Why Liberals Have Turned Against Israel


I Would Define Liberals

In the last 30 years many one time liberal supporters have turned against Israel. To understand liberals, we should have some idea of their belief system. Liberals are usually distinguished from socialists. The latter believe that the government should own the means of production; that is, public ownership. Liberals generally believe that there should be a much more even distribution of the productive wealth of a private market place. In addition, liberals believe in a much greater evenness in distribution of the wealth of the society. A large government sector is needed to attain greater economic justice for all. There can be disparities between wealthy and modest individuals, but neither the historic nor present extremes. Liberals traditionally believe in a broadly defined understanding of human rights: civil rights, women’s rights, free speech rights and more. Today this is expanded to include sexual orientation rights, homosexual rights and abortion rights.

Conservatives would argue that they also believe in legislation to protect many of these rights. However, conservatives want to err much more on the side of individual liberty, privacy, small government and personal responsibility. They reject large-scale government redistribution and believe that real competition and freedom will eventually bring greater justice.

The Loss of Belief in God Among Liberals

In past times, both liberals and conservatives professed belief in God and His moral values (Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy). Evangelicals were great supporters of Roosevelt and were very oriented to the Democratic Party until the abortion issue in the 1970s. The Democratic Party was the party of the majority of Evangelicals. The Democrats also held sway with the majority of Catholics and Jews.

However, since the Vietnam War, there has been a shift in liberalism toward a more radical leftist view. Such non-historically rooted developments include a virulent secularism, relativism, the questioning of free speech if it violates political correctness (branded sometimes as hate speech), homosexual rights, abortion rights, and a great skepticism concerning American power. America is seen as the problem in the world rather than the solution. We must not think that the liberalism of today is the same as that of Harry Truman. It is quite different. Often times the old liberalism had a strong religious base.

I believe that the main reason why liberalism (at least in its more leftist perspective), is such a problem is due to its malignant secular relativism. “The Daily Kos” and “Move On” are two organizations with web sites that represent the new radical secular left. Such folks have succeeded in infiltrating into the culture formation leadership roles in our society (media, journalism, and academia). While there are some Christians who support their positions, Christian liberals are not in the forefront of leadership in our society. So how does this play out?

Secular Liberalism is Cowardly

Recently, Paul Berman, a journalist professor at Johns Hopkins University has written an important book, The Flight of the Intellectuals. The intellectual class is, in general, a liberal class. Berman catalogues the developments of the last 20 years. It is quite stunning. In the early 90s the intellectuals were standing with Salman Rushdie, the author of the novel, The Satanic Verses which offended conservative Islamic leaders. A fatwa was put out, encouraging faithful Muslims to kill him. Intellectuals of all stripes spoke out strongly in his defense.

In the years following, liberal intellectuals have become more and more silent in the face of the greatest Muslim atrocities and other human rights violations. Compare their loud responses to the recent Israeli defense of the Gaza blockade and the killing of 9 out of a mob that sought to murder the Israeli naval commandos. A voice is raised for Darfur, but with much less intensity. Where are the recent street protests? Compared to Iran and its terrible atrocities after its elections, Israel is much more vilified. What of the sinking by North Korea of the South Korean naval ship where many died? There was no significant outcry. There is no sustained protest led by the liberal intellectuals over the awesome oppression of women in the Muslim world. Berman sees this as a self-betrayal of the feminist movement as well. This is all well catalogued in a recent Wall Street Journal article (June 8) by Bret Stephens.

How can this be explained? Berman shows a progressive decline in criticism of Muslim behavior and a greater and greater willingness to accommodate it. Why? Because terrorism itself has succeeded in intimidating much of Western society, including liberals. They have been cowed into silence by the threat of potential attacks against them should they criticize the Islamic agenda. Their secular relativism robs them of courage to stand up against what is clearly wrong. I believe they are affected by a subconscious desire to appease the Muslims in the hope that they will eventually calm down and leave the rest of us alone. Appeasement is in, courage and opposition is out. It is a massive cultural Stockholm syndrome where the captive identifies with the oppressor, or in this case, the potential oppressor. Appeasement is part of fallen human nature. The idea of sacrificing Israel so that they – the Muslims – will leave us alone may underlie much of the liberal response.

Jamie Glasov’s book, United in Hate, also asserts a psychology of self-hatred among some in the left that leads to hatred of our society. This hatred promotes identification with any who hate the United States and the capitalist West. Israel – who, in this context, is seen as a colonial power – is included among those to be hated.

It was quite revealing recently to watch CNN shortly after the Gaza blockade conflict. They showed a video taken by the Israeli Navy. The Israelis land on the ship and are surrounded by a mob that beats them with iron bars and clubs and throws one overboard. The video is really quite clear! Yet the commentator says that the video is grainy and unclear and one cannot really make out what is happening. Wow! Why would he say that? Was it to appear neutral? However, a reporter is to report facts! This was said in the face of very clear empirical fact.

Courage and the Fear of God

The best philosophers noted that a society of courage requires the fear of God. In order to protect the morality and liberty of a nation, belief in God and His values needs to be at a level where individuals are willing if necessary, to give their life in sacrifice should the national good require it. A willingness to make such a sacrifice is based on the understanding that there is reward after death. However, as the great apostle Paul stated it “if in this life we only have hope” we are most miserable, (1 Corinthians 15:19). During the Vietnam War many chanted, “Hell no, I won’t go,” and “Make love, not war.” These protesters were portrayed as idealists. While this may have been true of a few, the majority were simply self-indulged baby boomers. Thankfully many became Christians through the Jesus movement. Many, however, did not and some lead the leftist liberals today.

The ideas in these books and the referenced article are very persuasive. These writings give credibility to the statement in the book of Revelation that the cowardly will be lost:

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)

The cowardly are willing to do terrible things and accommodate terrible things to save their own skins. This was clearly the case in Nazi Germany and continental Europe as a whole.

Anti-Semitism and Injustice

Certainly one cannot understand the disproportionate and terribly unjust criticism of Israel without the element of Anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a huge and growing phenomenon today. The Arab radicals are steeped in Nazi caricatures of Jews. They read Hitler with appreciation and frequently cite passages from the Koran that predict the final destruction of the Jews at their hands. The liberal intellectuals choose to be relatively quiet about this and instead vilify Israel for “provoking” the Arabs. Somehow Israel, in the midst of hostile Muslim nations, the only nation that practices human rights in the region, is said to be the real evil. That Iran has a base in South Lebanon through Hezbollah and in the south in Gaza through Hamas … well, that can be overlooked; that Iran is carrying out its plans to destroy Israel, that is not to be protested.

The End of this Age

I am not an alarmist. However, it is hard not to believe that we are entering into frightfully prophetic days as predicted in the Bible, perhaps the end of this Age. Then again, we are called to have courage and to believe that such days will be the greatest days in history for those with faith and courage. These are the days of a great harvest from the nations and the final salvation of Israel.