Progressive Views on Israel & China During COVID-19

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In recent years, a key part of the progressive platform has been a firm stance in solidarity with Palestinians and against the state of Israel. The views are varied, but range in their mildest form from suggesting that Israel should abandon settlements, to a more moderate but popular view that supports a two-state solution, all the way to the most extreme of opinions, that Israel – the only Jewish state on the planet, formed after the Holocaust to provide a safe haven for Jews worldwide – should not exist at all.


One thing that all of these factions have in common is that amongst them, they have people who call for BDS: Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel. This means that people should not buy goods from Israel or support travel to the country. The idea is that by punishing Israel economically, Israel will awaken from its allegedly evil ways and change its course. Prominent congresswomen like Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have been very vocal about BDS, and some ultra-liberal college professors have refused to write letters of recommendation for students wishing to study abroad in Israel. Not for nothing, all of the aforementioned individuals who have supported these movements have been admonished in various ways.


As an American Jew, I have always supported Israel, but try to remain open-minded to the reality that conflict in the Middle East is very complicated and nothing that a peon like me halfway across the world could possibly diagnose alone. I believe – as in any conflict – that both sides share blame in various ways. It feels like a vicious cycle, both sides acting deplorably in response to the latest deplorable act of the other. My personal opinion is that I am a supporter of Israel and its right to exist, but I care deeply about any human life and believe we should treat them all equally, and therefore, I have concern for the well-being of Palestinians, and believe Israel has an ethical obligation to do more than it has for its neighbors to the west. I guess you could say I lean towards the defense of Israel, but I have a nuanced perspective, and I do not claim to know everything because I don’t.


What really irritates me is when I run into people who have something of the opposite kind of approach. These people seem to know everything about a conflict halfway across the world – places they have never even traveled to – and not only that, they are so sure that one side has been doing wrong, that they will speak no ill of the other. Not only that, but they have committed themselves to a cause of economic pain and suffering upon people who have absolutely nothing to do with the conflict itself while turning a blind eye to the other when, for example, terrorists build underground tunnels to use so they can stab innocent civilians to death.


What motivated me to write this blog is what I am witnessing around me today as we deal with COVID-19 and the foaming at the mouth I have witnessed amongst these very same people when hearing the term “Chinese virus.” To be clear, I am not going to take a stance in this blog about whether or not “Chinese virus” is appropriate. What I will do, however, is talk about the frustration I have felt in the lack of intellectual consistency from those who find the term racist while themselves uttering similar statements.


In one breath, “Chinese virus,” is racist, but in another, they maintain that they can call Israel a “Nazi apartheid state” without being critical of Jews, even though Jews were the pre-eminent victims of the actual Nazis. There is an irony in this. What they are saying is that you cannot criticize a government without being racist. Yet in another breath, they are saying that you can criticize the Israeli government without being anti-Semitic – even if you support a movement that is designed to hurt innocent Israeli civilians via economic sanctions.


When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez likens the southern border situation to “concentration camps” – purposefully invoking Holocaust imagery – it is seen in the progressive camp as not being an exaggeration even in the slightest. China, meanwhile, has millions of Muslims locked in actual concentration camps. I have not toured the southern border or the Muslim concentration camps in China, but word on the street has it that the latter is a lot worse than the former. Where is the outrage? After all, many more are suffering in China than at our southern border today, and yet, you do not see many movements here designed to help those in need.


Beyond that, it is compelling to me that those who seek social justice and reconciliation do not think it is a bridge too far to liken a bad situation to the Holocaust, but merely for suggesting that a virus originated in Wuhan, China (which, objectively, it did), you might be a racist. Ironically, the subjective piece of information here is assumed as fact, and the objective piece of information is deemed racist.


The treatment of China vis-à-vis Israel from the progressive camp is very interesting. For every human rights violation Israel has on its record, China has many, many more, which have hurt infinitely more people. It is almost as if we have written them off as a bunch of people from which we expect nothing, the same way progressives write off Trump supporters as deplorable idiots who do not know any better. And that’s precisely the problem. They are one of the most advanced nations on the planet and they are capable of holding the highest possible standards. When we devote our attention to a country a fraction of their size making a fraction of the impact in the world and then turn the other cheek when dissidents are silenced and/or killed, people are locked away in concentration camps, and freedom of speech is not permitted (or journalists are barred from even entering the country), it makes you wonder – what is the real agenda behind those who criticize Israel so often? If these people are so concerned about human rights, aren’t a lot more people impacted in China than in Israel and Palestine?


Through deceit and lies to its own people and the rest of the world, China has undoubtedly committed a crime that has reverberated around the world. In the midst of all this, the same social justice warriors who are quick to criticize Israel are quick to defend China and to put as much blame as possible on Donald Trump. Here is what is evident: none of these people actually cared about the plight of others. It’s a game of show: who is the most morally upstanding person in the room?


When it is OK to call the southern border something like a Nazi concentration camp, when it is OK to call Israel a Nazi apartheid state, but when it is also not OK to call COVID-19 “Chinese virus,” something is wrong. If there is one thing I can appreciate – even when it is with people with whom I disagree – it is intellectual consistency. It is not intellectually consistent to support such exaggeration while also being utterly offended at statements that at least have some fact involved in the matter – even if deemed insensitive by many.


Here is something else that is disturbing. As news broke that Israel might have a vaccine for the coronavirus, radical leftist individuals like Rosanna Arquette suggested that Israel had foreseen the coming doomsday and had prepared to make the vaccine for economic benefit. This is, of course, playing into one of the greatest anti-Semitic tropes of all time, that Jews are cheap, miserly, swindling people who care more about money than their fellow man. Arquette was obviously chastised for spreading this conspiracy theory and offered a hollow apology. Can we imagine for a moment what the cancel culture people would do to Arquette if, for example, a black woman had found the vaccine, and she raised a conspiracy theory about the intent of that individual somehow tied to her race and gender? Canceled!


What’s more is this: the founder of BDS recently came out and said that it is OK for BDS supporters to take a vaccine that was created in Israel. Imagine the irony of this scenario. Boycott, divestment, and sanctions for all things that come from Israel, except for life-saving and potentially pandemic-ending vaccines. Do as I say, not as I do.


Here is what you do not see much of in the media. That Israel has had potentially the best response to Coronavirus on the entire planet, locking down well before most countries and even developing a mobile app that tracks where infected people have been, while also being able to determine if someone has illegally left their quarantine.  That they have sent aid into Palestine, trained Palestinian medics, and cared for sick in Palestine during the pandemic. All the while, the Palestinian leadership, Hamas, has threatened to murder every Jew in Israel during the pandemic, and continues to fire rockets into Israel. This is not on the news.


Seemingly any good thing Israel does falls on deaf ears for the progressive crowd. When it is not Rosanna Arquette suggesting that a life-saving vaccine is borne of selfishness, or racist BDS supporters contradicting themselves by saying that medicine is an exception to the rule, then perhaps it takes form when it comes to LGBT rights. Israel is the only safe place in the entire Middle East for the LGBT community. If LGBT community members set foot in Palestine, they would risk being subject to an honor killing while the Palestinian Authority and Hamas turned the other cheek. What is the progressive response to Israel’s progressive behavior? A made-up term called “pinkwashing” – which suggests that Israel only tolerates the LGBT community in order to earn sympathy from the international community. There is no evidence for this charge, but it is the way that BDS supporters rationalize one of Israel’s many good deeds. It sickens me when I see LGBT friends of mine evangelizing the cause of a country that would quite literally murder them. Though I try to be empathetic to others, this is a position I cannot fathom having if I were gay.


My grandmother has always said to me since I was very young that “anti-Semitism is alive and well.” She would weave it into pretty much any conversation we had. I used to think that it was a little ridiculous until I started having my own personal experiences. In 6th grade, a friend of mine threw a quarter on the ground and asked me if I was going to pick it up. In high school, a rash of friends used to make Jewish jokes to me constantly. Ironically, this same group of people are the ones who are the loudest and proudest social justice warriors that I know today. When I have confronted them about reconciling their past anti-Semitism with their current social warrioring, they have maintained to me that who they were at age 17 does not reflect who they are today. Meanwhile, they lambaste Brett Kavanaugh for who he was when he was 17 and talk about how racism is taught within one’s family. Does this mean that I can at least safely assume that my friends learned their anti-Semitism from their parents?


But enough about my past. Let’s talk about the future. Let’s talk about concentration camps in China, what has transpired between China and Hong Kong, and what is going on in the South China Sea with artificial islands created by the Chinese military. Let’s talk about a worldwide pandemic that is on pace to kill millions of people due to gross negligence by the Chinese government. If BDS supporters are so hungry to punish the Israeli government – a tiny sliver on the map of the world – then why have I not heard their voices now talking about a movement against China, if not before for the many, many years of human rights violations and abuses that have resulted in pain and hardship for millions, then now, for the blood on its hands for the many millions who are going to die?


I’m listening.

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