By: Noah Rothman – nationalreview.com – October 23, 2023
The 18-to-24 cohort isn’t evaluating events in Israel on their merits but filtering them through the intellectual ‘framework’ of lies they’ve been taught.
The monthly Harvard/Harris survey conducted in the wake of the Hamas-perpetrated massacre of over 1,400 Israelis on October 7 has good news and bad news for those who look upon this act of mass murder of Jews with horror and contempt. In the good news column, the overwhelming majority of respondents believe the U.S. is justified in branding Hamas a “terrorist group,” believe it is correct to call the attack “genocidal,” do not think the slaughter was justified, and side with Israel in its war against Hamas. The bad news is, however, impossible to dismiss as inconsequential.
Younger Americans, aged 18 to 24, disagree with their elders. This demographic is split almost down the middle when asked if the slaughter of senior citizens, the rape of young women, the murder of children, and the immolation of whole families in their homes was justified. Indeed, a slight majority of respondents in this age group said the butchery could be “justified by the grievance of Palestinians.” What’s more, only a bare majority of this demographic backs Israel in this conflict. Forty-eight percent said they side not with Palestinians but explicitly with “Hamas” in this war.
The first order of business is to heap scorn on a generation that has adopted this morally bankrupt perspective and the older adults in their lives who have so maliciously led them astray. The second task at hand is for us to understand what convinced the younger generation to sacrifice their humanity upon the altar of an intellectual fad. The answer can be found, at least in part, in one odious word that has claimed the benignity of this generation and so many before them: “framework.”
On October 13, the Atlantic published a fascinating reflection by Helen Lewis on the callous indifference her compatriots on the American left have shown toward the wanton murder of Jews for being Jews. She correctly identified the origins of this phenomenon in the intellectualization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on college campuses, which flattens the distinctions between civilian and terrorist, between West Bank and Gaza, between Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Authority and Fatah, and so on. But that flattening is the outcome. The instrument that pummels the complexities of the region into an unrecognizable paste is that detestable word, “framework.”
“Fitting Israel into the intersectional framework has always been difficult, because its Jewish citizens are both historically oppressed—the survivors of an attempt to wipe them out entirely—and currently in a dominant position over the Palestinians, as demonstrated by the Netanyahu government’s decision to restrict power and water supplies to Gaza,” Lewis wrote. Intersectionality is, indeed, the “framework” on display here. It started out as little more than a thought experiment, but it has since transmogrified into a way of life.
Pioneered by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, theoretical intersectionality asks its adherents to conceive of their fellow citizens not as unique individuals but as stereotypical cutouts representing their respective demographic traits. It presupposes that everyone in the American melting pot owns a variety of immutable traits, some of which are subject to more discrimination than others. African Americans endure some prejudices, women endure others, while gays and lesbians experience an entirely distinct level of prejudice. Some of these prejudices “intersect,” so, for example, a gay black woman will experience a host of bigotries that someone who can only lay claim to one or two of these minority identities will not.
In practice, the framework reduces humans to their various demographic signifiers, and it does so in a particularly chauvinistic way. The stereotypes that intersectionality requires its adherents to marinate in are uniquely American. So, the descendants of American slaves are owed no more deference than recent African or Caribbean migrants because the cliched racist will not draw those distinctions. Now, apply this framework to American Jews. In the antisemitic imagination, American Jews are comfortable, powerful, and well connected. They enjoy influence and success disproportionate to their numbers. It’s a bigoted conception, but that is the point of intersectionality — to think in bigoted terms if only to understand and navigate what intersectional theorists believe is the fundamentally bigoted American landscape.
But once you subscribe to this philosophy, you’ve just internalized plain-old antisemitism. Through this framework, people are reduced to statistics, and their tormentors become automatons responding predictably to a set of historical incentives. Intersectionality is, in that regard, no different from the framework of Marxism, which asks its adherents to view the workings of history through the prism of class and capital distribution. Individuals are robbed of their agency through the application of this theory, and events are boiled down to root causes that have almost nothing to do with their perpetrators. Intersectionality is distinct only insofar as it substitutes class and capital with race and ethnicity.
The problem with frameworks is that they are a logical cul-de-sac. They purport to help their subscribers navigate the world, but the temptation is always to force the uncooperative world to comport with the framework. The overeducated, affluent youths dressing up in keffiyehs and disseminating antisemitic propaganda in defense of a terroristic atrocity are attempting to make sense of a world they’ve only experienced in freshman seminars. They’re not evaluating events in Israel on their merits. They’re filtering them through a framework and distilling them into goop that doesn’t threaten the lies to which they’ve been taught to subscribe.
America’s young people have sacrificed their capacity for rational thought and human decency all on their own. But the inhumanity they’ve come around to endorsing is an intellectual exercise. If we are to anathematize the source of their psychological torment, we should be able to call it by its name.
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