It’s now been a month since Hamas entered Israeli territory and brutally murdered hundreds of civilians, kidnapping more than 200. Israel currently sets the death toll of the attacks at around 1,200. The event in itself is horrific, but also horrific has been reaction from the left in the US and Europe. Rod Dreher has called the double shock of these weeks an “Apocalypse,” in its original meaning of “unveiling”.
Which is to say that something has been revealed. But what?
Here I’ll try to gather some of the best, most provocative writing on this question. Note that this is not writing on "biblical apocalyptic". Also, I’m certainly not part of the woke left, neither am I looking at this war in terms of white hats vs. black hats. In my view, the Israel-Palestine conflict is one in which no side is completely in the right, and worse, it’s a conflict for which there are no good solutions. Anyone who pretends there are clear, morally unambiguous solutions, is either lying or shallow. And probably both.
But one key crux can be neatly summed up as follows: If tomorrow the Palestinians were to lay down their arms and sue for peace, they’d get peace. If the Israelis were to lay down their arms and sue for piece, they’d get genocide.
This is a truth that’s been clear for decades. And part of what's been “unveiled” in recent weeks is that much of the western left really thinks the Israelis should get genocide.
The pieces I’ve chosen relate to this cluster of questions: not just the two sides in the war, but the two sides in the West, and the two sides in all of us. Yes, it’s a question for me of good and evil, because I believe in good and evil.
One of the wisest early reactions to the atrocities came from a writer on the left, Sam Kriss. Kriss needs to be more widely read. In this piece he doesn’t get right into the events of October 7, but begins with some paragraphs on Poland and ghosts. It’s a subtle, brutally honest essay, especially powerful because it comes from Kriss, known for his phantasmagoric satire. Read Kriss’ “But Not Like This”.
On the theme of unveiling, Konstantin Kisin sees in the left’s celebration of Hamas atrocities a wake up call.
When Hamas terrorists crossed over the border with Israel and murdered 1,400 innocent people, they destroyed families and entire communities. They also shattered long-held delusions in the West.
Many people woke up on October 7 sympathetic to parts of woke ideology and went to bed that evening questioning how they had signed on to a worldview that had nothing to say about the mass rape and murder of innocent people by terrorists.
The events of the last two weeks have shattered the illusion that wokeness is about protecting victims and standing up for persecuted minorities. This ideology is and has always been about the one thing many of us have told you it is about for years: power. And after the last two weeks, there can be no doubt about how these people will use any power they seize: they will seek to destroy, in any way they can, those who disagree.
Read the whole piece. Kisin lays out Thomas Sowell’s classic explanation of why people disagree about politics, the difference being that some of us have an “unconstrained vision” of human nature while others have a “constrained vision”.
Over on X, Carl Benjamin underlines the ever-more-glaring conundrum our liberal West has gotten itself into thanks to "unconstrained" tolerance. Needless to say, Sam Kriss wouldn’t agree with Benjamin on much, but I find Benjamin irrefutable on this aspect of the unveiling. He writes:
The pro-Palestine protests that are currently being held across the West elicit such a deep and pre-political feeling of revulsion because they evidently represent a foreign nation asserting itself in our midst. Liberals are suddenly taken aback by this because it hits liberalism in a particular blind spot. Liberalism processes the world in terms of indistinguishable individual agents each of whom is, theoretically, a rational, self-authoring individual that is consciously following their own conception of the good life.
This conception of a person is demonstrated to be shockingly wrong, as the protests reveal a tribal mindset in which the individual is not something separate from the religion and community, and is certainly not considered to be self-authoring and rational. In fact, devotion to and willingness to act upon the creed is the metric of worthiness, a collective self-denial which is antithetical to the individual self-aggrandisement worldview of liberalism.
Suddenly, it becomes apparent to the average liberal-minded Westerner that there are some things which actually shouldn't be tolerated if the liberal order is going to persist, but it is far too late to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
What are our options, exactly? These protesters have human rights. They have the right to protest, to speak, to denounce our civilisation and tell us to our faces that they plan to take over. What can we do about such things? Nothing, of course, liberalism demands we tolerate such ill-faith. But should we have such people in our societies and organising in such a fashion? Evidently not.
The pre-political revulsion is still there and reveals us not to be the liberals we once thought we were. We know, in our heart of hearts, that we cannot have a safe and stable civilisation without the good will necessary for such an endeavour, and now we are trapped with people who outright repudiate us. Since the only test liberalism could impose on newcomers was "can you follow our rules?" and not "will you join our tribe?", we are conceptually helpless to organise or resist such forward motion on their part.
Nations are held together by the sentimental bonds which provide a tribal framework of agreement and kindness that goes unspoken because it does not need to be said: we are countrymen, therefore we will show one another we have good intentions, respect for each other's interests, and mutual concern for our standing in society.
Put simply, Aristotle was right when he said that the basis of a nation is the bond of friendship.
We can see that many of the pro-Palestinian protesters and their supporters did not consent to joining our tribe and do not extend the hand of friendship to the peoples amongst whom they reside. They hold to the ways of their old countries, and in many aspects view us as rubes who, for reasons unknown to them, allow all of this to happen.
The rules-based worldview of liberalism permits this. Prior to its establishment, in any other time and place, it would be simply unthinkable for a foreign community to desecrate the statues of national heroes and the local idols of our social values. Yet here we are, and the police do nothing to stop it. In other times and places, such transgressions against the gods of a society would be punished most harshly because it would be understood that a foreign community resides here at our pleasure and not from some abstract right, but our authorities cannot even recognise a crime has been committed against the dignity of our country.
The newcomers are not liberals. They are from the old world of tribes. They don't understand why we permit this either, and make no mistake, they don't respect us for this tolerance. They think we are weak when we do not assert ourselves and our interests, and they are not wrong.
Since I quote Rod Dreher above, and it was Rod who first noted Benjamin’s tweet, I should include one of Rod’s more knock-down recent essays. Dreher quotes Solzhenitsyn on where good and evil are to be found, and his follow up series of examples drive home the point. Solzhenitsyn’s are words to live by.
And Dreher’s is a voice that has helped keep many of us sane. Which is odd, because as a writer he’s rather, shall we say, hyped up. Many consider him shrill. Nonetheless, after years reading him, I have to agree he’s guided by a reliable moral compass. His book Live Not by Lies was brilliantly conceived and landed at just the right time. And he’s been rock solid on rejecting the temptations many on the right are succumbing to in reaction to wokeism. Dreher recognizes race politics as toxic no matter who is practicing it, and no matter what the provocation.
Many on the right, especially the young, are saying “Fight fire with fire.” Dreher is a Christian. He opts for “Fight fire with Christ, and take your knocks.” I suspect he’s saved more than a few people from the abyss.
Finally, I’ll present a more military/political analysis, an interview with former Israeli intelligence chief Amos Yadlin. I take Yadlin to be a reliable source regarding Israeli intentions at present. The interview is revealing, and Yadlin offers plausible interpretations of the combatants and their motives.