Initially, after a white supremacist rammed a car into a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va., in mid-August, killing one woman and injuring 19, U.S. President Donald Trump only condemned hatred “on many sides.” The conventional wisdom denounced Trump widely. News website Voxcharged: “Donald Trump refuses to name the problem of white supremacist violence.” Watching the reaction, the New York Times reported: “Trump Is Criticized for Not Calling Out White Supremacists.”
On Twitter, as usual, the attacks were even more pointed. MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, remembering that “Trump mocked Barack Obama for not calling Islamic terrorism by its name,” insisted: “Now he must call white supremacy terrorism by its name.” “One side is literal Nazis, and yet Trump has to make it seem like both sides are equally responsible for violence,” wrote another Twitter user.
‘PALESTINIAN TERRORISM IS WRAPPED IN AMBIGUITY BECAUSE TOO MANY PEOPLE BLAME ISRAEL, NOT THE PALESTINIANS, FOR THE TERRORISM’
The moral failure does indeed tell me enough. Of course President Trump should have singled out the white supremacists, the neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan for special opprobrium. Of course he needed to condemn them directly, boldly, passionately and immediately, without dithering. And, of course, mealy-mouthed moralisms about violence and bigotry when fighting particular evils are too vague. Moral leadership is like good writing: both require specificity and intensity.
Ironically, much of the fury about Trump’s moral equivalence and cycle-of-violence-speak comes from the same people who condemn Palestinian terrorism with moral equivalence and cycle-of-violence-speak.
Indeed, for decades now, the West has failed to denounce Palestinian terrorism adequately. It has not condemned terrorism “directly.” The result is this moral bog we are in – and a Palestinian culture deifying killers.
Western countries are not just enabling Palestinian terrorism with their amoral dithering, they are actually subsidizing them. Approximately US$300 million a year – seven per cent of the Palestinian Authority’s budget – goes to pensions and payments for jailed terrorists or dead terrorists’ families. (By comparison, PA social welfare payments to everyone else hovers around US$200 million.)
Any western leader who signs off on payments to the Palestinians without raising this issue is as guilty as a mafia don is when hiring a hitman. Just because you don’t pull the trigger doesn’t make you innocent. And any western leader who claims ignorance at this point about the direct subsidizing of Jew-slaughterers is either a liar or an idiot.
Palestinian terrorism is wrapped in ambiguity because too many people blame Israel, not the Palestinians, for the terrorism. No matter what you think about Israeli policy, nothing justifies blowing up buses or cafés filled with civilians to make a political point. Some people, appalled by such an evil crime, reason backwards, assuming that Palestinians must be really suffering to act so despicably. Others have bought into postmodern relativism and identity politics, whereby Palestinians have been “blackened” – deemed to be perpetually victims, and thus perpetually virtuous – while Israelis have been “whitened” – deemed to be perpetually powerful, and thus perpetually guilty.
Those two phenomena speak to broader moral and political failings today. But they are weaponized by a deeper, more historic problem. Consider the facts: Israelis are the ones against whom terrorism is justified. Israel is the country consistently and obsessively singled out for attack. The attacks escalate from demonizing to delegitimizing, from questioning Israeli actions to rejecting Israel’s right to exist.
In short, we are seeing prejudice at work, a bigotry against Jews defined by what the great Russian-born Israeli human rights activist Natan Sharansky calls the 3D test – double standards, such as condemning Trump’s use of moral equivalence but excusing Palestinian terror; the demonizing of Israelis; and the delegitimization of Israel’s right to exist. And there’s a specific term for that kind of bigotry against Jews: anti-Semitism.