The concept of alienation has been a feature of Western democracies for at least a century. It manifests itself in the dislike, sometimes hatred, some citizens have for their nation. Invariably it is rationalised, even propelled, by alienated intellectuals and journalists.

In the period between the two world wars, alienation was mainly found on the right of the debate. From the 1960s, however, it is primarily the left intelligentsia who have distanced themselves from their nation, while living comfortably enough in the very societies for which they have contempt.

A few Australians come immediately to mind, such as historians Manning Clark (1915-91) and Stuart Macintyre (1947-21), who wrote multiple volumes of Australian history. With both men, it was a case of always looking on the dark side of Australian life.

Then there was popular leftist journalist John Pilger (1939-2023) who ran the line that Australian people fought other people’s wars – in spite of the fact Australia would be a different place today if the Allies had lost in 1918 or 1945.

The long-term influence of such historians and journalists on teachers and their students should not be overlooked – it manifests itself in contemporary society. Alienation of the left – especially the extreme left – has increased in influence. And there is a growing body of others who lack the courage to stand up for the traditions that have been challenged.

The current situation on Australian campuses illustrates the point. The decision by Islamist terrorist group Hamas to break a ceasefire agreement and invade southern Israel on October 7 led to criticisms by many Australians – not of Hamas but of Western nations that support the Jewish state.

Hamas’s brutal attack on Israeli civilians – babies, women and men – was not only a war crime, it was also an act of genocide, since the terrorists sought to murder, assault and kidnap as many Jews as possible – simply because they were Jews. Contemporary genocide is best defined as an intention to kill a race of people.

Even before Israel indicated its expected retaliation, on October 9 a large number of people marched from Sydney Town Hall to the Opera House chanting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slogans, including “where’s the Jews?” (according to NSW Police), which many heard as “gas the Jews”. Either way, it was an anti-Semitic statement.

The consequence of the influence of alienated intellectuals has contributed to the weakness of those in authority in the West who increasingly decline to stand up in defence of traditional standards.

This has been evident in the disruption on Australian campuses. On May 2, the University Chancellors Council Plenary responded to a letter from the Australian Academic Alliance Against Anti-Semitism by issuing a brief statement – which did not mention anti-Semitism. Instead, there was a vague condemnation of hate speech or conduct directed at “any person or group of persons because of their nationality, religion or identity”.

This was an act of denial. Australia has never experienced the level of anti-Semitism that has occurred since October 7. However, one brave chancellor has spoken out. On May 11, The Weekend Australian published an opinion piece by Jennifer Westacott, head of Western Sydney University, who wrote that she is part of a family that “includes two people … who are from an Islamic background”.

Westacott condemned “Islamophobic racism, hate speech or intimidation”. But she recognised it was time to specifically “call out … creeping anti-Semitism”.

On May 13, Joanna Panagopoulos reported in The Australian that Jane Hansen, chancellor of Melbourne University, had refrained from condemning anti-Semitism and declared that university leaders are in the business of supporting those who “suffer racism” rather than “looking for division”.

It’s not clear if Hansen was implying Westacott is looking for division. But it was, at best, a clumsy statement, especially since Melbourne in general, and Melbourne University in particular, have been the focus of anti-Semitism in Australia recently.

Westacott did receive some public support from some fellow chancellors, including Robert French (University of Western Australia) and Peter Varghese (University of Queensland), along with prominent Melbourne lawyer Mark Leibler (a member of the Melbourne University Council).

Leibler rebuffed Hansen’s response as “unacceptable”. His point was that the Melbourne University chancellor “refuses to admit the specific anti-Semitic crises on campuses in this country”.

No doubt Hansen is a good person. It’s just that she appears weak – and, consequently, unwilling to stand up to those currently disrupting Melbourne University in their opposition to Israel. It’s interesting to note this week Melbourne University experienced an occupation of a major building by pro-Palestinian activists while Western Sydney University was relatively quiet.

The strength of the alienated left in the universities and schools has had an effect on society. To the extent that, in certain circles, it is increasingly unfashionable to support the West (such as the US and its democratic allies such as Israel).

This leads to a situation where certain facts are fudged, such as:

• Hamas was the aggressor on October 7 and, according to reports, it is not winning on the field of battle. In view of this, the best way to end hostilities is for Hamas to surrender and return the hostages (along with bodies of the dead). Instead, the fashionable left-wing position is to call for a ceasefire, which will lead to Hamas remaining in power. This is not the path to a two-state solution between Israel and Palestinians.

• Anti-Semitism is rife on some Australian campuses. Not so with Islamophobia. Muslim students are not being targeted by Jews or Israel supporters, and Muslim schools and institutions do not require constant security protection.

Left-wing alienation has affected universities, schools, the media and the like. The response to this by many of those in authority is often the cult of weakness. However, the left has not converted the overwhelming majority of individuals in Western societies. What’s needed to push back against the alienated left is courage. Not weakness by nice people in denial.