From the beginning, there seemed to be something different about the present war between Israel and Hamas, at least in comparison to Israel’s response to Hamas rocket fire every couple of years in “mini wars”. The “backstory” of alleged ethnic killings and revenge killings, the length of the conflict, the changed landscape of the Middle East (including for Hamas a more hostile Egyptian regime than it found under President Morsi), and of course the eventual ground campaign by Israel are all factors in this sea change.
But what may in time emerge as a great consequence to the Middle East conflict in general is twofold. First, the nature of the international response—to say nothing of the local reaction from Arabs in the West Bank and within Israel proper—has blurred the distinction between anti-Semitism and “anti-Zionism”, the latter of which has long presented itself as a principled opposition to Israeli policy on the ground of alleged colonialism and apartheid. But the character of demonstrations over the past couple of weeks, including in such cities as Chicago, London, and Paris, have shown the two to be increasingly indistinguishable, with accusations of “human rights abuse” going hand in hand with the blockading of a Paris synagogue, ostentatious anti-Semitic caricatures, and Holocaust-praising chants. (One echoes Douglas Murray from Britain’s Spectator in noting that the thousands of European Muslims taking to the streets in rage over Gaza stayed home through the continuing carnage of the Syrian civil war and the present calamity in Iraq, suggesting that the taking of Muslim life is unimportant to them unless the enemy party is Jewish.)
Second, the willingness of liberal Jewish commentators to defend ideological co-thinkers who sympathize with Hamas seems to be diminishing. One of many examples is this article from the Forward by progressive writer Tova Ross, who describes how the present events have disabused her of the naïve pseudo-even-handedness which once animated her view of the conflict. She has been persuaded that her hawkish father was right all along.
Now there are surely gradations to this phenomenon and many a hold out, but it’s worth noting that the anti-Israel crowd’s desired legitimacy has long been aided by people such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finklestein—leftist Jews who advance the rhetoric of apartheid and delegitimation. So if more progressives feel conflicted by lambasting Israel alongside the sordid types who praise Hamas, it must be good for Israel in the long run.