" that presents itself as secular, humane, compassionate, and committed to social justice.
Ordinary people see this, and the dissonance is jarring.
So how do we reconcile it? Well, try this on: Support for Palestinian resistance reveals this lefty jargon for the straightforward power play that it always was.
The activist left doesn't actually believe that "words are literal violence," and never did. The weaponization of compassion, the cancelling, the de-platforming — these are tactics. It's never been about creating a more harmonious and tolerant world, nor protecting innocent students from harmful opinions; it’s about winning. Re-setting the Overton window by bullying dissenters. Dismantling the old power hierarchies — and replacing them with new ones. These politics exist to ensure that anybody who disagreed with the new order and its values was too intimidated to speak up for fear of being labelled a bigot, a racist, a transphobe, whatever, whatever.
There is a reason why this ideology found such fertile soil in universities, and particularly in elite universities. (And it's no coincidence that the most expensive institutions of education also happen to be clearinghouses for Palestinian support.) At the risk of stating the obvious, universities don't just exist to educate students, they exist to instruct society's future scions in the language, manners, and political views that signal acceptance in the ruling class. That's what elite schools to do. It’s why major corporations and most media institutions have likewise followed suit. It’s power all the way down.
"Wokism" — or whatever you want to call it — isn't just a set of political values, it's an elite affectation, just as conservative and classical liberal values were before it.
And it's an affectation that utilizes shallow notions of historic oppression and victimization to upend the corrupt and ancient power-structures of society. Support for Hamas — cheering on barbarity in this project of re-civilization — draws incompatible aims into too-stark a relief. It reveals the true nature of the power play. Once you see it, you can't un-see it. Once broken, the glamour of good intentions can't be re-cast. That’s the slip of the mask.
There are those among us who now genuinely believe that screaming into Jewish cafes and rallying in front of community centres in Toronto is a legitimate and valid act of Palestinian resistance, and not really entirely straightforward anti-Semitism. I hope this is now very clear to my Jewish friends. These people are showing who they are. Believe them.
Violent resistance is being advocated by the same ideological tribe that once claimed to be too fragile to handle a debate on abortion or trans issues. Words are violence, from people who implicitly and explicitly support literal atrocities committed by those on the Right Side of History. Conservatives are Nazis, they say, while celebrating or at least justifying a pogrom. Five whole minutes ago, we are told to Believe All Women; women don't lie about sexual assault — from the very same activists who are now very online proclaiming gross denial about Hamas' use of mass rape as a weapon of war against Israeli women.
I don't expect that these hypocrisies will pose a cognitive threat to anybody who is already deeply ideologically committed to these files. But for normies, the dissonance is too much. It's going to be difficult for the rest of us to take any of you fuckers seriously ever again.
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