The Western left’s criticism of Israel’s role in Middle East conflict has long since become so bizarrely lopsided and vicious that many non-leftists have concluded that only antisemitism can explain it.
The left makes sure that every real and imagined military misstep on Israel’s part becomes international news, while ignoring the intentionally brutal attacks of Israel’s enemies against both Israel and their own people. The left contends that democratic, relatively multicultural Israel ultimately makes the evil decisions that drive the conflict and not the autocratic regimes attacking Israel. The left claims that the conflict can end only when Israel reforms, gives up or even disappears. The left requires almost no concrete action towards peace on the part of Israel’s enemies while demanding that Israel take concrete actions merely to get the enemies to even begin to think about negotiating.
Such extreme and thoughtless imbalance in the face of objective facts is one of the hallmarks of bigotry but I don’t think antisemitism drives the left’s stance on Israel. Instead, I think the mindless criticism a kind of intellectual mass hysteria that creates a delusional narrative so encompassing and so immersive that leftists begin to see it as unquestionable truth.
In short, the left is trapped in an immersive story in which Israel is the villain. Any fact that disrupts the “plot” gets edited out of the narrative.
That might sound overwrought but we have seen a mass delusional narrative before…
… the Vietnam era “peace” movement.
Before going further, I would note that there was a lot of debate over the wisdom of the war and its conduct across the American political spectrum that had nothing to do with the “peace” movement. Those people had practical concerns that the “eace” movement did not share.
We can define the “peace” movement as the leftmost 30% or so of the era’s American political spectrum. In even more left-leaning Europe, the percentage was much higher. It comprised the majority of the West’s academics, artists, journalists and mass-media figures. Most of the people in the “peace” movement had above-average educations and worked in fields that should have, in theory, provided them with a superior understanding of the reality of the conflict.
So, why can we confidently assert that the left they fell into the mass-hysteria-like delusional narrative? Simple: Every major assertion made by the “peace” movement about the conflict eventually proved completely wrong.
In reading the following, remember that we now have the advantage of 40 years of hindsight and that the end of the Cold War has allowed us to see conclusive evidence formerly hidden within communist states. Today, we know exactly what happened in the war and we know that the “peace” movement had every major fact wrong.
I’ll cover just the more egregious delusions that formed the main arguments of the “peace” movement. I feel it’s fair to label them “delusions” and not just “mistakes” because these where not the kinds of errors that resulted from incomplete information. Indeed, at the time, those opposed to the “peace” movement did have a correct model of the conflict, based on public information. Instead, believing with iron certainty any or all of the “peace” movement’s claims required individuals and groups to actively distort their own reasoning, to “talk themselves into it” in order to create a narrative they could convince themselves was correct. That is a process akin to someone who convinces himself that the mother ship will pick him up any day now.
Delusion: The war in South Vietnam was a popular uprising against an unpopular minority government
Reality: The outcome of the Tet offensive proved this idea conclusively wrong.
Delusion: Ho Chi Min was really just a non-ideological Vietnamese nationalist who was driven to seek support from the communist superpowers by the ignorance and racism of America and France.
Delusion:The Tet Offensive proved the US military had lied about the strength and scale of support in South Vietnam for the Viet Cong.
Reality: The Tet Offensive achieved surprise for the same reason Hitler’s offensive in the Battle of Bulge achieved surprise: The plan was based on a delusional narrative and had no chance of success.
Delusion: There were no North Vietnamese army units operating in either South Vietnam or Cambodia.
Delusion: The US “expanded” the war into Cambodia in 1970 and did so “illegally”.
Delusion: The war was fought on the Vietnamese side by militarily outmatched but plucky and determined peasant soldiers who fought with no significant support or direction from the communist superpowers.
Delusion: American soldiers were routinely committing wide-scale atrocities in the conduct of the war.
Delusion: The deafening silence on the nature of communist regimes on the other side of the conflict.
Delusion:The “peace” movement brought about peace.
Reality: This is the most tragic delusion of all. It is the reason I have been putting “peace” in quotation marks.
There are many other less-well-known delusional assertions made by the “peace” movement about the war, but these will suffice to prove my point.
The comparisons between the views held by the left on Vietnam and their views on the contemporary conflict surrounding Israel are obvious.
As with Vietnam, leftists today claim that Israel acts out of imperialism, racism and colonialism. As with Vietnam leftists today completely ignore the nature or intentions of the regimes and groups attacking Israel. Most leftists have no clue about the Nazi history and ideology of the Baathist regimes of Syria, Jordan, Egypt and (formally) Iraq. They know nothing of the regimes’ need to maintain Israel as an external enemy in order to maintain their own rule. As with Vietnam, they view the nature and intentions of the opposing actors as irrelevant because the primary driver for the conflict is the internal failings of Israel.
As with Vietnam, leftists accuse Israel of routinely and intentionally committing war crimes, while the immediately obvious and overt routine and intentional war crimes — e.g., suicide bombings aimed at civilians — of Israel’s attackers are relentlessly downplayed into insignificance. As with Vietnam, all claims of war crimes made by Israel’s enemies are taken as true without independent confirmation. As with Vietnam, all accidental deaths, even those clearly orchestrated by Israel’s enemies, are blamed on Israel’s disdain for human life. As with Vietnam, any real Israeli war crimes brought to light, even those brought to light by the Israelis themselves, are proclaimed to be merely the tip of an aiceberg instead of outliers.
As with Vietnam, the delusional narrative used by the left originates primarily from the propaganda of the non-democratic actors. All the delusions of the “peace” movement in Vietnam came first from communists, usually transmitted via Europe and then mindlessly accepted by leftists in America. The left in America swallowed communist propaganda as mechanically as a python engulfing a pig. Likewise, the left today will swallow any accusation against Israel.
As with Vietnam, as the increasing intensity of the narrative progressively cast Israel itself as becoming more extreme and evil, the narrative justifies increasingly harsh action towards Israel by anyone in response. Just as the delusional narrative about Vietnam eventually created domestic terrorism and violence in America, the delusional narrative about Israel will eventually drive Western leftists themselves to commit acts of violence and terrorism against Israel.
It is not just Israel that is in danger. The left’s susceptibility to delusional narrative makes them dangerously easy to control. Having surrendered their intellectual discipline in order to play heroic characters in a fantasy narrative, they are helpless to resist any propaganda created to mesh with the narrative. This makes it easy for almost any autocrat anywhere to induce the left to serve their interest.
Because the narratives in both Vietnam and Israel are clearly delusional, they both must be epiphenomena of some hidden dynamic of the subculture of the left. After all, the exact same pattern applies to the opposition of the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, the liberation of Iraq, the ongoing war in Afghanistan and, really, every conflict between any liberal democracy and any autocracy.
Why leftists in mass repeatedly fall into the same pattern of delusional narratives goes beyond the scope of this post. What is important is the fact that they do, and that therefore you can’t actually argue with them using facts or concepts that leftists don’t believe fit within the narrative. Doing so is as jarring to them as would be writing a cowboy character into Hamlet. They just put down the “book” in disgust and leave the conversation.
Instead of arguing with leftists about Israel, using facts they will ignore or transmogrify to fit the narrative, instead argue against their use of the narrative itself. Drive home the point that leftists keep to a “script” that just has the names changed in order to fit any particular circumstance. Hammer on the parallels between the Vietnam narrative, which we now can prove was delusional, and the narrative about Israel or other conflicts.
Every time you find yourself in a discussion or debate with leftists about Israel, bring up the obvious parallels between the current narrative and the failed narrative of Vietnam. Point out that the same people who fell for communist propaganda then, fall for similar propaganda now. Point out that the evils assigned to America then, such as war crimes, are the same as the evils assigned to Israel today. Point out that the poor quality of the evidence accepted against America then is the same quality of evidence accepted against Israel now. Point out that just as the left ignored the internal natures and dangers of the communists back then, the left ignores the internal natures and dangers of the groups and regimes opposing Israel now.
Most importantly, remind them that their “victory” back then lead to incredible bloodshed and oppression. Then pray to all gods and fates that this time, even though we have started with the same delusional narrative, we can “write” a different ending.