What explains the outpouring of protest against Israel and the concurrent hatred toward Jews from a virulent subset of kids, professors, and outsiders on elite college campuses? One answer, one key answer, isn’t to be found in the Mideast but rather in the human heart and how human beings explain the workings of the world to themselves. That answer is “capitalism” and those who hate it. Capitalism is an inefficient label for what is better called “free enterprise,” or just freedom as it applies to economics. But we’ll use it for now.

First, a little necessary review before we get to the role of capitalism in the demonization of Israel and the Jews. Hamas and Israel maintained a real, albeit de facto, cease-fire for years, until Hamas decided to break it on October 7. Hamas chose to rape and murder more than 1,000 Israeli men, women, and children (while wounding 3,500 others). Then Hamas paraded the corpses of their victims before cheering throngs and have continued to abuse, abase, and slaughter their hostages. Immediately, a decent-sized swath of American youth decided the proper response was to show support for those who savagely broke the cease-fire and, in effect, to demand that Israel refrain from responding at all. The protests began with a massive Times Square demonstration the day after the Hamas attack and continued with 400 more rallies nationwide over the next 10 days, long before the Israeli counterattack began on October 27. At their worst, the protests call for Israel’s destruction, often in no uncertain terms. At their best, they merely insist that Israel shouldn’t go after the Hamas barbarians themselves, as after committing their historically barbaric attack, the terrorists have already reached home base, hiding behind their own people.

The “free Palestine” mob has gotten nearly all of it wrong, in ways large and small, and its members don’t display the curiosity required to learn about the conflict beyond perhaps watching a TikTok. Blithely ignorant, they sing-song words like “genocide” and “apartheid” that aren’t just blood libels against multi-ethnic democratic Israel, but are better understood as a form of projection, since these epithets are apt descriptors of Hamas, the only advocates and practitioners of genocide in this conflict (not counting Hezbollah and the Houthis and their paymasters in Tehran). The protesters and their enablers point to the real harm done to Palestinian civilians—ignoring that Israel takes heroic steps to minimize such harm, at great risk to its own young soldiers—all the while believing, or pretending to believe, the casualty statistics coming from Hamas.

It is obviously not Arab civilian deaths motivating the protesters; they are happy to ignore those in Syria, Iraq, and most anywhere else noncombatants are being slaughtered. And it’s almost certainly not that they genuinely relish a theocratic authoritarian victory. Most of the protesters care little about an actual Hamas victory, but they care very much about Israel’s defeat, so much so that they’ll take the former if they get the latter.

Why is this? The root cause is the far left’s worship of failure and a concomitant hatred of success and merit—an anti-free-enterprise, anti-Western, anti-progress, anti-prosperity dogma married to a love of power and control regardless of the consequent deprivation and despair that always follow when such ideas achieve control of societies. It’s a civilizational autoimmune disorder, in which healthy organs are attacked as if they are foreign objects or threats (and in which cancer is intentionally nourished).

Given recent events, you can be forgiven for believing that Israel-hating, Jew-hating, and Hamas-loving are at the core of this creed, but they are not; they are simply some of the uglier by-products. That this is a “pan-leftist” popular-front movement is obvious to anyone paying the slightest attention. For starters, one can just follow the money and examine the committed anti-capitalist (and not particularly Mideast-focused) groups helping to fund and organize these protests. For what reason other than pan-leftist unity is Greta Thunberg, the Joan of Arc of climate change, so committed to anti-Zionism? One would think Iran’s carbon footprint would be more likely to draw her ire. Why are protesters hearing about the glories of North Korea at some of these rallies? Why else would extremely progressive Jews be so comfortable with a movement suffused with so much outright anti-Semitism? As Saul Alinsky, the author of Rules for Radicals, would say, the issue is never the issue. In this case what’s never the issue is, oddly enough, the Middle East. If it were, the campuses would have lit up during 2021, when the women of Iran heroically rose up.

At the core of today’s progressivism is the idea that success comes only from plunder and that failure is the ultimate sign of virtue. The goal is then to indiscriminately punish the successful and blindly reward the failed, as their success and failure are all you need to know. The Balzac quip that “behind every great fortune lies a great crime” is their Lord’s Prayer.1

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The truth: The Jews were given a scrap of ancestral land (actually, they bought much of it fair and square, and after decades of organizing and building, were given a mandate to start a tiny country on it) and defended it against five invading armies in 1948, after the Palestinians and allied Arab countries rejected the original two-state solution the Jews had accepted. Over the years, the Israelis then turned deserts into orange groves and then turned orange groves into Silicon Valley,2 all while under military assaults, surprise attacks, bombardment, terrorism, and continued international pressure to reward their attackers for their crimes. And they did this while maintaining a vibrant liberal democracy. Israeli Arabs, one-fifth of Israel’s population, are still the only Arabs in the region who enjoy the fruits of, and participate in running, such a democracy.

But to today’s progressive activist, Israel’s success is itself the proof of its moral bankruptcy, just as perfidy is the progressive’s only explanation for success. Israel’s prosperity, its stunning success—in the absolute and especially when judged against its neighbors—is something that must be defeated. Progressives would otherwise be compelled to admit that Western civilization, democracy, and capitalism produce the most human flourishing and also the fairest distribution of it. You might call it a perverse immoral hazard. Far-left progressives cannot let Israel’s success count as best practices.

In contrast, the Palestinians who fled Israel in 1948 and their descendants have had a tough time of it, largely due to their leaders. Israel took in a similar number of Jews expelled, de facto or through explicit threat of pogrom, from the Arab world. But the Palestinians’ fellow Arabs did not take them in, choosing instead to keep them in squalor as a bargaining chip and a cudgel against Israel, and because they just didn’t want them (see Egypt’s Gaza border wall today).3 United Nations sympathizers abetted the scheme, forcing Palestinians into permanent refugeehood based on birth (a modern serfdom) in defiance of UN principles (no other refugees are characterized this way). Israel didn’t do any of this to them; their supposed friends did.

Aid money sent to Gaza and the West Bank over the years has not been used to build a productive economy. Instead, it’s been used to dig sophisticated, ex-tensive terror tunnels, support a lavish lifestyle for Palestinian leaders, and provide nice annuities to the families of “martyrs” as a means of intentionally encouraging more. These leaders consciously built failure, an economic failure married to a death cult, instead of trying for success. Progressives honor them for it.

According to today’s progressive dogma, it’s only outcomes that matter, because outcomes represent not equality but “equity.”4 Equal opportunities and equal rights are insufficient; it is equal outcomes that are truly moral. And when measured against the Israelis, the Palestinian refugees clearly don’t have such “equity.” So Israel must be an oppressor and the perma-class of “powerless” refugees (again, courtesy of their friends) must be saints and martyrs. What’s a progressive to do? Credit the Israelis for their earned success? Blame the Palestinians leaders, so clearly responsible, for their people’s open sores? Blame the countries supporting Palestine for cynically perpetuating their condition? No, clearly, what you do is blame the Israelis for their sin of prospering and then head to the barricades for barbarians because a failed society must axiomatically be a just and righteous one.

Even outside of Israel, Jews as a people represent a huge problem to the progressive worldview. Jews are the world’s longest-lived oppressed minority. We are only four generations past the Holocaust (an actual genocide).5 We are only three generations removed from a time when Jews in the U.S. faced quotas and gentleman’s agreements explicitly and implicitly limiting our opportunities. And yet Jews are economically thriving here in oppressor America and elsewhere. This is a living, breathing assault on the progressive worldview. Surely the logic of “equity” requires that Jews must be unfairly manipulating the system to attain that success? Surely, Jews must be cheating left and right? Otherwise, how can progressives explain the success of Jews? For a time, due to the Holocaust, this was a question that progressives dared not answer as they wanted to. But time and tides change. Jews (and Israel) are now deemed guilty of imposing and benefiting from oppression based not on facts but solely on their success.

What can be done to counteract this diseased worldview? The place to start is with those who keep the gears of capitalism working. Prestige corporations need to broaden their recruiting beyond the grade-inflated radical factories that used to be our most esteemed universities. Donors need to direct their largesse toward schools that aren’t teaching that any achievement is prima facie evidence of racism, colonialism, and capitalism run amok. Programs need to be funded to teach the massive (and obvious) net good that free enterprise has done for the world, without whitewashing the occasional faults. Graduate students and professors willing to buck their Marxist madrassas need to be supported financially and otherwise.

Capitalism is what has made our amazing civilization possible (and has allowed so many useless post-modern academics to live in perpetual luxury). Rejection of free enterprise is what has caused most of the societal failures around the world—failures that would-be totalitarians attribute solely to oppression that can be cured only by more oppression (but this time from them). We now face a multigenerational challenge to teach the young to love and respect liberty as it applies everywhere, including in economics, where it would actually lead the destitute children of Gaza to a better life. 

No society that worships failure and abjures success can long endure. Reverse this, even some of it, and much of the Jew-hatred will go away on its own, as it has never been the real point.


1 Balzac actually wrote something more nuanced: “Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente est un crime oublié, parce qu’il a été proprement fait,” or “The secret of any great success without apparent cause is a crime, overlooked because it was well executed.” “Without apparent cause” ruins the usual progressive interpretation. But it’s the epigraph to The Godfather, so we’re stuck with the less nuanced version.
2 Israel’s own journey from mostly socialist to mostly capitalist is a separate tale worth telling.
3 Whenever Palestinians were allowed into other Arab countries (e.g., Jordan), Palestinian leaders engaged in terrorism and sought to overthrow the government, making themselves thoroughly unwelcome.
4 Some of this, just a bit, reflects a positive aspect of human nature. If I turn on a ballgame and one of my teams isn’t playing, I naturally root for whoever is the underdog. But I don’t assume the underdog team is morally superior and deserves to win based only on the fact that they’re losing. And I won’t stubbornly cling to this view regardless of overwhelming evidence that I’m wrong. That’s a perversion of a good instinct.
5 Not “a” holocaust but “The Holocaust.”

Photo: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

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