The Authoritarian Left’s obsession with Israel

August 12, 2023 • 9:15 am

I swear, the “Progressive” Democrats are as obsessed with Israel as is the United Nations.  Nellie Bowles, a center-right Democrat, reports on this in her weekly snarky news summary at The Free Press, with the latest edition called “TGIF: Dark Brandon Edition.” One of the many items in her regular column, worth the price of a Free Press subscription alone, is this:

→ Their only issue is Israel: As my Blue Dogs rise, my nemeses, the Justice Dems, continue to fall. This week, a great story details just how little they actually did and how disorganized their members are. Well, disorganized on every issue but one. You’ll never guess which one.

A progressive senior House aide told HuffPost, a sympathetic outlet, that really, Israel was the only thing the Justice Dems talked about: “Other than some Israel bills, we never talked about legislation,” the senior aide said. Progressives have lots of policy ideas, some of which are great! But for the Justice Dems, working to weaken the world’s one Jewish state is the singular priority. That’s the entire platform. Maybe they also want to work on parks and trains and helping poor families thrive? No. Not while there are Jews living freely in the Middle East. For kicks, I checked the Justice Dem podcast; of the four most recent episodes, two are about Israel.

Here they are: Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Raúl Grijalva, Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Greg Casar and Summer Lee.  I guess “progressive” also means “anti-Semitic,”

40 thoughts on “The Authoritarian Left’s obsession with Israel

  1. There’s an interesting book: David L. Bernstein’s “Woke Antisemitism: How a Progressive Ideology Harms Jews” (Wicked Son/Post Hill, 2022). Here’s an interview with Bernstein:

  2. To be absolutely clear, the purpose of this comment is not to opine on the extent that Justice Democrats may be anti-Semitic. Rather, it is demonstrate that Nellie Bowles is a deceitful source of news and should never be relied on as a source of information. She notes that two of the last four podcasts deal with Israel. This is true, but since she has apparently not listened to them, she has not commented on their content. She can only surmise what the guests are speaking. Even more striking is that the two podcasts she references are the only two dealing with Israel out of the last fourteen (one of the others deal with AIPAC, not Israel specifically), going back to July of 2022! This is quite a difference.

    It is the job of pundits to give opinions on news events. So, I don’t fault for Bowles for criticizing the Justice Democrats. I probably agree with most of her observations. But, in making a case on a particular issue, the pundit should never willfully or lazily distort the objective evidence. Bowles has done this. She did this in the past in a commentary on the IRS, which I found disgusting. I have lost any sense of trust in this so-called journalist.

    1. Somehow you manage to agree (or say you agree) with the tenor of her argument but lead us all to believe that the Justice Democrats aren’t obsessed with Israel. I have followed them and they are. You admit that in one small comment, but then spend the rest of the time going after Nellie Bowles, ignoring the forest.

      I love the waffley-ness of this statement: “I probably agree with most of her observations.” PROBABLY? Do you or don’t you?

  3. I’ve pondered why such identity politics fixated progressives define the Jews in Israel as “white” and the Palestinians as “brown” when they define Persians, Arabs and North Africans as “white.” Persians, Arabs and North Africans are no less “brown” and no more “white” than Palestinians, and Jews in Israel are no more “white” and any less Middle Eastern than Palestinians. Obviously, it is so Israel can be shoehorned into their American “white versus BIPOC” “oppressors versus oppressed” and “colonizers” ideological model. Their ideology is a hammer looking for a nail.

    An article I wrote on the eternal American question of “What ‘color’ are Jews?” (I’m Jewish):

  4. I have never understood why American leftists show no interest in or compassion for Muslim women, who are the main victims of Islamism and its patriarchic system…and why American gays seem oblivious to the hanging of gays in Muslim countries. Then there is slavery in India and north Africa that American blacks ignore, not to mention child marriage across the Muslim world. Oh yes, child prostitution in southern Asia. Despite this the USA is excoriated as the greatest violator of human rights. There is something wrong with the moral compass of blacks and feminists, not to mention the absence of any compassion or outrage.

    1. As much as I agree with your contention that some on the left hold views about Muslims that are wildly inconsistent with the social justice priorities they profess to hold, this;

      “There is something wrong with the moral compass of blacks and feminists, not to mention the absence of any compassion or outrage.”

      is outrageous. You used far to big a brush to paint these people with.

      You might want to re-state that.

      1. I took her point to be that the exclusive focus on the USA-based ‘victims’ is an indication of a limited ‘moral compass’. Why do you see that as outrageous and in need of rephrasing? Many people expect that for views or actions to count as ‘moral’ or ‘ethical’, those views or actions must be universalisable — so that if they are not universalisable, then they are evidence of a problem with moral compass. It is parallel to the complaints in the 1980s that American academic feminism of the day ignored the needs of most women. Those complaints were a call to change in order to include within feminist considerations ‘others elsewhere’, especially when those others can be seen to suffer more than those living in the modern USA.

          1. I agree. I share many of Lorna’s issues about the left utterly ignoring real, actual problems of much greater scale beyond our shores. I don’t think her critic took that into account properly.


        1. “Why do you see that as outrageous and in need of rephrasing”

          The commenter did not parse who is accused of having no compassion or outrage at these affronts; she accused all blacks and feminists of having no moral compass. ALL of them. Leave out the fact that a great many of the wokerati are white and male and you may begin to see why I think the claim outrageous.

          Had she (?) parsed who she intended to abuse to some reasonable extent, you wouldn’t have heard a peep from me. As it was, she pinned this on entire groups.

          1. When voices coming from an entire group are overwhelmingly expressing a certain stance, we often talk of the groups as monolithic, especially in unofficial communication, even if we know or suspect the existence of other opinions in the group.
            For example, I may say that “Russians need to change their imperialistic mindset”, knowing that some Russians are not imperialistic, and a few even sit in prisons for protesting imperialism – but the mindset of the majority of Russians, the voices coming from the community and its leaders, and their behavior, are evidently imperialistic.
            In addition, I think that sharply admonishing a commenter the way you did should be a prerogative of our host.

      2. I don’t see a big problem. The Western lefties pointedly do not bring up the perfidies that are the status quo in non-Western countries. Further, it is not unusual to be excoriated by them if you do point them out.

  5. EdwardM, your comment perfectly encapsulates one of the major problems we see in contemporary public discourse on the left. I know exactly what Lorna means in that quote and I’m pretty sure 99% of other readers do as well. She is obviously talking about the groups of blacks and feminists to whom she has already referred. However, because she has not expressed her thoughts with the precision required to rule out any chance of ambiguity, you jump on it and call her out.

    It’s no wonder people are so hesitant to speak on sensitive or contentious matters these days as it’s so easy to invite unwarranted accusations. It takes just one smidgin of ambiguity and you’re screwed; someone, somewhere is eager to misrepresent your views and let everybody know just how ‘outrageous’ they are.

    Interestingly, when this happens, views are never misrepresented as being kinder and more noble than was their intention and people are never given the benefit of the doubt. Slip up, just a bit, and your words are inevitably reinterpreted with negativity, often as the very worst version of themselves.

    It also illustrates another problem we see all the time – the authoritarian tendency to reprimand and censor others when you don’t like what they’re saying. I’m pretty sure Lorna knows what she meant and can decide herself whether she needs to restate it.

          1. Well, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, afterall.

            Still, I do not think I was wrong in pointing out the overly broad strokes in her accusations; it is precisely that kind of you-are-all-in-on-it rhetoric that has gotten us into the mess we are in.

            You are all free to accuse all black people and feminists of having no moral compass when it comes to these issues and then tell me I am the one pouring gas on the fire when I say that is too much, but I don’t see it that way.


            sheesh. I knew I should’ve stay away from WEIT.

            1. But it’s you who keeps repeating the implied ALL (blacks and feminists) , when in fact that word did not occur inn Lorna’s post at … all (😁). She didn’t mean every individual — obviously — and yet you insist on that most uncharitable possible interpretation, as others have pointed out. Sheesh.

  6. I’ve posted this (by me) before, but it is worth retelling I think.
    What “Pro-Palestine” Student Groups Get Wrong

    My first degree was in psych and Middle East politics and I’ve travelled extensively in the M.E. (not Israel yet though, strangely). This issue is the one SO MANY in the media and public get wrong wrong damnit WRONG! It drives me bonkers. The rot starts at our dumb assed universities.


  7. There are two things I don’t like going on in this thread. First, name-calling and somewhat nasty discourse. Second, the tendency of people to dominate some threads. Read the Roolz: if you post more than 10-15% of comments on a thread, you’re posting too many,

  8. Everyone else in the JD’s seem foolish, but Ro Khanna seems to be somewhat sensible. Not only did he happily travel to Israel ( ) but he has repeatedly criticized the authoritarian left-he criticized Twitter for suppressing the Hunter Biden laptop story, and tweeted favorably about The Free Press’s high school debate story (he’s written for TFP, and has also done interviews with the anti-woke liberal site Persuasion.) He’s also worked hard to avoid the elitist tendencies of the Democrats, and is reaching out to the working-class voters that the Democrats desperately need ( As far as young Dems go, he’s quite good.

  9. I prefer the label “Puritanical Fake Left” to “Woke” and other labels. IMHO, it is more accurately descriptive of the nature of this new anti-enlightenment religion. No matter what label you use, they will always come back with “who me? I’m not that.” But it is useful to have a short, descriptive label anyway. “Puritanical” combines “Authoritarian” with “religious” or “anti-logical” and “Fake” emphasizes that the dogma of the PFL is in no way Left or progressive.

  10. Uhh…I gotta say, I don’t get the tone of this article, Jerry.

    This isn’t some kind of “Israel has a right to exist” issue. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN Special Rapporteurs Report from 2022 and Israel’s own B’Tselem are just a handful of respected human rights organizations who have declared Israel an apartheid state. That they have evolved into one is fairly clear. The EU is treating it as such in several respects. But the US refuses to do so or even acknowledge what is happening on the ground. Progressive dems, who are very much exasperated by this lack of acknowledgement of the various crimes against humanity in our favorite vassal state, are more or less doing god’s work in trying to shake us out of our political apathy, unbloody our hands a little and maybe steer us toward doing some good in the Middle East for once.

    1. I’ve discussed many times the “Israel is an apartheid state” trope, and why it’s wrong. Palestine, Afghanistan, Iran, and other Arab states are the true apartheid states. I don’t care what the EU or UN says; what I care about is the hypocritical singling out of Israel. And no, it’s not clear to me WHY Israel is an apartheid state.

      1. There’s various definitions of apartheid but something like ” a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race” is a relatively uncontroversial one.

        It isn’t just a synonym for “nasty theocratic shithole” which Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia (whatever MBS’s reforms, Wahabism is still pretty dominant there), and the parts of Israel/Palestine/whatever that are controlled by the PA/Hamas definitely are that… But apartheid doesn’t really describe them even less well than Israel which at least has a weird ethnic distribution of power (and I’m not saying that Israel is an apartheid state, though I’m sincerely worried it’ll become a theocracy one day).

    2. It’s funny. For ages respected organizations (not always “human rights” but those which were most respected by societies) disseminated diverse accusations against Jews: they poisoned the wells, they killed children for matzos, they spread the plague etc. When Enlightenment came this type of accusations retreated to the less enlightened strata of the society and the most respected “enlightened” accused Jews of other crimes. After the Holocaust antisemitism directed at Jews went out of fashion but the rise of Jewish state gave a welcome substitute. People could say: I’m not an antisemite, I have nothing against Jews, I just think that Israel has perpetrated the worst human rights abuses of all countries in the world. There was (not so long ago) another respected organization: the UN Human Rights Commission (predecessor of today’s equally respected Human Rights Council). It was dissolved in 2006 because of its pathological obsession with Israel (unfortunately, the UN Human Rights Council has exactly the same unhealthy obsession with Israel). The founder of Human Rights Watch, Robert Bernstein, wrote an article in 2009, accusing the organization he himself founded of antisemitism (because of its unhealthy obsession with Israel).

      And so, century after century, the most respected organizations accused Jews for crimes against values most respected at the moment. Now human rights are most respected. It’s no surprise that the state accused of most hideous crimes against human rights is a Jewish state.

  11. The regressive left in Germany shows some of the same anti-Semitic tendencies as in the U.S., while radical Palestinians who commit assassinations and fire rockets at Israeli sites are often given too much sympathy for their so-called “struggle for freedom.”

    I also fear that under the current radical right-wing Netanyahu government, which is doing its best to corrode democracy in order to establish nationalist, ultra-religious and authoritarian structures, the regressive leftists will feel emboldened in their anti-Israel attitudes.

    1. Exactly how is Netanyahu “corroding democracy” by proposing to give the Knesset – not the Administration – more power?

      How is reining in an unelected Judiciary which has undemocratically given itself more unchecked powers than any other Judiciary in the free world “corroding democracy”, exactly?

      There are two disparate narratives going on in Israel – have you considered both of them?

      1. Netanyahu does not give a damn about the Knesset. Instead, he wants to prevent the court from convicting him at some point, because there are numerous investigations against him. He is right in line with Trump on that. Or, for that matter, the Polish PIS government, which also wants to restructure the judiciary in its favor and has not yet abandoned it, despite the ECJ’s rulings.

        As for your 2nd assertion. The overwhelming majority of Israeli legal experts and jurists do not see it that way.

        1. Both Israeli and international media reported eagerly about Netanyahu indictment but stop reporting (almost fully) after the trial started. Why? Because the witnesses told the court about prosecution’s press on them to incrimiante Netanyahu with threats to themselves and their families (among many other instances two women over 80 – one mother of the witness and one mother-in-law of another witness – were dragged to police station and interrogated). Most of prosecution’s witnesses were declared (by the prosecution) as “hostile witnesses”. Some weeks ago the judges called prosecution and defence councils and announced that the charge of bribery is impossible to sustain and adviced the prosecution to reach a settlement (this was reported in Israeli media).

          Moreover, the proposed judicial reform has nothing to do with Netanyahu’s trial. The reform is about the Supreme Court.

          1. I find it noteworthy how much attention the international media have given to this subject (for the Israeli ones it is understandable, it is their state). We have a full-blown war in Europe, a refugee and migrant crisis, a wave of major natural disasters, and a serious crisis in Africa with the coup in Niger. But the media entertain us with the alleged sins of Netanyahu. Another example of the anti-Israeli bias.

            1. Rhetorical question: So the countless Israeli citizens who have been demonstrating against the anti-democratic reforms for months are driven by anti-Israeli motives?

              You are confusing criticism of Netanyahu and the current very right-wing government, which are harming Israel’s democracy and citizens, with criticism of the state of Israel.

  12. The Justice Dems don’t have to anything to weaken Israel. The Ultra-orthodox are fully capable of ruining Israel all on their own.

  13. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, they are Muslims, and hence profoundly infected, I guess they are beyond redemption. It is puzzling why Jaypal (a Hindu?) , Pressley or AOC would ‘oppose’ Israel, and support Islamic Medieval restrictions on females? The two go hand in hand
    Women’s liberation is closely related to rejecting religious, especially Islamic here, dogma and prescriptions. Ask Majid or Ayaan.
    As to why Jaypal, AOC and their like are going anti-semetic: I’m completely at a loss there.

  14. I object to the trope that Israel is an apartheid state. “Apartheid” was how the old South African government itself described how their state was set up. It was their coinage, set up for their own purposes to accomplish certain state aims. The Israeli state cannot be apartheid, for no other reason than it is not South Africa. The state of Israel is set up and operates the way it does because Israel’s government believes that design is necessary for the security of Israel, same as all states do, or at least is the best that can be achieved. The assertion that Israel is wrong in that belief is non-falsifiable. If it is possible to pick through the governance and policies of Israel especially in regards the Occupied Territories (because the comparison doesn’t wash at all in Israel proper), and find certain features that rhyme with how South Africa worked—I’m not saying they do, but critics do try to claim they do—that is not sufficient for the “apartheid” label to stick. Israel is not in the same geopolitical position externally and internally as South Africa was. Its system of government and defence cannot be called apartheid, much less criticized for any cherry-picked similarities found in forced comparisons. The “other” whom Israel tries to keep “apart” from it pledges to push the Jews of Israel into the sea if they ever get the chance. Against such a threat, Israel can no more include the Palestinians in a full pluralistic one-man one-vote democracy than a lamb and two wolves can vote on what to have for dinner. The wolves have to be defanged first, then we’ll talk.

    When European settlers first started coming to the Americas, it would have been ludicrous folly to let the Indians, who at first vastly outnumbered them, have a one-man one-vote say in the governance of these fragile colonies. The settlers would have been quite literally voted off the island. No, we had to wait until the relative numbers vastly favoured our side before we let Indians vote in our elections (1960 it was in Canada I think.)
    A minimum, necessary condition for Palestinians in lands under Israel’s control to receive full democratic rights would be for them to renounce violence against Israeli citizens and pledge exclusive allegiance to the state of Israel, renouncing affiliation with all other nations including their own Palestinian nation and its leaders. You can’t have two nations warring in the bosom of a single state, in Lord Durham’s famous phrase. (I recognize that Israel must always be a Jewish state. That’s why I referred to necessary, not sufficient conditions.)

    But apartheid state is just propaganda. “Still waiting for your argument.”

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