Nick Cohen Nick Cohen

Why the far left sides with Hamas

(Photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)

The great fault of the global left is not that it supports Hamas. For how could western left-wing movements or left-inclining charities or academic bodies truly support Hamas if they were serious about their politics?

No one outside the most reactionary quarters of Islam shares Hamas’s aim of forcing the people of the world to accept ‘the sovereignty of Islam’ or face ‘carnage, displacement and terror’ if they refuse. You cannot be a progressive and campaign for a state that executes gay men. An American left, which includes in its ranks the Queers for Palestine campaign group, cannot seriously endorse lethal homophobia in its own country. Their kind will turn a blind eye in Palestine, but not in New York or Chicago. No left-wing organisation proudly honours the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the fascist tradition Hamas embraces, although in a sign of a decay that has been building on the left for more than a generation, many will promulgate left-wing conspiracy theories which are as insane as their fascist counterparts.

No, the problem with the global left is that it is not serious. It ‘fellow travels’ with radical Islam rather than supports it. The concept of ‘fellow travelling’, with its suggestions of tourism, dilettantism, and privilege, is well worth reviving. The phrase comes from the Bolsheviks. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 they looked with appreciation on westerners who supported them without ever endorsing communism. Artists, writers, and academics who were disgusted with the West, often for good reason, I should add, were quite happy to justify Soviet communism and cover up its crimes without ever becoming communists themselves. 

Leon Trotsky put it best when he said of fellow travellers that the question was always how far they would go. As long as they did not have live under the control of communists in the 1920s or the control of Islamists in the 2020s, the answer appears to be: a very long way indeed.

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