Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Moral Bankruptcy of the Progressive-Left

Also published at the Elder of Ziyon, The Algemeiner, and Love of the Land.

{Author's note - this is a slightly edited retread from a few years ago. I thought that it was worth revisiting.}

hypocrisyThe progressive movement's main claim to political legitimacy is a moral claim. The movement claims to stand for social justice and equality of rights throughout the world. Any legitimacy the left has as a political movement is grounded in the notion of universal human rights. But if the left has quietly abandoned that ideal, which it has, then it loses both moral and political legitimacy. After all, if the left does not stand for universal human rights, then just what in this world does it stand for?

The sad truth is that the left has abandoned its core reason to be. By holding different people, and different countries, to different moral standards it has effectively abandoned its alleged core values. One cannot claim to stand for social justice, after all, if you only care about social justice for some people, but not others. If you constantly speak out against supposed Israeli human rights abuses but remain silent about the truly horrific situations in Darfur or Congo or Syria... circumstances that make the Arab-Israel conflict look like a picnic on a summer Sunday afternoon... then you cannot claim to stand for universal human rights and, therefore, any claims you may have for moral or political leadership, as a member of the left, are entirely unfounded.

This is the situation that we find ourselves in, currently, and it probably represents at least part of the reason why many Jews are becoming more and more dissatisfied with the Democratic Party and the progressive movement. Most diaspora Jewish supporters of Israel are people who at one time, if not currently, considered themselves on the progressive-left. Certainly, I did. As someone who grew up in the political aftermath of the counterculture and the New Left, I was impressed with the ideals of those movements. I was impressed with the counterculture for its apparent spontaneity, its anti-authoritarian values, and its sense of community. I was impressed with the New Left for standing against jingoism, for its anti-war agenda, and for its championing of the human rights of women and Gay people and other minorities.

Today, looking back on the movement that was for decades my political home, what I see are the ruins of what was and the rank hypocrisy of what is. The left has essentially broken itself on Israel's back and they don't even know it, yet. The reason for this is that if, as a movement, the progressive-left intends to constantly fire-off Katyushas of Hatred and Qassams of Malice toward Tel Aviv, while snuggying up to Iran, then they lose all moral legitimacy. This is particularly true given the fact that the left could hardly care less about the 5.5 million dead in the Congo, about Tibetans living under Chinese occupation, about rape as a tactic of war in Darfur, about the hanging of Gay people from cranes in Tehran, or about an Arab and Muslim world rife with anti-Semitism, homophobia, and gender apartheid.

In this way the left, which claims to be both moral and anti-racist proves itself to be, in fact, neither.

On the progressive-left, Israel is the Jew among nations. Just as prior to establishment of the state of Israel Europeans tended to ascribe a host of negative characteristics to the Jewish people, so today they ascribe those same specific characteristics to the Jewish state and they do so... gallingly enough, hypocritically enough... under the banner of social justice. For 2,000 years we lived in diaspora, that is, we lived or died according to the pleasure of non-Jews. For 1,300 years we lived as second and third-class non-citizens under the imperialist boot of Muslim rule, i.e., as dhimmis. And today, directly after the historical moment in which we re-took our freedom, progressives tell us that the institution within which we manifest that freedom, the state of Israel, is a racist, colonialist, imperialist, apartheid country which, if it should not be dismantled as the national homeland for the Jewish people, must jump through whatever hoops they lay down. If Israel fails to jump through each and every one of those hoops then clearly they do not want peace and thus deserve whatever they get.

Well, some of us have definitely had enough of this nonsense.

The Palestinians refuse to negotiate a peaceful conclusion of hostilities and the progressive-left blames Israel. The Gazans shot thousands of rockets into southern Israel for years, but the progressives only spoke up when Israel sought to defend its citizenry from those rockets. Did the progressive movement have anything to say about the Fogel family murders? No, it did not. Does the progressive movement have anything to say about Hamas's genocidal charter or the larger Jihadi movement out of which Hamas sprang?

No. It does not.

The left can barely even bring itself to tsk, tsk ISIS.

In fact, as Egypt transitioned from a military dictatorship, under Hosni Mubarak, to an Islamist dictatorship under the Muslim Brotherhood this result was, in part, through the efforts of the current president of the United States. But, then, the left has always had a weakness for the very worst actors in world history. Just as leftists often supported the Soviet Union for decades, despite the tens of millions of innocent dead due to that regime, so it now (usually tacitly, but sometimes directly) supports Political Islam.

For me, personally, the real wake-up call came during the Mavi Marmara incident in May of 2010. There were two groups of people aboard that vessel. There were the violent Jihadis seeking martyrdom... which progressives referred to as "peace activists." And the second group? Well, they definitely weren't Tea Party people. They were, in fact, progressive-left activists from around the world. Progressive-left activists literally, physically, morally, and financially supporting Jihadis in an effort to kill Jews, while telling the world that their mission was humanitarian.

The irony and cruel hypocrisy could not be more rich.

So, just why would you expect Jewish people to remain a part of such a political movement? The progressive-left may have been our home for a very long time, but clearly their values have shifted away from anything that could possibly be acceptable to the great majority of western Jews. Most of those Jews don't really get it, yet, but people are awakening. There are reasons why more and more of us are leaving the Democratic party and the progressive movement.

Because the progressive-left accepts, if not encourages, generalized malice toward the Jewish state it thereby shows the rest of us the door.

I say we walk through it.


  1. Walking through that door can be hard, especially when the alternative is the Republican Party as currently constituted, though I am not knee jerk anti-Republican as so many others are, which BTW really bothers me. I feel kind of homeless right now. What I do know is there is just no way I can vote for Sidney Blumenthal or an ascendant anti-Semitic anti-Zionist movement as is happening on the left. Sorry, my former fellow jewish libs, but I cannot sleep walk with you. I can't pretend that lies are not lies, or that defamation is criticism. Sorry, Peter Beinart, but I don't take my marching orders from 19 year old college students or their asshole morally confused professors. You may think of them as authority figures, but I'm old enough to remember them as zit-faced narcissistic drug users.

    1. Jeff,
      When I walked away from the Labour party I became politically homeless. I did it some time ago, and did not vote in the last general election. That was pre- Corbyn. So it's even worse now.
      The party I always supported has changed far too much for me to stay. And its future looks like it will become even less appealing.
      It is not great to have no political home, but I feel "cleaner" now. Like I have more self-respect.
      The Labour party left me.

    2. k,
      Thank you for that. Yes, I didn't vote for president in the 2012 election, and might not in this coming election either. Trump or Cruz? Oy vey.
      (Although Cruz is very pro-Israel, he makes my skin crawl.)
      I've expressed my feelings about a Hillary-Blumenthal Administration. Bernie Sanders went that extra mile to win the Michigan primary by "reaching out" to Muslims, which the pundits on MSNBC found so wonderful without ever mentioning the part where he expressed the view to the muslim community basically that Israel is responsible for all the pathologies of the Middle East. I would call that an antisemitic conspiracy theory, because it is.
      But I feel clean.

    3. "You may think of them..."
      Sorry, I meant "They (the students) may think of them..."

    4. As I said before, I'm in Mexico and the tv stinks, so I have a lot of time to catch up on my reading. One of the books I have sampled, but may read soon, is called "Inventing the Future." The authors, at least the little I've read, posit that the world leftists are too disorganized and local to really get anything done. I suppose they are going to have a theory of how leftinsts can unite and bring about substantial change. The point is that "leftist-progressive" is a nebulous term which may describe some liberals, but certainly not all. And as JeffwithaJ has pointed out, precisely where do you go? It seems to me to abandon true liberal politics, which is really based on Jewish ethical teachings, and move to the Republican side, which is based on Ayn Rand's moral emptiness, is a mistake. If you believe that the Democrats have become anti-Israel (by the way, they haven't) then what is needed is a new liberal movement which embraces both liberal morality and a pro-Israel stand.

  2. Mike,
    Is it not true to say that the overwhelming majority of American Jews are still registered Democrats and will vote Hillary or Bernie?
    I know more orthodox Jews tend to vote Republican.
    Are there a significant number of Jewish voters who are leaving the Democratic party?
    Certainly in the UK, there is a falling away from the Labour party by many Jewish voters since Corbyn was elected leader. But many non-Jewish Labour supporters are finding it impossible to stay while he is in charge. Although, I cannot see how this Labour party can ever be brought back to a safe environment for Jews. Or for moderates. Even if Corbyn finally is ousted, I think the party is lost on many fronts to a whole batch of its previous supporters. It has new support, though. And is, effectively, a new party, with a different agenda.
    But European Jews are, understandably, much more antsy about their present political parties and the general landscape they inhabit.
    I would imagine also that the Trump phenomenon is likely to make any American Jews who might have been considering a move away from voting Democrat more inclined to stay where they are.

    1. Abu Yehuda has a piece on reformist rabbis who will boycott Trump's speech to AIPAC. He thinks that's a big mistake and I agree. Read it.
      In the meantime, Bernie is having "scheduling problems" that will not allow him to attend. AIPAC, feel the burn?

    2. jeffwithaj,
      Could you please give the cite for the Abu Yehuda piece? I couldn't find it on google.

    3. Sorry, Joseph, for not providing it.

      Scroll down to the 2nd article.

    4. No need to apologize. I read the article and agree wholeheartedly. I have always believed in the Jeffersonian idea that the marketplace of ideas will toss out the bad ones. In that marketplace, everybody gets to have his say. We really only know what the good ideas are when we hear the bad ones.

  3. Two articles - via Mick Hartley - on the moral bankruptcy of the progressive left. Particularly as applied to the UK Labour party.

    From Nick Cohen, and (ahem) from Rod Liddle. Mr. Liddle is leftwing and a lifelong Labour supporter but is loathed by the progressives.

    1. k,
      I am completely unfamiliar with Rod Liddle, but his piece was engaging.

    2. Jeff,
      He's pretty much hated by the progressive-left because he tends to be very politically incorrect. And he probably cuts it fine sometimes as he enjoys being a bit of a provocateur. He likes winding people up. He's anti-Islamist and, therefore, gets called an "Islamophobe." He writes in the Spectator - which of course means people assume he's rightwing - but he's definitely on the left. He just can't stand the liberal, metropolitan elites and their various obsessions and hypocrisies. Consequently, he's considered a kind of monster who must be spoken of in a particular tone.

    3. "Isn't he a bit like you and me" - John Lennon, Nowhere Man

      Well, maybe not you. And I don't necessarily enjoy winding people up, but sometimes maybe when I think it's thoroughly deserved.

      Here is an interesting article in Tablet by James Kirchick for you and everyone.

    4. As I said, I've been catching up on my reading. I finished "John Lennon and the Jews." Excellent book, I highly recommend it.

    5. Jeff,
      Thanks for the link to James Kirchick's article. That was really interesting. He's a good writer.
      The article in Tablet about the Daoud case is really interesting too, if you haven't seen it. By Paul Berman and ...someone else whose name I've just forgotten. ( I am an idiot) I'll try and provide link.

    6. Paul Berman and Michael Walzer.

    7. Joseph,
      I looked up "John Lennon and the Jews" on Amazon and read some reviews. Sounds interesting.

      I will get to that link. Thanks.

  4. It's too convenient to paint one's enemies as immoral. I would say it's more a case of amoral or post-moral. Once you abandon the ethic, the moral foundation of civilization that lead to the rise of your very belief system such as ethics, faith, religion, justice, temperance, comity, grace, piety then the idea that you espouse a moral world view is out the window. It's like manners. People like to say "Israelis don't have bad manners they have no manners." Because you can't fault someone for abusing something they don't have.

    The left set itself up as a new religion, a new morality that jettisoned all those things it felt were antiquated. Its morality was consciously reduced to irrefutable platitudes. It's nice to be nice, treat others well, turn the other cheek, never throw the first punch, bullies are mean, be kind of mother earth. Etcetera Etcetera Etcetera. But be clear that positing a world where there are no hard choices, where bad things are entirely avoidable where all dogs go to heaven - that's not morality. That's fantasy. That's not a hard sell. So I'm hard pressed to understand what moral bankruptcy is in this sense.