Israel has battled Hamas four times since the terror organization seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Each battle unfolds the same way: Hamas launches rockets at Israel’s civilian population, Israel bombs Hamas targets, and the fighting continues until terrorist infrastructure is sufficiently degraded so that the rocket fire stops for a few years. Israelis call it “mowing the lawn.” The last major clash was in 2014. In its origins, order of battle, and strategy and tactics, Operation Guardian of the Walls, which began May 10, resembles these previous flareups.
So what’s different? Just about everything.
The region has changed. In 2014 the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, legitimizing the nuclear program of Israel’s archenemy Iran, was a gleam in John Kerry’s eye. Its adoption the following year, and America’s withdrawal from the agreement in 2018, realigned the Middle East along the axis of Iranian power. The result was an Arab–Israel détente formalized in the 2020 Abraham Accords. From a regional perspective, the Palestinian cause is less important than Iran’s ambitions.
Israel has changed. In 2014, Benjamin Netanyahu was at the outset of his third term and led from a position of strength. His indictment on corruption charges in 2019 initiated a political crisis that has led to four elections (and most likely a fifth) in the space of two years. On the eve of the latest violence, Israel’s bewildering politics became even more surprising when two of Netanyahu’s rivals enticed an Arab Islamist party to join a coalition government. That effort collapsed when the rockets blazed. The subsequent outbreak of intercommunal violence in cities with large Arab-Israeli populations is a reminder of Israel’s pressing domestic challenges. The security issue unites Israel. Just about everything else divides it.
America has changed. In the summer of 2014, Barack Obama was a lame duck, the Republicans controlled the House and were on the verge of winning the Senate, and Donald Trump was the host of Celebrity Apprentice. Obama’s dislike of Netanyahu and willingness to expose “daylight” between the United States and Israel was no secret. But anti-Israel invective was limited to the fringe. And anti-Israel media bias was nowhere near as bad as it is today.
Then came the Great Awokening. The dialectic of Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump drove the nation into its current obsession with race, culminating in the protests, riots, vandalism, cancellations, and iconoclasm that followed the murder of George Floyd one year ago. The Trump years brought a revolutionary fervor to American politics, radicalizing the Left and burdening the rest of us with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her anti-Israel, socialist “Squad” of congressional Democrats.
The Squad shares an all-encompassing woke mindset that collapses individuals and events into a reductive binary of oppressor and oppressed. When the Squad looks at Israel and Hamas, it cannot see anything other than critical race theory. And so this emboldened Left draws disgustingly false equivalences between American racial minorities and Palestinians. It slanders Israel as an apartheid state. It demands that America stop a planned weapons sale to Israel in the middle of our ally’s offensive against terrorists supplied by Iran. It says President Biden is “taking orders” from the Jewish prime minister.
What the Squad lacks in numbers it makes up for in noise. Its members exploit social media, show up on MSNBC, and amplify the hostility to Israel already thick on college campuses and in progressive enclaves. Its allies fill the op-ed pages with similar dreck, catering to the audience for politically correct, left-wing clickbait. The polemical onslaught is false and obnoxious. But it gets results, driving an Israel-shaped wedge into the Democratic Party and forcing Biden to step up his calls for a ceasefire.
This unappeasable hostility is a problem for Israel, for America, and for the Democratic Party. It makes me wonder if the head of the DNC has checked in lately with his British counterpart. There hasn’t been a Labour prime minister since 2010, and Labour just experienced another drubbing in local elections. Labour’s current leader has been trying to salvage his party’s reputation from the wreckage of his far-left anti-Semitic predecessor Jeremy Corbyn. It’s a struggle.
Explanation? Under Corbyn, Labour went hard left, abandoning its traditional working-class constituency for progressive social and cultural issues that appeal to the university crowd and the Very Online but turn off everyone else. Corbyn opposed Brexit, supported high levels of immigration, embraced political correctness, and tolerated the worst sort of anti-Semitism in his campaigns against Israel. The Socialist International became the Socialist Intersectional (Jews excluded).
The same process is well under way here. Not content with tearing down America, and energized by the cultural revolution of 2020, the Jackal Bins turn their gaze on the Jewish State. Anti-Semitism dogged the anti-Trump Women’s March and Black Lives Matter, which recently tweeted its advocacy for “Palestinian liberation” — no mention of Hamas’s genocidal intent — and supports the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib require no introduction. Comedian Trevor Noah irresponsibly likens Hamas to a powerless four-year-old. The haters can’t believe their success.
Someone needs to disappoint them. As long as Hamas remains in power, Israel will be forced to defend itself. The Jewish State’s position in American politics can’t be allowed to deteriorate further. Not just for Israel’s sake. For ours.
This column originally ran at the Washington Free Beacon.