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8 Reasons Leftists should be Pro-Israel

8 Reasons Leftists should be Pro-Israel

Supporting Israel squares with the core principles of the Left.


Israel continues to be the demon poster-child of the Left. The prime example of a repressive regime and abuser of human rights. On the Left, people became outraged and agitated over Israel more than over any other cause. Israel's supposed villainy will bring out protestors on cold, rainy days in a way no other issue can. Many of these people are earnest, but perhaps misled.

In most ways, my own politics tend to be Liberal-Left: I support single-payer, universal healthcare, I opposed the war in Iraq and the Bush-Cheney "imperial presidency," I even voted twice for Ralph Nader. However, like French philosopher Bernard Henri-Lévy, I differ on Israel and reject the demonization of Israel, whether at the United Nations, in the world media, or among American and European Leftists.

If my fellow Leftists or even Liberals think that the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement will help bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as peace to the Middle East and harmony to the community of nations, they are sadly mistaken. There is a difference between criticism and demonization, and the campaign against Israel is of the latter type. Criticism, and there is much of it within Israel's own healthy democracy, can result in positive change. But the focused attempt to demonize Israel, not undertaken against any other nation, is aimed at delegitimizing Israel and undermining its very existence, as if the problems of the world were the fault of the Israelis -- the fault of the Jews -- and if they would only go away, all would be better.

The attempt to demonize Israel, not undertaken against any other nation, is aimed at delegitimizing Israel and undermining its very existence.

Not only is this a sorry illusion, but this concerted assault on Israel itself betrays the principles of the Left.

Here, then, are eight reasons Leftists should be Pro-Israel (or, at least, Pro-Peace rather than Anti-Israel):

1. Human Rights. The Left fights for human rights in the world. Even if one thinks Israel or its soldiers guilty of human rights violations (and I am not willing at the outset to grant this point), there is no international or historical comparison that could reasonably rank Israel among the worst criminals of the world or of history. Whether we look at the scale of the conflict, the numbers of lives lost, or the treatment of the press or of dissidents, there are far too many examples of bloodshed and persecution dwarfing anything done by Israel against the Palestinians over the last four decades since the Six Day War, when Israel was attacked by its neighbors. Even Arab treatment of Palestinians, such as in Jordan's Black September massacre, caused thousands of deaths, possibly more in 10 days than in four decades of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And how can we compare Israel to Mugabe's Zimbabwe, or the Chinese crackdown on Tibet and Tianneman? Or the disappearances and death squads of Latin America Square or the killing fields of Pol Pot? Let alone the genocide pursued by Hitler or Stalin's murderous reign? Let us be clear: genocide is the attempt to exterminate an entire people and culture; this is not what has happened to the Palestinians, and it is not the goal of Israeli policy. By contrast, the explicit aim of Hamas is to eliminate Israel. So, if we support human rights and oppose persecution, ought we not first to focus our efforts on the places where we find the worst situations? Can anyone rationally claim that among these places, let alone the most horrendous of all, is a small nation on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea?

2. Internationalism. Leftists tend to support internationalism. One would think that the United Nations would be the world body most dedicated to furthering this aim. But how is it that Israel, this small nation, has become such a central concern? From 2003-2010, there have been more than 900 human rights actions against Israel at the U.N.; the next closest is Sudan at just under 400. Israel is the only member of the U.N. to be excluded from any of the five regional groups. And should not all on the Left oppose the absurdity of the so-called Human Rights Council, whose members include such paragons of humanitarianism as China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Kyrgyzstan? How can Leftists stand silent when the Turkish Prime Minister denounces Israel for human rights crimes while then promising that the Kurds will "drown in their own blood," in a conflict with human rights abuses on both sides and tens of thousands individuals killed? If Gaza is not the ideal place to live, if the Gazans are suffering, nevertheless the photos in the New York Times and elsewhere and the testimony of reporters clearly demonstrate that Gazans are not starving, their store shelves are not empty, whether for food or consumer goods; as difficult as the situation may be, it is simply not the pinnacle of human rights disasters, and Israel is thus not deserving of international condemnation above all other nations in the world.

The polls make clear that, overwhelmingly, Israelis desire peace with their neighbors.

3. Peace. Leftists want peace. In the Middle East and elsewhere. The polls make clear that, overwhelmingly, Israelis desire peace with their neighbors; the difficult sacrifices, including the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza make this evident. Israelis are prepared for a secure, two-state solution, to live side-by-side in peace. Meanwhile, the stated goal of its enemies is to end its existence. A simple thought-experiment should make the matter starkly clear: If tomorrow Hamas and other Palestinian groups unilaterally put down their weapons, what would follow? Peace. If Israelis unilaterally put down their weapons, what would follow? Millions of dead or exiled Jews. Anyone on the Left who does not recognize this is living in denial. Leftists should support peace and not live in denial.

4. Anti-Authoritarianism. Leftists oppose authoritarianism and dictatorship and instead support popular, democratic rule. Israel maintains a vibrant, parliamentary democracy, with a broad range of views represented, much more so than in the United States, for example. Indeed, Arabs parties and Communists have long had representatives voted into the Israeli Knesset. Can we imagine such representation, as well as the freedom of assembly and freedom of speech in Israel's Arab neighbors? In the Gaza ruled by Hamas? In Egypt or Syria or Saudi Arabia? By opposing Israel and supporting groups like Hamas, the Left is not supporting a liberation struggle but rather the effort to replace the Middle East's only democracy with yet another repressive dictatorship. Do Leftists really desire such an outcome? How can the one major effort to boycott, divest, and sanction be aimed at a democratic nation like this? As Bernard Henri-Levy has written at the Huffington Post of the "Confusion of an era when we combat democracies as though they were dictatorships or fascist States. This maelstrom of hatred and madness is about Israel. But it also concerns, as we should be well aware, some of the most precious things established in the movement of ideas in the last thirty years, especially on the left, and these are thus imperiled."

5. Human Dignity and Equality. The Left fights for the values of dignity and equality. Are these traits exemplified more by Israel or its neighbors? Look at how much Israelis value the life of a single soldier, in the willingness to trade hundreds of prisoners for one soldier, and even to trade prisoners to recover their dead for proper burial. Look at the rules of engagement of the Israeli Defense Forces, at how the IDF calls and leaflets civilians to warn them; does any other military do such a thing? In terms of equality and human rights, compare the state of women's rights in Israel with that in the rest of the Middle East. And in terms of human dignity, do people on the Left think so little of Palestinian dignity that they are willing to claim Palestinians have "no choice" but to turn themselves into homicidal-suicidal bombers to kill Israeli children? Can we not expect more of people? Treating Palestinians like helpless victims does less than recognize their human dignity.

6. Anti-Discrimination. Leftists oppose sexism, racism, and any similar sort of discrimination. And so, Leftists do or ought to oppose anti-Semitism in the same way. And yet, Leftists too often give a pass to anti-Semitism masked as anti-Zionism or anti-Israel sentiment. The playwright David Mamet has written in the Huffington Post as follows: "Yet most of the Western Press, European and American, pictures Israel as, somehow the aggressor, and the Israelis as somehow inhuman, and delighting in blood." As Mamet has elaborated in his book The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred, and the Jews, this is nothing less than a reworking of the old Blood Libel against the Jews -- except this time, instead of being accused of using non-Jewish blood to bake matzah, the Jews are accused of spilling blood for no reason other than gratuitous pleasure. Leftists ought to be vigilant in distinguishing between constructive criticism of Israel and dehumanizing caricatures of Jews.

7. Self-Defense. Only the most uncompromising pacifists oppose the right to self-defense, and certainly most Leftists uphold this right. At least when Palestinians are doing the defending. Why are Israelis exempt from this right? How many Leftists would sit idly by while rockets rained down on their towns and families, with their children traumatized? And if we said, oh, but people are only killed occasionally, would that minimize your commitment to protect your family? Only Jews are expected to lay down their weapons and offer their throats. How dare the Jews have the chutzpah to fight back?!

8. Progress. We want movement on Palestinian-Israeli and Arab-Israeli peacemaking. Yet, demonizing Israel, singling it out, as is done at the UN and on college campuses will do little to advance peace. We all know, have all known for decades the basic outlines of a peace settlement. The Israelis have been prepared for this and have prepared their citizens. The Left should be pressuring Palestinians to accept peace and to stop teaching their children that Jews are monsters after their blood. This sort of pressure might bring some progress.

It was long ago time for Leftists to tear down the poster that features Israel as the demon-child of human rights abuse and repression. It is time for Leftists to become outraged not over Israel, but over the distortions and demonization of Israel on college campuses and at the United Nations and throughout the media and politics. It is time for Leftists to reject the treatment of Israel as a pariah, or Jews as bloodthirsty murderers, and time instead to welcome Israel into the community of nations as a full member, subject to the same criticism and praise as any other nation.

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

August 14, 2010

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 22

(21) seybernetx, August 22, 2010 6:42 AM

Maybe the leftist in your area are different than the ones in the US

If the leftists you are familiar with are the same as the liberal/leftist groups in the US, I have problems with a several of your points. First off, US liberal/leftists are NOT in favor of 'free speech'. They are in favor of free speech as long as people say what they want to hear. If you disagree with the left, you are to sit down, shut up, and do as you are told. Next, the left is not anti-authoritarianism. The left takes as a given that they, alone, know how the world should be, and anyone who dares disagree is by definition wrong, and is to be shut down and forced to do what is 'right' -- i.e what the left wants people to do. As one example, it is impressive how many leftists like the way the China's government can 'get things done'. Last, equality and anti-discrimination are deeply foreign to most leftists. The typical leftist views the rest of the world as a bunch of undifferentiated mobs. To a liberal, you are not a person. You are a 'black', or a 'woman', or a 'Latino' or any one of who knows how many distinct categories. And anyone is one of these categories is required to think and act the was the rest of the category acts. Of course, it is the liberal elite who decided what the authentic 'black', or 'female' (or even 'Jewish') beliefs 'really are'.

(20) Abdul Murphy, August 20, 2010 8:38 AM

Polite, logical, and unfortunately a tip of the iceberg

Leftism doesn't like religion, and Israel, Jews and Zion are all "Meccas" (ironic term) of religion. Leftists don't care what Israel does, they don't like it from the start. I was once a leftist: Israel was the enemy of the left. Even the goal of leftist Israelis is to dismantle Israel and turn it into another secular nation.

(19) compugraphd, August 19, 2010 5:55 PM

Yay! Amein!

B"H I've been saying this for years! I even wrote a blog entry (and an article) on this subject:

(18) Fredric, August 19, 2010 3:27 PM

Be Jewish not a leftist.

I understand the faint wisdom of this article point by point it is logical. But so very misguided in nature. The world basks in the blessings of the Jews (left and right) and doesn't have a clue, now you want to confuse them. And appeal to the left? The Left has it's own agenda. It always has. And it is not to pray for the peace of Israel. Leave the left to the left. Israel and the Jews should blow its own horn. The Jews brought light and life to the world. Marx only brought death darkness and destruction. The Jews brought love of life and laughter not to mention sanitary conditions to a world of filth. Now you want to align your self with Garbage? Let Israel stand for truth. Kiss no ring left or right. Let Israel drive the standard. Bow to no idol no man no foreign ideology. Be Jewish don't be a leftist. Why do you look outside when the answers are within. why do you seek the approval of man when you have the mandate of G-d. Battle when you must, build when you can, Bless and do not curse. But do not appeal to the left or the right. The Jews and Israel are a light to the world they have brought the gifts of G-d to all men. God bless protect and give them wisdom that transcends the counterfeit we see being so easily swallowed.

(17) Yael, August 19, 2010 9:08 AM

well said!

If only more people would read this - in an open-minded fashion!

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