The rise of the protester-terrorist

by Benjamin Kerstein
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When any terrorist movement is permitted to grow until it reaches critical mass, no society can survive what follows.

(JNS) For Jews the world over, the past eight months have been little more than a series of catastrophes. Contrary to their expectations, American Jews have proved to be no exception. They have discovered that no Jewish community is ever immune to history.

American Jews are reeling from this terrible realization. To an extent, so are all Americans, and with good reason. After all, what has emerged since the Oct. 7 massacre has been rather remarkable: A self-declared “antiracist” movement that embraces antisemitism. An unholy alliance between a totalitarian theocratic movement and ostensibly secular progressives. Imperious institutions of higher education that happily tolerate the most brazen violations of their own codes of conduct. Politicians who preach morality while calling for genocide.

Above all, the first antisemitic mass movement in American history has arisen. There have been antisemitic movements in America before, of course. But never have they been this large, politically influential, violent and explicitly opposed to the fundamental principles of their own society.

Certainly, many of those participating in this movement are simply ignorant conformists riding a wave of protest and outrage. They likely have little idea of what all the fuss is about, but they enjoy the opportunity to vent their inchoate anger. Moreover, thanks to a collaborationist media, there is a terrible glamour to self-righteous mayhem. It is trendy to hate Israel and the Jews, and, sadly, America is a society of trends.

The movement is being led, however, by a remarkable character: the protester-terrorist.

The protester-terrorist is not an entirely new phenomenon. Contrary to the claims of most historians, American protest movements have always had a violent side. The riot, large or small, has been a constant throughout American history. In a nation founded in a violent revolution, it could hardly be otherwise.

The protester-terrorist is quite different from other protesters. Unlike the passive resistor or even the rioter, the protester-terrorist does not take to the streets in order to confront oppressive authority or engage in random acts of violence. Instead, under the guise of activism, the protester-terrorist pursues the work of terrorism in another register. He does not set off bombs in buses or slaughter women and children. But his strategy is the same: to use the public display of horrific acts to intimidate others into silence and surrender.

This tactic of the “propaganda of the deed” is not new either. But today’s iteration is unlike its predecessors in two ways: its nihilism and its institutionalization.

Regarding the former, rarely have we seen an ostensible protest movement so brazenly hurl all morality to the winds. Today’s protester-terrorists are not simply immoral; they are anti-moral. Their ethos is a total inversion of ethics. To them—and we know this because they say so—murdering, raping, kidnapping and torturing innocent people is a good thing. So is racism. So is genocide. So, for all we know, is the destruction of the world. The protester-terrorist is not just morally bankrupt. He is satanic. He is morality’s adversary.

As for institutionalization, it is clear that we are seeing the endgame of one of the most successful conspiracies in American history. Half a century ago, having failed to seize power through riot and terrorism, the radicals of the 1960s turned to the infiltration of powerful institutions to transform them into weapons for radical political action. This “long march through the institutions” was wildly successful. The American university system and the elite it manufactures are now ruled by a dictatorship of the professoriate that employs intellectual and at times physical terrorism to impose its ideology on a nation that does not want it.

Never before, however, has the professoriate so publicly revealed the dark heart of its ideology. Like the neo-Nazis and Klansmen it ostensibly despises, the regime has sent out its protester-terrorists on a campaign of racist hate crimes that specifically target Jewish students and faculty regardless of their views on Israel, the Palestinians and indeed anything else. In doing so, the regime revealed that protester-terrorism is not just a weapon but the essence of the regime.

Given all this, we must wonder what comes next. The possibilities are not encouraging. The protester-terrorists may make American Jewish life unlivable. American Jews may find themselves in the same position as their Western European brethren, with occasional pogroms storming through their neighborhoods, their synagogues and schools under constant military guard and a general sense of helplessness and oppression pervading their lives. Stripped of the political, professional, cultural and academic success they have enjoyed for decades, they will be forced to ask the previously unthinkable: Is it time to leave?

For Americans in general, the moment may be even more portentous. The ultimate target of any terrorist—protester or not—is the society in which he lives. Indeed, there is no doubt that the protester-terrorists’ next target will be the American political system. The protester-terrorists have made it quite clear that they are perfectly willing to destroy one of America’s major political parties. Plans are already underway for a full-scale assault on the Democratic National Convention.

This ethos of the suicide bomber will not end with the Democrats. When any terrorist movement is permitted to grow until it reaches critical mass, no society, regardless of party, can survive what follows.

None of this, however, has to happen. The protester-terrorist has only become so dangerous because he has been allowed to. Supported by powerful forces in American society, he has been granted near-total impunity for decades. If those powerful forces are brought to heel, if they are forced to obey the ethics and laws that everyone else must obey, if their indulgences are ended, the protester-terrorist cannot survive.

The imperative, then, for American Jews and non-Jews alike, is to demand that the long march through the institutions at last be halted and turned back. Perhaps more importantly, they must insist that the responsible authorities recognize a simple fact: A terrorist is always protesting something, but this cannot and must not grant him immunity for crimes that threaten not just a beleaguered minority but the republic itself.


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