Why does the hard left glorify the Palestinians?

In a world in which massive violations of human rights have, tragically, become the norm, why has the hard left focused on one of the least compelling of those causes — namely, the Palestinians? Where is the concern for the Kurds, the Chechens, the Uyghurs, the Tibetans? There are no campus demonstrations on their behalf, no expressions of concern by “the Squad” in Congress, no United Nations resolutions, no recurring op-eds in The New York Times, and no claims that the nations that oppress these groups have no right to exist. 

On the merits and demerits of their claims, the Palestinians have the weakest case. They have been offered statehood and independence on numerous occasions: in 1938, 1948, 1967, 2000-2001 and 2008. Israel ended its occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005. Yet, even now, Palestinian leaders refuse to sit down and negotiate a reasonable two-state solution. As the late Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once aptly put it, the Palestinian leadership never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Nor are history and morality on their side. The Palestinian leadership allied itself with Nazism and Hitler in the 1940s, with Egyptian tyranny and antisemitism in the 1950s, and with international terrorism from the 1960s forward.

In 1947, the United Nations divided the land that the Romans called Palestine and the Jews called Yisrael into two areas. It provided a sliver of land along the Mediterranean and a non-arable desert called the Negev to the Jews, who were a majority in that area, and a much larger arable area to the Arabs. The Jews declared statehood on their land. Instead of declaring statehood on their land, the Palestinians and surrounding Arab nations declared war. The Arabs lost and the Jews captured more land. As a result of the war, there occurred an exchange of populations: Hundreds of thousands of Arabs left or were forced out of Israel, and hundreds of thousands of Jews left or were forced out of Arab countries and Arab Palestine.

Again, in 1967, the surrounding Arab nations threatened to destroy Israel, which preemptively attacked and occupied the West Bank and Gaza, which it immediately offered to return — with some territorial adjustments necessary for security — in exchange for peace and recognition. The U.N. Security Council issued Resolution 242, which called for a return of captured territories in exchange for peace. Israel accepted. The Arab nations and the Palestinians, however, issued their three infamous “no’s” — no peace, no recognition, no negotiation.  

The Kurds have never been offered independence or statehood, despite treaties that promised it. Nor have the Tibetans, the Uyghurs or the Chechens. But the Palestinians have, on multiple occasions since 1938, when their leader told the Peale Commission that the Palestinians don’t want a state — they just want there not to be a Jewish state.

The Palestinian people have suffered more from the ill-advised decisions of their leaders than from the actions of Israel.

Back to the present: Hamas commits a double war crime every time it fires a lethal rocket at Israeli civilians from areas populated by its civilians, who they use as human shields. Israel responds proportionally in self-defense, as President Biden has emphasized. The Israel Defense Forces go to extraordinary lengths to try to minimize civilian casualties among Palestinians, despite Hamas’ policy of using civilian buildings — hospitals, schools, mosques, and high-rise buildings — to store, fire and plan their unlawful rockets and incendiary devices. Yet the hard left blames Israel alone, and many on the center-left create a moral equivalence between democratic Israel and terrorist Hamas.

Why? The answer is clear and can be summarized in one word: Jews.

The enemy of the Kurds, the Tibetans, the Uyghurs and the Chechens are not — unfortunately for them — the Jews. Hence, there is little concern for their plight. If the perceived enemy of the Palestinians were not the Jews, there would be little concern for their plight as well. This was proved by the relative silence that greeted the massacre of Palestinians by Jordan during “Black September” in 1970, or the killings of Palestinian Authority leaders in Gaza during the Hamas takeover in 2007. There has been relative silence, too, about the more than 4,000 Palestinians — mostly civilians— killed by Syria during that country’s current civil war. It is only when Jews or their nation are perceived to be oppressing Palestinians that the left seems to care about them. 

While the United States provides financial support for Israel, we also provide massive support for Jordan and Egypt. Even if the United States were to end support for Israel, the demonization of Israel by the hard left would not end. 

The left singles out the Palestinians not because of the merits of their case but, rather, because of the alleged demerits of Israel and the double standard universally applied to Jews. That is the sad reality. 

Former CIA director John Brennan as much as admitted this double standard when he complained in a tweet about the alleged lack of empathy by Jews: “I always found it difficult to fathom how a nation of people deeply scared by a history replete with prejudice, religious persecution, & unspeakable violence perpetrated against them would not be the empathetic champions of those whose rights & freedoms are still abridged.”

As Seth Frantzman, a writer for the Jerusalem Post, aptly put it: “In his telling of it, he implied that Jews must have special empathy for others while non-Jews have no special need to be empathetic. Brennan has not … held other countries to a higher standard based on the ethnic and religious origins of their citizens … In short, because Jews endured genocide, they have to live according to a higher standard than those who perpetrated genocide.”

This “benevolent” double standard may sound kinder than the malevolent double standard imposed by members of “the Squad” and others, but it has the same effect: it demands that Israel do less to protect its citizens from rockets and terrorism than is demanded from other countries. The same standard must be demanded of Israel as is demanded of other countries defending their citizens. In particular, the same standard must be demanded of Palestinians and their leaders as is demanded of other groups seeking the moral support of good people. 

As of now, the Palestinians have failed to meet that standard. 

I support the legitimate rights of Palestinians to a peaceful state, not so much because their history and actions merit it more than others, but because it would be good for peace in the region and for Israel. But I refuse to prioritize it over other more, or equally, compelling claims just because Jews are on the other side.

Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus for Harvard Law School, served on the legal team representing President Trump for the first Senate impeachment trial. He is author of the recent book, “Cancel Culture: The Latest Attack on Free Speech and Due Process,” and his podcast, “The Dershow,” is available on Spotify and YouTube. You will find him on Twitter @AlanDersh.

Tags Alan Dershowitz Antisemitism Donald Trump Gaza Strip Israeli–Palestinian conflict Joe Biden John Brennan

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

More International News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video