Lessons on Looting and Liberal Racism from the 1977 Blackout

In 1977, when New York City was at the nadir of its urban decay, a 25-hour electrical blackout struck much of the city leading to widespread looting and destruction of property. Midge Decter responded with a seminal essay in Commentary analyzing both its causes and the invidious prejudice white middle-class liberals (perhaps especially Jewish ones) revealed in their reactions. With unrest once again besetting America’s cities, her words are worth revisiting:

It is cant to call the looters victims of racial oppression, and it is still worse cant to say that their condition is the result of our apathy. But it is cant above all to say of the looters’ conduct—as Herbert Gutman did in a truly disgraceful piece (which also appeared on the New York Times Op-Ed page), in which he compared them with a group of Jewish housewives in 1902 who organized what turned into a rowdy protest against the high cost of kosher meat and threw meat into the street to rot—that they were giving us “a pained message.”

Anyone who actually watched the looters at work, as those of us who live in looted neighborhoods were privileged to do firsthand and as millions of Americans did briefly on television, knows that they were doing no such thing as expressing rage or even blindly giving vent to some pent-up experience of torment: they were having the time of their lives. . . .

“Pained messages” are being transmitted and received, all right, but in exactly the opposite direction from the one suggested by Herbert Gutman. Young blacks are getting the message from the liberal culture, more subtly but just as surely as from any old-time Southern sheriff, that they are, inherently and by virtue of their race, inferior. There are virtually no crimes they can commit that someone with great influence does not rush in to excuse on the grounds that we had no right to expect anything else.

The message they are given [by liberals], in short, is that they are not fully enough human to be held morally responsible for their own behavior. They are children, as the Southerners used to say, or ironically, they are, in the terminology the New York Times editorialist so much objected to but so inevitably himself implied, “animals.” This is the message that has for some time now, at least since the late 1960s, been consistently transmitted by the “best” people, and certainly widely received by their intended interlocutors. It is, to be blunt about it, the message of liberal racism.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Liberalism, Midge Decter, New York City, Racism


The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas