The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, or whatever we’re calling them now) is inflicting unspeakable cruelty on Iraq’s Kurdish Yazidis, an ancient religious sect that predates Islam and Christianity. Many men, women, and children have been beheaded, and many others have been buried alive. Others have been crucified. Hundreds of women have been raped or enslaved. U.S. intervention has come too late for thousands of Yazidis, and some remain stranded on a barren mountaintop with no food or water. Iraqi Christians have been suffering a similar fate at the hands of ISIS brutality.
Last week, I tweeted: “If Jews were as defenseless as the stranded Yazidis, is there any doubt Hamas (and others) would do to Jews what ISIS is doing to Yazidis?” Among the clear-thinking and informed, there is no doubt. But what about all those people around the world who have made Hamas’s “resistance” to “Zionist occupation” (which ended in 2005, by the way) such a fashionable cause célèbre? Do they realize that there is zero distinction between Hamas’s Islamist supremacist ideology, which exhorts its followers to murder Jews and other “infidels,” and ISIS’s ideology? Do they realize that the only difference between Hamas and ISIS is that former has the Israel Defense Forces standing it its way? (That is not to disparage the Kurdish Peshmerga, a fierce and courageous group of fighters who could stand up to ISIS if properly armed.)
Islamist HamISIS ideology stands for everything the left claims to stand against: subjugation of women; intolerance — often to the point of murder — of minorities, gays, and others who don’t conform to Islamic orthodoxy; forced religious fundamentalism; militarism; fascism. Why, then, has the left embraced Hamas’s “armed struggle” against Israeli’s much more tolerant and inclusive society? Why do they whitewash the bigotry, misogyny, and homophobia that Hamas espouses?
One can speculate about the psychological pathologies that drive the more extreme leftists to such intellectual dishonesty. The Bill Ayers’s of the world have long since settled into a comfortable bourgeois lifestyle. However, they secretly admire the way radical Muslims violently attack the Western institutions that leftists hate. They see Islamists like Hamas as proxies for themselves, embodying the rage that the leftists viscerally feel at the power structures of their own societies. Contemporary Western radicals dare not express their rage in the violent manner that Islamist terrorists do, because they rely upon the freedoms and comforts provided by the very institutions they despise. Their rage is therefore impotent, and at least subconsciously, they revere Islamists like Hamas for doing what Western leftists dare not do.
It doesn’t help that Israelis are characterized by leftists as European colonizers of Palestinian land. In the leftist version of hell (or the atheist equivalent thereof), the lowest rung is reserved for European colonizers. To label Israelis as such, of course, ignores one of the most compelling arguments for Israel’s existence: Decades ago, Jews were chased by religious hatred from their ancient communities throughout the Arab world. Israel has provided millions of Middle Eastern and African Jews with refuge, so they can continue to live in the region that has been their home since antiquity.
It is also grossly unfair to say that Israel is “occupied” Palestinian land. Had that been a valid charge, rather than simply an attempt to delegitimize Israel, it would also have been leveled at Egypt prior to 1967 and Jordan to this very day. (The Palestine Liberation Organization’s own charter admits that Jordan sits on 78 percent of historic Palestine.) Seven million Hindus and Sikhs were driven from their ancient communities in 1947 so that Pakistan (and later Bangladesh) could be created in the name of Muslim self-determination. Millions more Hindus and Sikhs were later ethnically cleansed from Pakistan and Bangladesh; two and a half million Hindus were slaughtered in the 1971 Bangladesh genocide alone. If Israel’s displacement of some Palestinians was truly an “outrage,” then why does no one complain of the Hindu/Sikh displacement that was larger (and bloodier) by orders of magnitude?
The hardcore left has even adopted Hamas’s anti-Semitism — or perhaps Islamists like Hamas have simply brought out the left’s pre-existing anti-Semitism. Hamas’s charter openly calls for killing the Jews. (Western leftists assiduously substitute “Zionists” for “Jews” because they think it masks their anti-Semitism; Islamists are more upfront about their intentions.) Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan recently asserted in a television interview, with earnest credulity, the paranoid lunatic fantasy that Jews kill Christians to mix their blood into matzo (Jewish unleavened bread). All those leftist demonstrators shouting “We are Hamas!” should be so proud of themselves.
A prominent feature of leftist anti-Semitism is the insistent and pointed use of terms like “Nazis” and “genocide” to refer to Israelis and their actions against Palestinians. Only the historically illiterate would buy such hysterical hyperbole, but unfortunately, “historically illiterate” describes most of the population. Those terms are part of a malevolent communications strategy to trivialize what happened to the Jews in the Holocaust. It is also an outrageous attempt by Palestinians to usurp whatever moral authority they think that Holocaust victimhood confers upon the Jews. Sadly, there are plenty of low-information lefties out there who are more than happy to repeat such nonsense.
The proliferation of low-information lefties, especially among the young, is a growing problem. These aren’t the bitter hardcore lefties who drive the sinister communications strategy. They’re the casual, gullible lefties who regurgitate the talking points, with no clue of how little they know of the history and context of the current conflicts. They love to conspicuously root for the underdog; it’s how they feed their self-esteem. They don’t have the historical grounding, however, to identify who the real underdogs are. They have no idea, for example, that until the relatively recent influx of Russian Jews, the significant majority of Jews in Israel were not refugees from the European diaspora, but rather Jews fleeing persecution in the Middle East and North Africa. They have no idea that Iraq once had a large Jewish community that would likely be facing the same horrors that the Yazidis are facing had Israel not provided them a sanctuary. Hamas wants to destroy their sanctuary, and then destroy them. ISIS demonstrates that when Islamists say they want to kill members of other faiths, as Hamas has vowed to do, they actually do so when they get the opportunity.
Low-information lefties likely don’t know that while there is “genocide” going on in the Middle East, all of it is being perpetrated by Islamists against various ethnic minorities. The propaganda they’re fed would lead them to believe that the Palestinians are the most persecuted people on Earth. They likely don’t know that the many victims of Islamist persecution have it infinitely worse, and the plight of the Gazans owes largely to the legitimate need to restrain their attacks on their neighbors. They likely don’t know that for all the epithets about “Zionists” being “Nazis,” it is Hamas and other Islamists that seek to revive the Nazi program of eliminating Jews — and other non-Muslims as well.
Low-information lefties are incapable of grasping the logical and moral distinction between the intentional murder of helpless innocents, which Islamists routinely do, and the tragic inadvertent deaths of civilians in raids to halt missile attacks, which Israel is forced to do.
So while low-information lefties remain oblivious to the threat posed by Hamas and other Islamists, sensible people get it. A Hindu from India, where they know a thing or two about Islamist brutality, recently tweeted his message of solidarity with those poor souls on the mountaintop: “We are ALL Yazidis today!” If we don’t wake up to the threat of HamISIS extremism, we will all be Yazidis tomorrow.
David B. Cohen served in the administration of President George W. Bush as U.S. Representative to the Pacific Community, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, and as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He is the author of Left-Hearted, Right-Minded: Why Conservative Policies Are The Best Way To Achieve Liberal Ideals.