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Why Do Academics and Artists Lean Left?

This morning I opened the Jerusalem Post and found these two articles next to each other:

Hamas PM: Only Armed Resistance Will Liberate Palestine


Israeli Leftists Demonstrate for PA Statehood in Tel Aviv

Those leftists can’t have all been unconscious when the PA returned to the Hamas fold last spring. They appear, then, to be choosing not to acknowledge it. How can they possibly justify that choice, considering the likely consequences of the reconciliation not only for Israelis but for Palestinians? What is going on here?

In the United States, life in the academy can be so effectively insulated from reality that it becomes possible to bury oneself up to one’s eyebrows in philosophies that contravene all evidence, history, and common sense. Here in Israel, though, it’s much harder to cut oneself off from reality to the extent generally necessary to wholeheartedly embrace the philosophies of the left.

Nevertheless, academics here are as susceptible as they are anywhere else to the temptation to deny reality, even when it’s literally screaming in their faces. Why is that? And the same seems to go for artists. Several of my favorite Israeli actors — world-class artists whose work I will go well out of my way to see for the sheer, awe-inspiring gratification of being witness to their talent — are proud, vocal, hard-core, die-hard leftists.

I don’t intend by any means to tar the entire academic and artistic communities of Israel with the same brush here. The word “dozens” in the first sentence of the second piece speaks rather poignantly to the sorry state of the Israeli left. But here, as much as anywhere else, the perception exists that an academic or artist who bucks the leftist trend is somehow anomalous, if not downright bent.

There are no doubt plenty of Israeli academics and artists who are right or center-right, but they certainly don’t make a public show of it. In the case of academics, that might speak to a fear of providing ammunition to the blithering mouth-breathers abroad clamoring for academic boycotts of Israel and Israelis. And who knows — maybe right-wing Israeli artists are also afraid of inviting hostile and even violent responses when they perform abroad. But it does appear that among these two communities in Israel, there’s something shamefaced about being an out-and-proud right-winger. A no-questions-asked embrace of the left offers a luxuriously comforting, pillowy embrace of collective self-righteousness, and that’s got to be tempting.

Maybe that’s all there is to it. When reality is painful, there’s a certain self-protective logic to a flat denial of it — especially when most of your colleagues are denying it too, and are enjoying the perks of the moral high ground. Or let’s think positive: maybe academics and artists try harder than the rest of us to see the other as individuals and not collectives, and enough of them have personal experience with individual members of the other that they can’t help but extrapolate good intentions to whole communities. Maybe scholarly and artistic pursuits are believed by their practitioners to transcend cultural boundaries (although in the case of Israeli academics, they are regularly barred from enjoying reciprocal consideration from their colleagues abroad, a point I don’t remember ever seeing addressed directly by an Israeli leftist).

Maybe it’s just good old-fashioned peer pressure. I’m stumped. What do you think?