Why the woke support Hamas | The Highland County Press

By Richard Samuelson
Real Clear Wire

In the wake of the barbaric attack on Israel, many Americans have been shocked, angered, and disgusted to see woke organizations express anything other than condemnation for Hamas. On campuses and in our communities, students and organizations like Black Lives Matter have expressed support for the butchers of Jews. Meanwhile, all too many campus leaders, formerly so quick to condemn even the hint of racism, can barely muster even weak condemnation of such savagery. Many Americans find themselves shaking their heads in dismay.

Where does this blindness come from? Why are so many people who think of themselves as crusaders for justice so misguided?

It is a complicated story. But one key part of that story is the way that civil rights, which began as a cause, became an ideology. Eventually that ideology metastasized into “anti-racism,” a radical legal doctrine that scholar John McWhorter suggests is nothing less than a secular “religion.” 

The once-noble cause of civil rights changed. No longer merely about ending specific acts of discrimination in voting, employment, and public accommodations, it became a crusade to rectify the wrongs of slavery, Jim Crow, and the lingering legacy of institutional racism. In the view of 21st century progressives this entailed transforming America and the world. It is a reminder that even good things if done in the wrong way, or carried to excess, can turn bad.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate against someone due to their “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” In subsequent decades we have added more categories, notably sexuality, disability, and gender identity. Those categories are “protected classes” in law. But it didn’t take long for the legal category to be transformed into a moral category. Certain people were regarded as having special protections. In the decades since 1964 we have created an ever-expanding and ever more influential bureaucracy of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) workers dedicated to this task.

But there is a problem, especially as the number of protected classes grows, and as the number of non-white Americans grows. (When the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed, whites were roughly 88% of the population. They are roughly 60% today.) What to do when a member of one protected class mistreats or discriminates against another? To cite one infamous example, early civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael said that “the only position for women in the SNCC [Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee] is prone.” So Carmichael was both a fighter against segregation and a sexist pig.

When a member of one protected class discriminates against another or endorses bigotry against another, it threatens to undermine the larger framework according to which “oppressors” are always, essentially, Bull Connor. It would undermine the DEI approach to civil rights law enforcement that focuses upon cases of individual discrimination rather than upon the large push to transform racial power disparities. 

That’s why the civil rights ideology seized upon the idea of “intersectionality” – the recognition that a given person might be oppressed from more than one angle (African American, Asian, Hispanic, female, lesbian, trans, etc.). In any given situation who is to be protected? Presumably, it’s the person with the most intersectional points, as if that’s a rational way to organize a society – or could ever be an objective scale. Moreover, the woke DEI has fostered doctrine that assumes all protected classes are on the same side of history, ignoring the tensions beneath the surface.

Earlier this year progressives were shocked when the Muslim majority city council of Hamtramck, Michigan banned the display of Pride flags on city property. That one protected class might not support another doesn’t compute from the woke perspective. Yet, given mainstream Muslim doctrine regarding sexuality, no one should be surprised. In other words, woke progressives support Muslims not because they are Muslim, but because they have assigned to them the role of the “oppressed.” Ending their oppression is the “right side” of history. They were apparently surprised to find that history is complicated.

Hence, turning to the Hamas slaughter of Jews in Israel, the idea that Palestinians can be moral monsters is in and of itself an idea at war with the woke view of progress. The reason Jews ceased to be treated as minorities – that is to say, as people who can be on the wrong side of discrimination and oppression – is because Jews are doing so well in the post-Holocaust world. (A parallel process is happening to Asian Americans today.) As the Palestinians check off more oppression boxes than Jews, it must be the case that Hamas, and the people who voted them into power, cannot be responsible for crimes against humanity, notwithstanding all evidence to the contrary.

The woke movement’s larger hope is to transform America, and the world, fundamentally. The historical record is a sad one, full of barbarism, tragedy, and savagery. One can hardly blame people for wishing the future might be less bloody than the past. But if the tragic side of human life is due to the inevitable contradictions in the human condition, such idealism always tends to cross over into misanthropy. There is a deep moral lesson in the story of Satan being a fallen angel. 

If moral calculations will always be complex, and if many important political decisions will always be tragic (justice for one entailing injustice for another), the historical record is likely to remain in the future as it was in the past. From the perspective of an outsider looking at the history of the Middle East, both Jews and Muslims have a claim to Jerusalem (as do Christians). But from the perspective of each, any solution that is truly satisfactory to the one will inevitably seem like surrender to many in the other group. In time, almost inevitably, any compromise will break down, perhaps violently. Such is the tragic dimension of politics.

In other words, todays wokesters combine the hatred of racial discrimination with a radical desire for a utopian future. And Jews are in the way of that project. That is hardly a novel turn in history. Hitler called the Holocaust the “Final Solution.” It was, more exactly, “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question.” 

Like today’s progressives, Hitler had hope for a better future: “I believe in a conclusive understanding among peoples which will come sooner or later. There is no point in bringing about co-operation among nations, based upon permanent understanding, until this Jewish fission-fungus of peoples has been removed.” Karl Marx said something similar. In his essay on “The Jewish Question,” Marx said that progress would not take place until Jews stopped being Jews. The Hamas Charter expresses a similar version of the Muslim apocalypse. All would be peace, plenty, and harmony on earth were it not for those meddling Yids.

To allow religious and ethnic diversity is to allow a world in which tragic divisions and choices remain fundamental to politics, with the terrible consequences they necessarily entail. To recognize the necessity of a Jewish Israel is to reject comprehensive progress through merely human (as opposed to divine) means. Rather than admit that, many American progressives choose to shoot the messenger, or, as in this case, to back those who will.

Richard Samuelson is an American historian who is an associate professor of government at Hillsdale College, Washington, D.C., campus.

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