October 7th: (Not Quite) the US Left’s Own ‘Trump’ Moment

06/20/2024

I remember in 2016 that Hillary Clinton was expected to win in more or less a landslide against Donald Trump, at least by most of the national media. I wasn't entirely convinced; the energy and excitement on the ground seemed to be with Donald Trump. I saw far more yard signs, bumper stickers, and flags for Trump than for Hillary. And Hillary's pick for VP, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, seemed too staid for the moment.

Still, though, I expected Hillary to win, even if it would be too close for comfort.

On the morning of Wednesday, November 9 (I generally don't stay up on election nights to see who won; I find out in the morning), I heard the words "President-elect Donald Trump" on my alarm clock radio. I had a sinking feeling that the world had shifted overnight into an alternate reality—a Trumpverse.

The election of Donald Trump followed the Great Recession, bank bailouts, foreclosures, disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mass shootings, terrorism, and Brexit—so it wasn't entirely unexpected. Understandable but nevertheless surreal. But it wasn't like Trump had any policy answers to any of that. His campaign was a cult of personality.

After the four-year tempest of his presidency, Trump lost his bid for reelection. The universe seemed to be back on track.

Then, October 7, 2023, happened.

Using hang gliders to cross the border overhead, and bulldozers to tear down barriers on the ground, the terrorist and genocidal Hamas government of Gaza launched a surprise invasion of Israel, killing 1,200 people, raping and murdering girls and women, and capturing and dragging over 250 hostages back into Gaza as they eventually retreated. It was the single worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust in World War 2.

The October 7 casualties were not collateral damage. Civilians were purposely, maliciously, and mercilessly targeted. Yet, a few days later, on October 10, the Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter posted an image of a hang glider with the words "I stand with Palestine" emblazoned on it.

Many perceive Palestinians as the underdog David in the Arab-Israeli conflict, with Israel as Goliath, and believe that Israelis vastly outnumber Palestinian Arabs. This isn't accurate. Israel has a population of 7.2 million Jews, while Palestinian Arabs in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip also number about 7 million. An additional 3 million Palestinian Arabs live next door in Jordan, making up more than half of that country's population.

Further, the scale of the attack was far greater than 9/11 given the small size of Israel's population versus the United States.

Some claim that Israelis colonized Palestine, calling it a 'settler-colonial' state. Again, not true. Israel has been home to Jews since at least the Bronze Age. Romans expelled the majority of Jews by force in 70 AD, but a significant number remained. Over centuries, many of the Jewish Diaspora returned to Israel after facing persecution around the world, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and again after the Holocaust in World War 2.

Jews sought self-determination, and after the Holocaust, the United Nations voted in November 1947 to partition the former Ottoman Palestine into two states: a renewed Jewish Israel, and a Muslim Arab Palestine. The Arab world rejected the UN vote, and the former Ottoman Palestine descended into civil war.

Five months later, the British withdrew, and Israel declared its independence. Neighboring Arab states—Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq—invaded to prevent Israeli independence. Israel eventually won the war, securing its independence, though it remains fragile. Multiple Palestinian Arab and Islamist groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah have never given up the fight against Israeli independence and, in fact, seek to rid the region of Jews. The October 7 attack by Hamas was the latest and most devastating assault on Israel.

The American and Western far left have rallied around the cause of Hamas. This cause, alarmingly, includes genocidal rhetoric. "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" implies the expulsion or extermination of Jews. This was evidenced by the October 7 attack.

Note that I said far left. Most leaders of the American Democratic Party, from President Joe Biden to Eric Adams, Mayor of New York City, condemn the pro-Hamas demonstrations.

Nevertheless, it appears that some people have taken up the genocidal cause of Hamas. A recent anti-Israel demonstration outside of an art museum in New York City that exhibited materials from the Nova music festival in Israel that was attacked by Hamas on October 7, and which included displays like bullet-ridden cars and the personal effects of Israeli victims, removed any doubt that many of the protests are unabashedly anti-Jewish and pro-Hamas. Protesters commandeered a New York City subway car and demanded that "Zionists" identify themselves. They held up banners that read "Long Live October 7th" and sported the flags of terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. They chanted "Long live the Intifada".

October 7th seems to be the Left's Trump moment: the moment that the far left went off the rails and tainted a good swath of the traditional working-class Left's policy agenda. What do I mean by the working-class Left? I mean policies that support a well-funded and robust welfare state (social security, Medicare/Medicaid), women's reproductive rights, and accessibility to a full range of social services: quality physical and mental health care, education, and affordable housing.

The far left has promoted divisive identity politics, gender-affirming surgeries for minors, transgender athletes competing in women's sports, unconventional pronouns, defunding police, and decolonizing _____ (fill in the blank). And now, it seems, the genocidal destruction of Israel.

Unlike the Republican Party, thankfully the Democratic Party hasn't (yet) been fully subsumed by its more extreme flank. The Biden Administration, for example, rallied behind Israel on October 8th. But they have slowly backtracked ever since following the pro-Hamas and anti-Israel protests on several Ivy League and Public Ivy college campuses across America and the West.

I admire and encourage students' desire to be politically active and to effect positive change. However, in my experience, most students lack a deep understanding of Israel, the Middle East, or the Arab Israeli conflict. And why wouldn't they? College is a place to learn about the world. But exposure to the Arab Israeli conflict is limited or nonexistent unless a student specifically studies the history of the Middle East. Therefore, I hold no resentment toward students. Let them protest; there is genuine reason to oppose and protest Israeli actions on the battlefield, as there is in any war.

What I absolutely oppose is the pro-Hamas or outright antisemitic slant of protests like the one outside the Nova exhibit in NYC. Note that the Nova exhibit protest had nothing to do with students or university campuses. Apart from protests with catchy slogans that many protesters don't understand the implications of, these kinds of protests seem limited and rare, at least in the US.

This leaves me hopeful that the American left hasn't yet derailed as the American right appears to have eight years ago.