Saturday, October 28, 2023

I'm Not Angry at Hamas or Bibi. I'm Angry at Those Who I Believed Were Just Like Me (Ha'aretz)

It’s said we get angry at those we love, and the anger is caused by disappointed expectations. I’m angry at the international leftists who I thought shared my values. Turns out I was wrong, we were all wrong (Ha'aretz)

Nissan Shor

Oct 26, 2023:


After the mourning, though it actually hasn’t yet subsided and probably never will, the stage of anger arrived. You can simply go out of your mind with anger – and in my case, at least, it’s not directed at Hamas. I am not angry at Hamas. I have no reason to be angry at those who have distanced themselves from humanity. My feelings for them go beyond mere anger. I am filled with revulsion, and I constantly fight the urge to be consumed by thoughts of revenge. 

Likewise, I don’t direct my anger at Bibiand the insignificant individualsaround him. Here too, anger is not the right term. Like many Israelis, I am left feeling shocked and despondent, and I harbor an intense, scathing contemptfor our leadership. 

It’s often said that we direct our anger toward those we love, because this anger stems from unmet expectations and unfulfilled hopes. I find myself angry with those I believed were like me, those who I thought shared my values – leftist ideals, humanism, human rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and so forth. It seems I was mistaken, and we were all mistaken, both Israelis and Jews. All too swiftly, we were cast aside, as if thrown beneath a speeding train. 

Since October 7, progressive leftists worldwide, from Ivy League universities to the art world, have seemingly chosen to overlook the atrocities committed by Hamas. The voices of those usually quick to decry “micro-aggressions” have fallen silent. I’ve searched for some form of condemnation – however faint, however subtle, just something to grasp hold of – but found nothing. Absolutely nothing. I watched an interview with a cheerful Scandinavian woman who participated in a pro-Palestinian demonstration. She later proclaimed that Israel should be “thrown into the garbage,” only begrudgingly acknowledging that the mass murder, rape and abduction of women, children and the elderly “is not okay.” Unfortunately, that seems to be the most one can expect these days.

The silence was also interspersed with outright denialism. Some even suggested that the disturbing videos were fabricated using AI. Speaking of AI, up until a month ago, that was my primary concern. Now, it no longer preoccupies me. The robots are welcome to take over. They will likely adhere to consistent moral stances, unaffected by fleeting trends. 

Before our very eyes, we are witnessing the collapse of the humanistic foundation upon which the left was built after World War II. It’s truly infuriating, especially since those humanists include individuals I considered allies in the global fight against violence and hatred. The heartbreak is even more profound when they are artists and cultural figures I’ve admired my entire life. 

The open letter published in the highly regarded magazine Artforum one-sidedly condemned Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. Its signatories only added a postscript to the letter mentioning the terrorist attack after being subjected to significant public pushback. The statement was signed by such cultural giants as Brian Eno, Nan Goldin, Jarvis Cocker, and the renowned artist Kara Walker. Joining them were names like Steve Coogan (one of my favorite comic actors), the illustrious Robert Wyatt, Mike Leigh (a veteran pro-Palestinian activist), and the captivating Tilda Swinton. The four of them signed another petition, in which they chose to completely overlook the horrific massacre perpetrated against us, our friends and our families. 

On the other hand, I am an adult. I know that a person can be an absolute ideological idiot and a huge genius artistically. One doesn’t contradict the other. It’s part of what’s known as being human.

Which is apparently what certain segments of the college-campus contingent of the infantile progressive left have overlooked. Many of them lead sheltered, privileged lives under academia’s protective canopy. Warning lights regarding their dubious character have been flashing increasingly in recent years. There’s been abundant discussion about how members of Generation Z and the millennials of the woke movement perceive reality in a one-dimensional way – seeing things strictly in black and white, missing nuances and subtleties, being quick to judge and panic, and overlooking complexity. Now, the cumulative effect of their negative traits is on display right before our eyes, and at our expense. These slaves of progressiveness, devoid of humanity, have undergone a distorted form of indoctrination. 

For these individuals, radical notions serve as status symbols to be flaunted, rather than genuine beliefs. The Palestinian people don’t truly concern them. These hollow liberals are products of the neoliberal economy. Even if they perceive themselves as Marxists or leftists, their political identity is shaped in much the same way as anything else in that system. It’s akin to a consumer item, like a windbreaker purchased from a second-hand boutique. They drape themselves in the flag of Palestine, adopting a mere aesthetic stance and exhibiting a fetishistic view of the Oriental subject. I wouldn’t be surprised if they derive some form of thrill or even sexual arousal from rallying on campuses in support of the “victims.” 

That word, “victim,” has become the currency in this economy of images. Naive young people casually throw around terms like “decolonization” and “genocide” out of a sense of guilt that lacks any true understanding. These spoiled schmucks have turned into self-appointed gatekeepers. I recently came across a video of a young American man, in his 20s, proclaiming that, in light of President Biden’s support for Israel, he no longer identifies as an “American.” From now on, he asserts, “I am a Saudi and a Qatari.” It seems that, in his mind, these nations represent models of humanism. Such absurdity is truly beyond fabrication. 

The anger stems from the fact that you suddenly realize that your milieu – or what you had imagined was your milieu – is in fact turning against you. Almost universally, those who are perceived as “highbrow” not only quickly adopted a pro-Palestinian stance (which of course is totally legitimate), but also deteriorated into full-fledged antisemitism. Instagram is awash with all kinds of New York or Berlin types, hipsters, members of indie bands who want to liberate Palestine “from the sea to the Jordan.” It’s not certain that they understand what that means. To them it sounds like a catchy slogan. 

The left always conducted an affair with “freedom fighters,” be they the Baader-Meinhof Gang or the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the whining progressives are convinced that Hamas is an organization that’s occupied with “liberation” and forging justice. In fact, the word “justice” is of no interest to those who observe us from the outside. For them, we are not human beings. The Palestinians are not human beings. We are a story in which there are absolute good guys and absolute bad guys, and who cares about the atrocity that was committed on October 7. That remains outside the frame. We’ll cut it during the editing. 

Here’s further evidence that some people inhabit a world that has lost its substance and been reduced to mere text. Admittedly, this detachment from reality is a well-recognized malaise in academia. Scholarly theories have drained literature of its libido, transformed art into a mere extension of ideology, and subjugated culture and politics to various ideological trends. Quite a few intellectuals have forsaken their humanist responsibilities. Take, for example, the Cornell University history professor who expressed feeling “exhilarated” by the murderous spree. He’s not alone in this. Anyone who has adjusted their values to fit the zeitgeist, rather than upholding the timeless principles of humanistic leftism, shares responsibility for the dire situation we find ourselves in now. 

This is a terribly confusing time. Like many Israelis, I was brought up with the belief that “everyone is antisemitic.” So, where does that leave me now? To concede that my father was right? Oh no, anything but that. To accept that I’ll always be a persecuted Jew? That those who think like me are now advocating for my elimination? That I should abandon the universal dream and embrace a particularist insularity within my battered community? 

A feeling of terrible loneliness envelops me. I am a left-winger, I still believe that part of the harsh criticism of Israel is fully justified, I know what we are doing in the territories and in Gaza, I haven’t forgone my solid opinions. But I will not justify – and I expect of others not to justify – the barbarism, and not to “understand” it, not even by an iota, but to struggle against it. Every justification, every explanation, is unacceptable. And anyone who doesn’t get the point needs to shut up. Simply shut up.

The anger morphs into depression.

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