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The Stupidity of Hamas Tankies
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The Stupidity of Hamas Tankies

Discrediting two movements at once.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal arrives for a House Democratic caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol on May 31, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Everything happens faster in the future, it’s been said. Lately that feels true: It’s as if we’re speed-running through chapters of European antisemitism.

Within the past week some of the most “progressive” elements in American politics have picketed Jewish-owned businesses, suppressed symbols of Judaism, and questioned whether atrocities committed against Jews even took place.

With anti-fascists like that, who needs fascists?

The picketing happened in Pennsylvania outside a restaurant co-owned by Israeli-American chef Michael Solomonov. Protesters showed up to warn him that he “can’t hide”:

Some progressives insisted that Solomonov’s place was targeted for reasons other than his faith and nationality, but they’ve lost the benefit of the doubt even among top Democrats like Joe Biden, Josh Shapiro, and John Fetterman.

Meanwhile in Virginia, organizers of a menorah-lighting at a public festival canceled the ceremony for fear that it might signal support for Israel.

That wasn’t the first time since the October 7 massacre that a menorah or Star of David has been removed from public display lest its inclusion imply solidarity with Hamas’ enemy. If you read that and worry that some of Israel’s critics are letting their antipathy to the Jewish state inform their feelings about the Jewish faith and its members, you should.

Finally, no episode of mass bloodletting against Jews is complete without post-liberal vampires hissing that they had it coming or that it never happened—or both. (Don’t look for consistency when there are atrocities to be justified and/or excused.) One would think this denialist strain of antisemitism would be harder to maintain in an age of ubiquitous smartphone cameras, instant digital communication, and ever-proliferating media platforms. And one would be right, as we’ll see.

But that hasn’t stopped the stupidest Hamas tankies on the fringes of American politics from trying.

Sexual assault is notoriously hard to prove. Rarely are there eyewitnesses to the crime or video evidence of it; unless the victim is physically injured, there may be nothing to support that victim’s claim that she didn’t consent.

That’s why the MeToo movement adopted the slogan “Believe all women.” It’s fatuous and untenable as a legal precept, since it would treat a bare accusation as conclusive proof of a grave offense, but directionally it’s righteous. “Take women’s claims of sexual assault more seriously” would be less snappy as a slogan but it’s excellent advice—and long overdue.

All of this is a prelude to saying that the rapes committed by Hamas on October 7 must be some of the most unusually well-documented cases of sexual assault in human history. There were eyewitnesses in real time; pathologists who examined the victims postmortem found horrendous injuries; the perpetrators recorded themselves in the act in some instances and surveillance cameras picked it up in others. In the digital era, there’s no hiding such barbarity.

To deny a crime on that scale, with so much human testimony and physical evidence corroborating it, would be like denying the Holocaust, coincidentally. And yet:

There’s plenty more where that came from on social media. But if Maté and the rest don’t impress you, how about the former press secretary for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign? She now hosts an online show for the very mainstream publication The Hill.

I have a theory as to why so few of Hamas’ victims have offered testimony. I also have a theory as to why Gray was more skeptical of Brett Kavanaugh’s claims of innocence than Hamas’.

But if she doesn’t impress you either, how about the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus? Unlike the others, Pramila Jayapal doesn’t deny that the rapes happened; she’s more of a minimizer than a revisionist, allowing that rape is bad but that, you know, it happens in war.

As others noted after that interview, including our own Jonah Goldberg, the sexual violence of October 7 wasn’t a matter of Hamas members going rogue in the field. It was almost certainly policy, one more weapon in the arsenal of terror to torment the victims in death and their next of kin in life. They wouldn’t have filmed themselves doing the deed if it weren’t sanctioned by their leaders.

Denialism about Hamas’ brutality has grown so rancid online that some tankies lately have taken to insisting that freed Israeli hostages found their captivity in Gaza so pleasant that one of them may have fallen in love with her captor.

Here’s the video of Maya Regev bidding her Hamas minder farewell before she was exchanged. One possible reason she looks “dreamy” in the clip could be that she was drugged for propaganda purposes, to make her appear calm and happy upon her release. She’ll need multiple surgeries to recover from being shot in the leg. 

If the useful idiots of the fringe left can spin a Romeo and Juliet fantasy out of that, one shudders to think how they’d explain the victims’ experience of the mass rape of October 7 if it could be proved to their satisfaction that it really did happen.

Many liberal adherents of the MeToo movement have kept their priorities straight amid the moral collapse of the fringe left. Last week, six women lawyers co-authored a piece for Slate warning allies not to ignore the “overwhelming” and “voluminous” evidence that sexual crimes of unusual depravity were committed by Hamas against Israeli women. The most famous woman in American politics also spoke up and singled out denialists who “claim to stand for justice.”

It shouldn’t be that hard for those who support believing all women and who support “decolonization” to reconcile those two positions. Even a tankie who’s sufficiently far gone as to think that October 7 was a “counteroffensive” should be capable of drawing the line at certain tactics. The fact that some have choked publicly on evidence of sexual assault by demanding a preposterously high burden of proof can only mean that they’ve chosen to prioritize “decolonization” over feminism in their hierarchy of progressive values. And, therefore, that they mean to give the “decolonizers” carte blanche morally in how they go about their project, incentivizing further atrocities.

For most of my life I wondered how Holocaust denial ever could have taken root internationally. These past two months have been like watching a strain of it grow in a psychological petri dish, in real time. The bacteria is all around; all it needs is an environment in which to flourish, it seems. Since October 7, it’s had one.

It’s “natural” in a way. But it’s also idiotic as a strategic matter.

Our friend David French made the point recently that the Hamas apologists of the West aren’t just advocates of a pernicious cause, they’re strategic accomplices. Because Hamas can’t defeat Israel militarily, even by practicing asymmetric warfare, it aims to win diplomatically. And it can only win diplomatically if Palestinian activists abroad scrupulously overlook all of its crimes and keep the moral pressure exclusively on Israel.

The overwhelming weight of domestic, international and diplomatic protests against Israel … place political pressure against Israel’s military resolve and—crucially—diminish the chances of legal accountability for the Hamas leaders and commanders who planned and executed a grossly illegal and brutal attack.

These protests also play directly into Hamas’s illegal military strategy. The entire reason for embedding in a civilian population is to make it impossible for others to respond to terrorist attacks without endangering or killing civilians, and an armed force that is almost certainly unable to prevail in direct combat with the I.D.F. utterly depends on outside forces demanding that Israel stop its attacks.

David elaborated on that in an interview with The Bulwark’s Charlie Sykes. If properly executed, he noted, Hamas’ strategy of an international pressure campaign leaves Israel in a no-win situation. Either that campaign ends up rescuing Hamas by compelling the Israeli military to stand down before Hamas is destroyed or so much damage will be done to Gaza by the IDF en route to eliminating the group that Israel will be ostracized internationally in the aftermath.

America’s useful idiots are doing their best to facilitate that diplomatic strategy by minimizing or outright denying Hamas’ atrocities, the better to keep the balance of moral equities lopsided toward the Palestinian side. Or so they think.

In reality, I suspect, the sheer depravity of what Hamas terrorists did on October 7 and the “voluminous” record they left behind have put tankies in the position of having to defend something that’s indefensible to all but the most radicalized “decolonization” freaks. Essentially Hamas invited them to make a public spectacle of their willingness to condone some of the worst crimes imaginable at the very moment that Palestinian sympathizers should want the world’s focus exclusively on the moral calculus of Israel’s incursion in Gaza.

And they were dumb enough to accept that invitation, which is how influential Democrats like John Fetterman and Kirsten Gillibrand were able to sidestep questions this week about a ceasefire and focus on the moral bankruptcy of Israel’s critics instead. “When I saw the list of women’s rights organizations who have said nothing [about sexual assault on October 7], I nearly choked,” Gillibrand said Monday at an event at United Nations. “Where is the solidarity for women in this country and in this world to stand up for our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters?”

Israel’s allies were supposed to be on defense morally at this stage of the conflict. Hamas and the “decolonization” tankies have created an opening for them to go on offense and they’ve seized it, which is why so many on social media are calling attention to repulsive posts like the ones I embedded above. Most Americans are decent people with sufficiently little knowledge about this conflict that they can probably be moved, at least on the margins, about which side has the more compelling argument morally. Having to get in bed with a cohort that’s anti-anti-rape at best in order to support the Palestinians will offend that decency.

It’s a strategic mistake. But so is demanding a ceasefire while chanting about an “intifada revolution,” the literal opposite of a ceasefire. So is embracing the slogan “from the river to the sea”: Progressives have now spent two months insisting that they don’t mean those words in the genocidal way that Hamas does, which isn’t the first time in recent years that they’ve rallied behind a politically poisonous phrase and then spent months insisting that it doesn’t mean what it appears to mean.

Either the tankies are terrible at sloganeering or they keep inadvertently revealing their true intentions in their choice of language. Readers may judge for themselves. What’s indisputable is that although progressives are normally notoriously quick to discern racist motives in their enemies’ rhetoric even in innocuous circumstances, they sure are eager to give the benefit of the doubt to the “from the river to the sea” and “anti-Zionism, not antisemitism” crowd.

One wonders how much stronger American sympathy for the Palestinians might be if not for the self-sabotaging zeal of the left’s most radical activists. The country is already closely divided on Israel’s counteroffensive; the reporting about the sexual violence on October 7 and disgust for the anti-anti-rape cohort’s indifference to it ironically might have discouraged some Democrats from joining Team Ceasefire for now.

One wonders, too, whether the betrayal of MeToo in this moment will have consequences after the shooting in Gaza stops. The Palestinian cause isn’t the only one that risks being discredited by undue—and plainly politically motivated—skepticism of sexual violence.

You can and should still believe that women’s claims of assault should be taken more seriously even if Briahna Joy Gray doesn’t, at least in select cases. But I find it impossible going forward to take seriously institutional bodies that professed for years to care about women’s safety but held their tongues about October 7 for fear of upsetting the moral calculus over Gaza. The group U.N. Women, for instance, claims its mission is to “create an environment in which every woman and girl can exercise her human rights” but it took them nearly two months to say something disapproving about Hamas’ crimes.

The U.N. is the U.N. and shouldn’t be taken seriously under any circumstances, you might say. But it’s not just the U.N. this time, as Gillibrand pointed out. The fact that she, Clinton, and Slate contributors, among others, felt obliged to speak up publicly and ask where’s the outrage? is a solid clue that the outrage from American institutional feminism hasn’t been what it should have been after such a ghastly episode.

There’s no coming back from that. I speak from experience: Once you see what your political allies do and don’t prioritize at a moment of high moral choosing, you can’t unsee it any more than you can unsee the horrors on that video Israel created to try to convince the denialists that what happened on October 7 happened. It’s the fate of the Jewish people to forever have to persuade people who hate them that unspeakable things were done to them by other people who hate them, but the video won’t do it. Nothing will.

Their consolation, inasmuch as it is a consolation, is that tankie idiots have not only branded the Palestinian cause in America with rape denialism but laid bare the cynical heart of the MeToo progressive vanguard that’s failed Israeli women so terribly. Even some of the Democratic Party’s most prominent feminists can’t deny that. If you can’t defeat your enemies, at least you can expose them—or wait for them to expose themselves.

Nick Catoggio is a staff writer at The Dispatch and is based in Texas. Prior to joining the company in 2022, he spent 16 years gradually alienating a populist readership at Hot Air. When Nick isn’t busy writing a daily newsletter on politics, he’s … probably planning the next day’s newsletter.