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Israeli liberals have been radicalised by this war

Liberals who once protested against Netanyahu are reconsidering their stance on Palestine. Credit: Getty

November 2, 2023 - 7:00am

Israel

The debate within Britain’s Labour Party over whether to call for a ceasefire or vaguely termed “humanitarian pauses” in Gaza reflects a more painful situation on the Israeli Left.

From the centrist liberals who oppose Benjamin Netanyahu and support two states but accept the current occupation, to committed anti-Zionists who call for one state and a right of return to Palestinians, all have been shaken by the events of the past few weeks.

Since most of the victims of the 7 October attack lived in the kibbutzim or were attending an outdoor rave, a great many Israelis in activist groups and Leftist circles seem to know someone who was killed or kidnapped.

There has been shock and indignation at the often heartless and sometimes gleeful response of foreign liberals and Leftists they assumed to be their comrades. Indeed, the Israeli liberal press is full of pointed attacks on Western academics, journalists and activists. More painfully, though, the Hamas attack has caused many on the Israeli Left to reevaluate their politics.

The attack and its aftermath have hardened popular resolve against Netanyahu and the policies of the past 20 years but, at the same time, many liberals are now reevaluating their assumptions around the cause of and likely cure for organisations such as Hamas. That is to say, they are beginning to abandon hope of a peaceful future with two states, and have broadly shifted in their view of military action.

This change incorporates liberal Zionists who have staunchly opposed the Netanyahu regime, such as the prominent news anchor Danny Kushmaro: “Don’t pass anything to Gaza,” he said live on air this week, “not even half a spoon of water.”

Now, support for the Israeli ground invasion is a significant dividing line. It is presently backed by a substantial number of committed Leftists — something unimaginable a month ago. Rami Hod, Executive Director of the liberal Berl Katznelson Center, is a notable example of the activists who have ditched their humanitarian impulses for military action.

Some Arab-Israeli politicians within the country are despairing that the Leftists with whom they worked to oppose the Netanyahu reforms have developed a taste for military escalation. Sami Abu Shahada, former Knesset member and head of the Ba’lad party, wrote yesterday that “the same people who led the struggle for ‘democracy’ for Jews boarded the planes right after 7 October and are now bombing Gaza. The leaders of the struggle for democracy are leading a toxic, inhumane discourse about ‘destroying Gaza’”.

Meanwhile, Left-wing Mizrahi activist Tom Meghar expressed worry at the weekend about “reactionary public discourse which strives to close the door on values and struggles that work against the Israeli policy towards the Palestinian people”.

In terms of the future, many Leftists are reconsidering their support for a peaceful two-state solution, and some are dropping out of their local and international activist groups in response to the perceived callousness of the western Left.

When even those who normally oppose escalation are now committed to it, the limits of international pressure become clear. Liberals will struggle to influence the conduct or direction of this conflict from abroad when their approach is increasingly divergent from that of the Israeli Left.


David Swift is a historian and author. His next book, Scouse Republic, will be published in 2025.

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Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
8 months ago

Prior to the October 7 massacre of Israelis, Hamas had engaged in a substantial period in which it ceased much of its terrorist activity. It looked like relations were improving and Israel was issuing thousands more work permits to Palestinians.
Those sympathetic to Palestinians naturally felt they had been justified in their belief that a peaceful resolution could be found.
As we now know, Hamas was simply duping Israel and Israelis in to letting down their guard and preparing for their slaughter.
The hardening of hearts and abandoned beliefs, then, are not only the result of the butchery and inhuman acts committed against civilians on October 7. They also come from the great sense of betrayal that Palestinian sympathisers have at being stabbed in the back by those they wanted to help, but who in the aftermath of October 7 they saw cheering and dancing in the streets in celebration at the indiscriminate murder of Jews.

Last edited 8 months ago by Marcus Leach
Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Hence the adage: hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Hamas never pretended to be other than it is. Its stated aim, its reason for being, its mission is the destruction of Israel. That never changed.

Last edited 8 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Claire M
Claire M
8 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Really? So what’s all this we hear from Amnesty and other humanitarian organisations about Gaza being an open air prison camp, about water and electricity being rationed, about frequent Israeli incursions and bombing raids, about the people of Gaza not being able to travel or leave – and something about land stolen from the Palestinians in breach of international law? I must have imagined all this right?

Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
8 months ago
Reply to  Claire M

If your comment is a parody of a thick. low information Leftist, then 10/10.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
8 months ago
Reply to  Claire M

Would you have cared quite as much about Germán citizens in the Second World War? Gaza is an open air prison created by Hamas, not Israel. It might be a good idea if you cared a whit about your own citizens if not tuppence about Jews, not to build it up with the sole purpose of creating an armed camp to attack Israel.
No land has been “stolen” in Gaza, because Israel had withdrawn all troops and settlements.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

But the same dancing and cheering happened after 9/11.
So only deluded lefties could believe that Palestinians will reciprocate their support.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
8 months ago

Mugged by reality indeed. A shame that it cost over a thousand lives (and thousands more to come) for them to wake up. They had a chance to engage but have been banging on about the destruction of democracy and an existential crisis for the past year. Turns out it wasn’t that important after all.
I wonder if such national unity would have formed if it had been a settler community in the West Bank or a religious group attacked instead of mostly liberal ravers and kibbutzniks.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago

Liberals are generally delusional NIMBYs. When reality strikes, when horror occurs in their backyard, it is much harder to maintain the delusion, and human nature generally triumphs.

Last edited 8 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
8 months ago

I think they got the message that they could be next. The physical survival instinct has a way of changing priorities.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago

Indeed. I have felt this way ever since I heard the terms ‘whiteness’ and ‘privilege’ being used in higher ed and the media. It’s the language used by those intent on creating a pedagogy of racial hatred.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Most definitely and they do not even have to attempt to hide what they are aboyt

Mike Fraser
Mike Fraser
8 months ago

They are possibly ashamed of a deeper underlying reason for their leftist anxieties. It is often called “IRANENVY”, meaning I verbally despise your success, although I envy you it, so as I cant have it, neither shall you.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Fraser

When I was young, I was very idealistic (not religious) and wanted to change the world, but I was convent educated and steeped in the New Testament. I believed to make the world a better place required sacrifice on my part and the part of anyone else who wanted to make the world a better place. I joined socialist groups but I quickly realised, the groups weren’t interested in making the world a better place, they just resented others having more than them and were intent on seizing as much of the more for themselves as possible. I am now a fully fledged cynic.

Last edited 8 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
8 months ago

So you agreed with the NT but were dissolusioned with socialist groups? Did you ever try the NT path?

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

I recognise the truth in the NT is indisputable. The nuns’ behaviour was not the kind to reinforce faith. I am following a path but my path is more similar to Jordan Peterson’s. I believe a loss of faith is a necessary step along the journey to true faith. To truly believe, it is necessary to see the world as it is and not as we wish it to be.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago

This is a very intelligent comment, AR, that captures what I believe lies at the heart of Christianity. Unfortunately, Western institutions including education and the media have worked hard to make Christianity appear dumb and cartoonish.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

The issue with Christianity doesn’t fall into the “Christian values” category, but the fact that it’s predicated (unnecessarily) on an untruth, which is that Jesus was the offspring of a god – as if that simple fallacy could be maintained indefinitely.

There you have it. Christian values = good, belief in a deity = beyond ridiculous.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Murray
chris sullivan
chris sullivan
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Wrong – because the concept ‘offspring of god’ needs to be reinterpreted for the 21st century – ie we are ALL offspring of god – and therefore the NT message stands very solidly !!

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

But if there is no God then there is no such thing as “good.” And then again, how could “good” values derive from the “beyond ridiculous” belief in God?

Last edited 8 months ago by Betsy Arehart
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

You will have to explian

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago

Christianity is a desert plant that does not grow well in lush environments. It sometimes requires of us to go down into our very depths, be disgusted with what we find, yet still carry on without falling into the trap of self-loathing,
The issue I touch upon in my above comment is that many non-Christians see Christians as gullible, uneducated, stupid, or misguided. Yes, there are Christians that are all that, but there are many that are deep thinkers and enlightened philosophers.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Excellent comment. I love the comparison to a desert plant. As our culture has become a steamy jungle Christianity has not fared so well.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
8 months ago

When babies were beheaded, when women were raped, when old men and women were shot down, when unarmed children were shot in the back, the western press shed no tears. Cold minds, hard eyes, and hearts given over to evil …..

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago

The continuous bombing is not a good look. I’m aware that some craven politicians are involved but if these brutal strain of political Islamism is to be eliminated as a paramilitary force then some Israeli soldiers will sadly have to be sacrificed to achieve these objectives via a full ground invasion. Then the conflict will look to the world to be more ‘evened-out’, even if the original cause was a moral one in counteracting a malevolent, decivilising force.

joe hardy
joe hardy
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

Equity in warfare?

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

It is not good look only because of MSM and miseducation system indoctrination of general public.
Terrorists commit atrocities?
All fine, it is West fault, nothing to do with Islam.
USA or Israel respond?
All evil, poor Muslims blah blah.
UK and USA were not exactly squeamish about bombing German and Japanese cities.

Daniele Vitale
Daniele Vitale
8 months ago

This piece is a little lopsided – it should be (and probably is) the leftist Israelis who should be disappointed in the Israeli Arabs they have been working with for not being more clear-minded about the challenges (and opportunities) ahead. The Gaza population are like those innocent civilians in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy who were killed by the Allies during the WWII “ground invasion” (more correctly, as an Italian, I would say the Allied “liberation”). Like in the German and Italian cases Hamas will have to be defeated and the democratic process will have to be learned/imposed. If anyone is hopeful of a future two-state solution with a democratic Palestinian state living peacefully alongside the already democratic State of Israel, it is clear that Hamas control, brutality and brainwashing is not realistic, sustainable or tolerable and will have to be reversed at whatever the cost. Anyone who argues otherwise (and I don’t think the British papers were arguing for a ceasefire after D-Day incidentally) is being naive at best and is certainly no supporter of any kind of two state solution. It would be nice for them to at least be honest about it.

Last edited 8 months ago by Daniele Vitale
Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniele Vitale

Great post but one problem.
There was willingness in Garmany and Japan to choose different path after unconditional surrender.
I don’t see willingness of Muslims to do the same.
Just remember recent demos in support of Hamas in uk.
Muslim immigrate to the West and not only refuse to integrate but despise host country and try to impose their moronic culture and religion.
So host country turns into a sh*thole they left behind.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
8 months ago

I wonder what has caused this shift in attitudes