Yascha Mounk

Identity Crisis: why doesn’t the West know who to back in the Israel-Hamas war?

When two planes flew into the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001, the world stood in solidarity with the United States. In London, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ was played at Buckingham Palace. ‘We are all Americans,’ declared Le Monde. In Berlin, 200,000 people took to the streets to express their sorrow. This makes it all the more striking how different – and how morally obtuse – the reaction to Hamas’s slaughter of around 1,400 Israelis has been.

Major news outlets were strangely reluctant to dwell on the horror before jumping straight to the Israeli response. Instead of declaring that we are all Israelis, Le Monde editorials fulminated against Israel’s ‘desire for vengeance’. And when huge demonstrations filled the streets of Berlin, London, Paris and Brussels, they were not in solidarity with those who’d been brutally murdered, but in support of the terrorists.

Was this an expression of a desire to protect Palestinian civilians from the likely Israeli reaction? Were those on the steps of Melbourne’s state parliament or rallying outside the US Consulate General in Toronto speaking up for the dispossessed? Were the protests in Cairo and Islamabad concerned with the plight of fellow Muslims?

In the past three decades, the nature of the left has fundamentally changed

That is the most charitable interpretation. And it is beyond doubt that the conflict provoked by Hamas’s gruesome attack has, in turn, claimed the lives of many innocent Palestinian civilians. But if that is the demonstrators’ true motivation, where were the throngs of people mourning the hundreds of thousands of Shias (or, for that matter, 3,000 Palestinians) murdered by Bashar Assad in Syria? Where are the mass protests about the millions of Uighurs oppressed by the Chinese government in Xinjiang? Why did no one seem to care when, only last month, Azeri forces expelled 100,000 Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh?

The simple, sobering truth is that the international left has barely paid attention to any of those conflicts.

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