Another series of those recurring, grim provocations from what we might call the “paraglider left” took place in recent weeks. In New York City, a speaker at the People’s Forum—a “movement incubator” that has received millions of dollars from the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund—told an audience to extended applause: “When the State of Israel is finally destroyed and erased from history, that will be the single most important blow we can give to destroying capitalism.” It was a pure expression of what the 19th-century social democrat August Bebel called “the socialism of fools”: the anti-Semitic belief that Jewish wealth and power lie behind the injustices of capitalism. Days later, pro-Palestinian protesters in Gotham targeted Mount Sinai Hospital and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, accusing both of participating in genocide for having received donations from “billionaire Zionists.”
In Oakland, meanwhile, the City Council debated a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Israel and Palestine. During the deliberations, speaker after speaker headed to the mic to oppose an amendment that would have added language condemning Hamas’s terrorist assault on southern Israel on Oct. 7. Viral video from the chamber showed numerous speakers denying that Hamas had beheaded or raped anyone, insisting that the Israel Defense Forces were the murderers responsible, cheering the Hamas “resistance,” and equating denunciations of Hamas with white supremacy; the amendment critical of Hamas was voted down 6 to 2. A similar outbreak of atrocity denial from Palestinian solidarity protesters occurred in January at a congressional candidates’ debate in Palo Alto.
Why focus on street radicals and campus cranks, when hundreds of thousands of Gazans are starving, and when the United Nations’ emergency-relief chief has warned that “the great majority” of the roughly 400,000 Gazans at risk of famine are now “actually in famine”? Why devote any time at all critiquing municipal-government resolutions that have zero influence over the conflict, at a time when IDF bombardments of the Gaza Strip appear to have killed more civilians after mere weeks of war than Russia has in Ukraine after almost two years? Who cares what a random film-studies prof with a blithe misreading of Frantz Fanon shouted into a bullhorn, when the World Health Organization has reported that infectious disease is soaring in Gaza as a result of the collapse of health care, water provision, and solid-waste collection?
“The discourse” is already chock-full of condemnations of broken moral compasses. What could be added? Fine. I concur. I condemn all that, and for the record, I condemn Hamas. That’s all appalling. But get your priorities straight, comrade! Get out in the streets and mobilize for peace and justice now!