Why is the “tolerant” left so in love with Islamist Palestinianism?

Anti-Israel extremists set up a protest encampment on the campus of Columbia University in New York on April 22, 2024. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock

By Alan Dershowitz

(Gatestone Institute) — The founder of the Palestinian movement in the run-up to World War II was a proud Nazi and friend of Adolf Hitler. Haj Amin al-Husseini was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the religious leader of the Muslims in what is now Israel but was then called Palestine, and, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, governed under a British Mandate. It was Husseini who turned the Arab-Jewish dispute from a resolvable conflict over land to an irresolvable conflict over religion.

Husseini decided it was against Islamic law to allow Jewish sovereignty over even an inch of what had previously been Ottoman territory, which he decreed was forever religious Muslim land, part of an endowment, or “waqf,” to be held in trust for Allah. He opposed the creation of any Jewish state, regardless of how small, even if it was part of a two-state solution that offered a far larger percentage of the land to a state for the Palestinians.

Husseini spent the war years in Berlin as Hitler’s guest, plotting to extend Hitler’s genocide against Jews from Europe to the Middle East. He participated in the genocide of Jews and others in the Balkans. For this, he was designated a Nazi war criminal at the end of the war, and had to escape to Egypt to avoid being tried and hanged.

Following his death, he was succeeded by his mentee Yasser Arafat, who relied on terrorism against civilians as his primary methodology for destroying the nation-state of the Jewish people. Arafat turned down offers of a two-state solution because he could never accept the existence of a state for the Jewish people.

Following Arafat’s death in 2004, there was an election for the Palestinian Legislative Council, between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas won the 2006 elections, and polls to this day show far greater support for that Islamist group than for the somewhat more secular Fatah.

The Hamas charter is antisemitic to its core, blaming the Jews for most of the world’s evils, from the French and Russian revolutions to both of the two world wars: “There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.” (Article 22).

Hamas, as well as Palestinian clerics in the West Bank, declare homosexuality a sin punishable by death and oppose any sort of equality for women.

Were a Hamas-run state to replace Israel “from the river to the sea,” it would be a theocratic regime closer to that of Iran than to the autocracies of Jordan or Egypt. Jews and Christians would not be allowed to live as equal citizens in such a state. Indeed, in areas currently controlled by Hamas, Christians and other non-Muslim minorities have been ethnically cleansed.

Hamas is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Iranian mullahs, who, since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1979 Revolution, regard Israel as the “Little Satan” and the United States as the “Great Satan.”

Considering the sordid history and current status of Palestinianism, it is quite remarkable that, among all the causes in the world, the left has chosen this as its primary focus. Left-wing students do not demonstrate in favor of the Kurds, the Uyghurs, Iranian dissidents or Syrian victims of genocide. There are more demonstrations on behalf of Palestinians than for Ukrainian victims of Russian aggression.

It’s solely about being anti-Israel

How can this counterintuitive reality be explained? It is rather simple. The real focus of these demonstrations is not on the alleged victims, but rather on the alleged perpetrators. The demonstrators are actually more anti-Israel than pro-Palestinian. Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran are the perpetrators denying statehood to the Kurds. China is the perpetrator of violence against the Uyghurs. The Syrian and Iranian regimes are responsible for the violence against their citizens. Russia invaded Ukraine.

The left does not hate these oppressors. They do hate Israel and its primary ally, the United States, because they are free market, Western states. Consequently, they support the enemies of these states, who in this case are the Palestinians. In previous wars, the left supported the Viet Cong, Pol Pot, North Korea and Cuba. It has always been more about identifying with the alleged perpetrators — Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Castro, Che Guevara — than with the alleged victims.

Of course, there are Gazan civilians who are deserving of left-wing (and other) support. Justifiable criticism of Israel is also legitimate. But fabricated disproportionate criticism of Israel at the same time as disproportionate support for Palestinians, to the exclusion or minimization of others, is not fair — or accurate.

It is Hamas, not Israel, that is responsible for much, if not all, of the victimization of Palestinian civilians. Israel can and should be criticized for civilian casualties that were preventable — in the “fog of war” many are not — or that are their fault. But none of this explains or justifies the singular focus of the left on the Palestinians and Israel. Nor does the false claim that Israel is a “colonial” or “settler” state explain the passionate hatred directed against Israel by the left.

There are real colonial, settler states such as New Zealand, which has been quite critical of Israel and supportive of the Palestinians. No one demonstrates against New Zealand, Turkish-occupied Cyprus, or Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The disproportionate focus on the Palestinians and Israel can be explained only by bigoted hatred of the nation state of the Jewish people and its alliance with the United States, and the wish to see them brought down.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.