Fundamentally Freund: SOS: Selective Outrage Syndrome

Under the guise of enlightened progressivism, left-wing activists are actually advancing prejudice.

Beit Yehonatan 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Beit Yehonatan 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
There is a new malady sweeping the land, one so widespread and corrosive that it is rapidly becoming a serious epidemic. It strikes with increasing frequency, leaving its victims babbling incoherently. And while it makes no distinction between young and old, it does seem to hit those on the Left with particular ferocity.
It is what I call Selective Outrage Syndrome, or SOS, and the symptoms are really quite obvious: applying a selective double-standard in matters relating to human rights and politics.
To better understand this phenomenon, let’s take a look at an especially egregious example in the heart of Jerusalem. For months, left-wing activists have been pressing for the eviction of the Jewish residents of the Beit Yehonatan apartment complex in the neighborhood of Shiloah, or Silwan, citing repeated court rulings to seal the building.
Mustering all the passion at their disposal, the campaigners invoke lofty principles such as the rule of law, while denouncing the presence of Jews in the neighborhood as an act of “occupation.” They insist that failure to carry out the court orders would constitute a travesty of justice.
And yet, just 100 meters down the road, some of those very same activists have been busy trying to block the implementation of another court ruling. In this case, it has to do with the Old Yemenite Synagogue, where an Arab family was found to have been squatting illegally for decades. In January 2010, a court decided that the Arab tenants should be evicted.
Amid a mounting brouhaha, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat put the two sets of evictions on hold this past Sunday, at least for the time being. But the case provides a compelling example of moral myopia bordering on blindness.
In one instance, when it comes to evicting Jews, the left-wing protesters are all in favor of upholding the court’s decision. But when it comes to evacuating illegal Arab tenants, they do everything in their power to subvert the court’s ruling.
What these do-gooders don’t seem to understand is that the rule of law is not something that can be applied only when it fits one’s political agenda. If the law is supreme, you can’t insist that Jews be held to a certain standard, while making excuses for Arabs. Unless, of course, you suffer from selective outrage syndrome.
YET ANOTHER instance of this kind of thinking was on display earlier this week, when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a statement worthy of American segregationists from the 1960s. “When a Palestinian state is established, it will be empty of any Israeli presence,” said our ostensible peace partner. “ If a Palestinian state is established with Jerusalem as its capital, we will object to the presence of even one Israeli in its territory. This is our position.”
That’s right. Abbas said it loudly and clearly: No Jews allowed.
Despite the outright racist nature of his remarks, Abbas’s comments evoked nothing but silence on the liberal Left. There were no howls of protest, or denunciations of this blatant anti- Semitic rhetoric.
Contrast this with the fury that erupted when a group of rabbis ruled last month that homes should not be rented to Arabs or other non- Jews.
Once again, we see that the Left is quite ready to deplore a certain behavior by Jews, while ignoring similar conduct by Palestinians.
Ironically, then, these liberals end up being the most vocal advocates of drawing distinctions between Jews and Arabs based only on who they are. Ummm, isn’t that racial discrimination? And so, under the guise of enlightened progressivism, left-wing activists are actually advancing prejudice.
To be fair, leftists are not the only ones plagued by SOS. There is plenty of it on the Right as well, only in the opposite direction.
And of course there are quite a few thoughtful left-leaning people who still believe in upholding the principle of one standard for all. But they seem to have been drowned out by the more vocal, extreme elements.
It is to these radicals that I say: you can’t have it both ways. If you want to invoke noble values and ideals, that is truly wonderful.
But the moment you start applying those principles inequitably, you become precisely that which you so fiercely condemn.