Houses Hopelessly Divided

Rifts are so great, differences of opinion so irreconcilable, the house should be condemned.
February 6, 2024
MaryLB/Getty Images; johnnylemonseed/Getty Images

I’ve heard of a house divided, but the chasm in consensus nowadays is downright unlivable. Rifts are so great, differences of opinion so irreconcilable, the house should be condemned. What we have is long division being played out as Realpolitik. Civil war, minus civility.

Let’s start with the United States. Is America pro-Israel, or pro-Hamas? Depends on where you look. Americans who were overjoyed by the orgy of barbarism on Oct. 7 tend to be progressives and Muslims. Progressives who see Israel as pasty-faced Brooklynites passing themselves off as indigenous to a land they stole from dark-skinned Arabs. Muslims will never forgive Israel for its successes, and far too many are shamelessly not squeamish over the spilling of Jewish blood. Islam, after all, is the one religion where its Prophet moonlights as a warrior.

This antisemitic alliance also has a penchant for noise. Making their presence known with rowdy chants of “Intifada!” and “From the River to the Sea!” is a great way to project strength and signal intentions. If you look on campus, mainstream media, or occasionally at Times Square — Israel-bashing is drawing a critical mass of unfriendly fire reminiscent of the Arab Street at its most menacing.

Some of the clash of agendas is explained by schizophrenia within the Democratic Party — a mental illness brought on by too much exposure to identity politics. This is no joke. Obsessions with “systemic racism,” “white supremacy,” “gender fluidity,” mandated equity, and simplified hierarchies of oppression may cost President Joe Biden a second term. 

America elected a moderate Democrat in Biden, but he was beholden, even before his inauguration, to the progressive wing of his party. That faction, comprised of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the members of the Squad, have little patience for centrists, and no love lost for Israel. 

That’s why Biden’s recent reprisals against Hezbollah, the Houthis, and Syrian insurgents for their attacks against American military bases in the region and commercial shipping in the Red Sea, are unlikely to intensify into a full-blown war. Retaliating against Persian proxies has its limits. After all, Democratic Socialists eschew American Exceptionalism. The anti-American, anti-Zionist jet set never takes kindly to airstrikes against Muslim targets — no matter what Islamists and jihadists may have done to deserve it.

President Biden has so far shown consistent support for America’s democratic ally in the Middle East. But as the election draws near, Israel’s Gaza campaign will grow as a political liability. Will the death toll of Palestinian women and children compel Biden to scold Israel and demand restraint? 

Michigan, for instance, an indispensable battleground state and Democratic stronghold, is a granite reminder of the schism in American politics the president faces. A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed referred to the Muslim enclave of Dearborn — Squad member Rashida Tlaib’s congressional district—as “America’s Jihad Capital.” 

More than half the city is Muslim, and local imams have openly celebrated the murder, rape and kidnapping of Israelis on Oct. 7. The city has historically honored terrorists in their mosques and Islamic Centers. One cleric even proclaimed his fidelity to the Ayatollah of Iran. A jihadi sheikh who lives in Dearborn and is believed to have been the mastermind behind the London Bridge terrorist attack has called upon Muslims everywhere to normalize jihad and join a holy war to wrest Israel from the “apes and swine.”

The Wall Street Journal is now being charged with spreading Islamophobia for essentially quoting the words of Muslim clerics. This should come as no surprise. The downfall of former Harvard president Claudine Gay and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis are instantly attributed to racism. In our censorious culture of woke sensitivities, calling attention to the failings of persons of color is strictly forbidden—even if the statements are true.

But it’s not as if the Islamic world is immune from its own ideological divisions. Ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran a civil war has been raging among Muslims: between bloodthirsty extremists, and ordinary people who simply wish to live their lives in peace and raise, rather than martyr, their families. 

Unfortunately, the Western world has far too often come into contact with jihadists who vow to murder infidels and apostates, stone women who violate Sharia law, toss homosexuals from rooftops, and, of course, wipe Israel from the map. Muslims who don’t read the Quran with the same allegiance to violence are largely kept quiet. 

How many of the world’s two billion Muslims share these attitudes is unknown, but Europeans have been forced to contend with home-grown Islamists who inalterably reject the premises of liberal democracies. Hamas’ victory on Oct. 7, apparently, has suddenly introduced America to the lunatic fringe of political Islam. Once-friendly Muslim neighbors may soon be perceived, rightly or wrongly, as potential sleeper cells. What 9/11 didn’t do to American public opinion, Hamas, and its apologists, may have now tragically accomplished.

Unlike Judaism, with its endless arguments with God and its Reform and Reconstructionist denominations, and Catholicism’s revisions to Church doctrines at Vatican II, which made Christianity more accommodating to the modern world, Islam, which literally translates to “submission,” has never undergone any reform at all. 

Instead of updating the Quran, Muslims imported their unresolved religious disagreements to secular nations practicing liberalism and democracy, nations whose citizens believed that medievalist mindsets were a thing of the past. 

That doesn’t mean that Dearborn is a hotbed of terrorist activity. But neither is it necessarily Islamophobic to express concern when local Muslim clerics are invoking the same death chants as the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza and the Ayatollahs of Iran.

Sectarian tensions exist among Jews, too.

Faced with skyrocketing antisemitic hate crimes in major cities, and calls for the genocide of Jews on college campuses, where Ivy Leaguers have shown themselves to be the equal of those without high school diplomas, Jewish-Americans are, inexplicably, engaged in a civil war of silence. Many hope that all this sanctioned antisemitism will simply pass before Passover.

Open antisemitism and Jewish self-hatred are, apparently, signs of virtue. Cowardice comes with no consequence. 

Jews with real clout are reticent to speak up. Too timid to demand better leadership. Afraid to lose friends. Shamelessly showboating their spinelessness by blaming Israel for the rising body count of dead Gazans rather than the terrorist tactics of Hamas. Open antisemitism and Jewish self-hatred are, apparently, signs of virtue. Cowardice comes with no consequence. 

Meanwhile, defenders of the Jewish state howl at the moon on a planet that has never protected the Chosen People. 

All these internal divisions within Democrats, Muslims, and Jews are leading to disasters because the wrong factions of each seem to have the upper hand, and louder voice.

Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro University, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. He is the legal analyst for CBS News Radio. His most recent book is titled “Saving Free Speech … From Itself.” 

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