For years, left-wing intellectuals have treated “intersectionality” as an inevitability. The social theory, which holds that all oppressed peoples must join together to overthrow their common oppressor, has been an essential strategy of the Left.
There is some truth to this theory. When the fortunes of the Left are rising, intersectionality seems like a juggernaut: identity groups get aggregated into the mass, internal conflicts are subordinated to the cause of liberation, and a policy of “no enemies to the left” shifts political life in favor of the radicals. But the aura of inevitability surrounding the intersectional coalition is an illusion; moments of crisis can bring suppressed contradictions to the surface and begin a process of fragmentation.
The recent Hamas terror campaign against Israel might become such a crisis. Following the attack, the foot soldiers of intersectionality—most notably, Black Lives Matter (BLM), the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and the academic “decolonization” movement—celebrated the militants who murdered civilians, raped women, and butchered babies. BLM’s Chicago chapter published a graphic lionizing the Hamas paraglider terrorists who killed innocents. The DSA blamed Israel for the terror attack against it, arguing that it was the “direct result of Israel’s apartheid regime.” Ivy League professors with expertise in “decolonization” called it a “stunning victory” and said that “Palestinians have every right to resist through armed struggle.”
For years, these academics and groups had been able to hide their ideological commitments and operate with an air of respectability. But after last week’s statements, they have encountered a well-deserved backlash. Jewish groups, including the generally left-wing Anti-Defamation League, have condemned BLM’s anti-Semitism. A Democratic congressman quit the DSA in protest. Major donors have rebuked Ivy League universities for failing to condemn Hamas forcefully. The Financial Times warned that the “left’s take on Hamas” could lead to a “Democratic party split.”
While the backlash against the radical Left’s support of terror is welcome, that support should not have come as a surprise. All of the groups have long promoted the violent “decolonization” of not just Israel but also the United States.
BLM has promoted this ideological line since its inception. In 2015, BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors led a delegation to the Palestinian territories, so that the group’s activists could learn from the “Palestinian struggle.” She condemned Israel as an “apartheid state,” and the running theme of the trip was revolution, “from Ferguson to Palestine.” The same year, Cullors signed a statement drawing parallels between the Palestinian fight against Israel and the black one against America. During a speech at Harvard Law School, Cullors went further, telling the audience: “If we don’t step up boldly and courageously to end the imperialist project called Israel, we’re doomed.”
Likewise, the DSA has long made it clear that it backs the decolonization of Israel and the United States. The DSA’s Palestine Solidarity working group has repeatedly expressed its support for violent resistance against the Jewish state. “One cannot conflate the violence of colonized people trying to free themselves from the shackles of oppression and the violence of colonizers as they attempt to maintain a system of brutal and horrific domination. To do so is to side with the oppressor,” the group wrote last year. “Indigenous resistance in all forms are valid, whether it be non-violent protests or armed resistance,” it declared this summer. Domestically, the DSA published a statement in 2019 endorsing “full decolonization of all the occupied lands of the United States,” leading to “the liberation of all people from capitalism and imperialism.”
Following the carnage in Gaza, both BLM and the DSA confirmed their support for violence. The BLM Grassroots organization declared that the Hamas terror campaign “must not be condemned, but understood as a desperate act of self-defense.” The DSA’s San Francisco chapter reiterated its commitment to violent decolonization, writing in an official statement: “Violent oppression inevitably produces resistance. Socialists support the Palestinian people’s, and all people’s, right to resist and fight for their own liberation. . . . We call on all those who share our vision of global working-class emancipation to join the fight to end the occupation and decolonize Palestine—from the river to the sea.”
The extremism of these movements provides an opportunity to drive a wedge between the establishment Left and such radical factions. As the public begins to connect the dots between Hamas, BLM, the DSA, and academic “decolonization,” responsible political leaders will be forced to accept that recent events in Israel are not simply a matter of foreign affairs but have deep domestic ramifications. The radicals will no longer be able to play the game of double-entendre. When they chant for revolutionary struggle “from Ferguson to Palestine,” they are not speaking metaphorically. When they call for an “American Intifada,” they do not mean peaceful democratic resistance. They mean violence—a truth that can no longer be denied.
Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images