September 23, 2016
The “alt-right” is everywhere on Twitter. It consists of champions of nativism who, resentful over the receding dominance of white men in American society, tout the virtues of “white nationalism.” The movement has no coherent economic plans, its foreign policy is driven by fear of immigrants and Muslims, and its antisemitism is shocking.
But even as America becomes aware of the alt-right, it should also get acquainted with its mirror image: the alt-left.
Much like the alt-right, the alt-left is not clearly defined. Its approach to economic policy, foreign relations, and social issues is generally in tune with the mainstream left, with one major distinction – Israel.
For while the left champions democracy and self-determination, the alt-left has a peculiar animus toward democratic Israel, accusing it of the “genocide” of the Palestinian people.
And while the left celebrates love between any two people, regardless of gender, the alt-left, strangely, looks at Tel Aviv’s thriving gay culture and sees nothing but a rainbow fig leaf behind which Israel hides its true maliciousness.
As the left urges France to respect the religious practices of its Muslim citizens, the alt-left looks at Israel’s beaches, filled with Muslim, Jewish, and Christian women—in burkinis, bikinis, and everything in between--sees apartheid.
The left sees clearly that the terrorists of Hamas and Hezbollah are horrific abusers of human rights. But the alt-left views them as principled freedom fighters, struggling against Israeli oppression.
The left believes that climate change is a singular threat to world order and lauds Israel for its groundbreaking work in water conservation and energy reduction. The alt-left explains that the Nazis, too, made important scientific advances.
The left makes common cause with the Israeli left, championing its causes and honoring its heroes. To the alt-left, though, an Israeli is an Israeli (as long as she is Jewish), and no matter her politics, she is morally wanting.
The left looks at the chaos of the Middle East and is glad that the U.S. has an ally that shares its democratic values. But the alt-left looks at Israel’s defensive capabilities, sees a bloodthirsty war machine, and demands that America cut off foreign aid.
And even as the alt-left rushes to condemn Israel for non-existent abuses of women’s rights and LGBT rights, and castigates it for perpetrating an imagined genocide, it is shockingly silent when such crimes do take place—often right next door to the Jewish object of its ire.
Both the right and the left see the tragic morass in Syria and long for a speedy resolution. But the alt-left supports the genocidal butcher, President Bashar Assad, and condemns any attempts to intervene in the tragic loss of life.
Both the right and the left condemn Hamas and other Islamist extremist groups for their persecution of gays, women, Christians, and moderate Muslims, and for their brutal silencing of any criticism of their rule. The alt-left would never tolerate this behavior in Israel, yet says nothing about it in the rest of the Middle East.
The alt-left, in short, hates Israel, and apparently nothing can disabuse it of the conviction that (Jewish) Israelis are morally repugnant war criminals who must be brought to heel. This hatred does not extend to Muslim or Christian Israelis, who tell pollsters time and again that they are proud to be Israeli.
The alt-left has few, if any, political avatars, but it thrives on the college campus, where the faculties of anthropology, gender studies, and American studies spew its hateful ideology, indoctrinating the next generation in their dressed-up, academic antisemitism.
Champions of the alt-left include Steven Salaita, the erstwhile American studies professor at the University of Illinois, who tweeted shortly after three Israeli teens were abducted and murdered by Hamas terrorists, “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not. I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.” When Salaita’s hatefulness came to light, the university rescinded its offer of tenure. He became famous when thousands of alt-lefters rushed to his defense.
Then there’s Jasbir Puar, the gender studies professor at Rutgers University who, in a talk at Vassar, claimed that Israel harvests the organs of dead Palestinians, carries out poisonous assaults on Palestinians using uranium, lead, and phosphorus, and asserts its "right to maim and debilitate Palestinian bodies and environments as a form of biopolitical control.” When voices were raised denouncing Puar’s shameful employment of these updated medieval blood libels, the alt-left circled the wagons around her.
Why do we entrust college students to these alt-left extremists? There surely is a problem with the system that allows their hate to poison the classroom.
Is there such thing as a view too dangerous, too factually incorrect, too bigoted to be heard in our free society? Perhaps, perhaps not, but we would never let the alt-right hijack whole humanities departments at prestigious schools.
The political spectrum bends at the ends. The alt-left, with its skewed moral values, resembles nothing more than the alt-right.
Seffi Kogen is the American Jewish Committee’s assistant director for campus affairs.
This article was originally published by Haaretz.