On Saturday, Hamas terrorists, backed by Iran, surrounded hundreds of young revelers at a “free love and spirit” music festival in southern Israel. They gunned them down and chased those who tried to escape—raping, slaughtering, mutilating, and kidnapping them for future torture. Other terrorists infiltrated the homes of farmers, killing children and mothers, dragging the elderly from wheelchairs, and loading victims into trucks as hostages.
Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar responded by calling on Israel not to defend itself or to retaliate, actions that she denounced as “senseless violence,” which would “only repeat the back-and-forth cycle” of bad behavior.
Omar’s response echoes her position on crime. She and progressive reformers push to abolish prisons and police, to elect prosecutors committed to reducing prosecutions of lawbreakers. Skipping the punishment part of justice, they shrink morality to a politically self-serving fairytale of underdog resistance to an oppressor.
In this way, ideologues have convinced officials, journalists, and far too many Americans to settle for the facile goals of social justice and antiracism. Fashionable opinions about Israel operate in precisely this kind of moral vacuum.
It is no surprise, then, that anti-police groups like Black Lives Matter have long-standing alliances with Palestinian “liberation” extremists. During Israel’s last defensive action against Hamas, in 2021, BLM organizer-turned-congresswoman Cori Bush delivered a speech on the House floor analogizing Palestinians’ grievances to those of BLM. “As we march in defense of black lives . . . we’re saying that our own government is funding a brutal and militarized disposition towards our very existence—from Ferguson to Palestine.” Congressman and future fire-alarmist Jamaal Bowman piled on, issuing a statement equating the experience of Palestinians and black Americans. “As a Black man in America, I understand on a personal level what it means to live in a society designed to perpetuate violence against people who look like me,” Bowman said. “My experience of systemic injustice . . . informs my view of what’s happening right now in Israel and Palestine.”
This ideological melding of attitudes toward domestic criminal violence and Middle East terrorism was also on display during the 2020 George Floyd protests and violence, when BLM marchers and anti-police rioters embraced the kufiyah-cool of anti-Israel bigots. At a Brooklyn demonstration weeks after Floyd’s death, participants called for eliminating Israel as well as the United States. They chanted “Death to Israel,” “Death to America,” and “From Gaza to Minnesota, globalize the Intifada!”
Even a half-decade earlier, BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors had already embraced the anti-Israel cause, asserting in Ebony in 2015 that when we deny that Israel embraces apartheid, “we are apart [sic] of the Zionist violence.” Perhaps she was also inspired by Omar’s earlier tweet, from 2012: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel.”
Criminal-justice progressives ask us to imagine ourselves as offenders at the moment that offenders interact with law enforcement; they want us to empathize with how unpleasant this must feel, and to judge what is right in this moment alone. They offer this myopic view as the only acceptable moral perspective. They would have us never imagine offenders in the moment when they are brutalizing innocent people. They want us to see perpetrators as victims.
There is a reason, then, that anti-police protestors find common cause with those chanting Death to Israel. Idealogues in both groups live in a one-dimensional moral plane where incarcerating a criminal is as wrong as a criminal murdering an innocent person, and where Israel defending itself is as reprehensible as Hamas gunmen slaughtering hundreds of dancers at a desert rave or chopping the heads off of babies.
In the days and weeks ahead, Omar and others will decry Israeli aggression and anti-Zionists will condemn Israel itself for Hamas’s terrorism—in fact, three dozen Harvard student groups already have done so.
They will urge Israel not to use firepower against Hamas fighters and to abstain from self-defense altogether. They will implore us to think about how awful Israel’s military response will be for Palestinians—and rank that empathy over any considerations of Israeli security, justice, or future peace.
A more considered morality requires something else: that we imagine the moment Hamas gunmen left their homes in the predawn hours and massacred the young peace festival dancers and desecrated their bodies. That we imagine the moment that they shot their way into families’ homes, pulling out toddlers and grandparents for slaughter. That we imagine what might happen to the many hostages today, tomorrow, and beyond. And that we imagine how the murderers planned this savagery, fully aware that Israel would then respond, in self-defense, by possibly destroying Gaza itself.
Genuine morality demands not just mercy but the reality of punishment.
Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images