This article first appeared in Dissent Magazine.
Many Israelis who define themselves as “on the left” (about 20 percent of the population on a good day) support Operation Protective Edge. It’s a small and lonely subset that is both left wing and opposes the war. Over the last month, this little constituency has faithfully staged demonstrations of a few hundred—with last Saturday’s rally reaching somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000, by organizers’ estimates—and has written articles of protest. But the demonstrators tend to use such general slogans as “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies” or “No, no, we won’t let fascism come to pass” (the latter chanted at right-wing counter-demonstrators). The anti-war left in Israel is clearly upset, but it has neither generated a coherent line of critique about the war nor formulated demands or proposals for alternate approaches other than calling for a ceasefire. Its influence, as a result, is severely limited.
There are three main reasons why it is so hard to create an effective opposition line, let alone gather supporters and momentum: the circumstances of this particular war (and the two previous rounds); the general climate of opinion in Israel; and the left’s own weaknesses, including baggage of the distant past.
First, the current circumstances make opposition very difficult, on the surface. Hamas is a miserable political regime that imposes religious fundamentalism on Gazans, stifles women, and kills collaborators. It has fired rockets at Israeli towns for over a decade and dragged Gaza into wars that were bound to kill its civilians. Not content with rockets, it has dug tunnels for terrorists targeting Israeli civilians. It is not hard to understand, in these conditions, the case for a forceful response on Israel’s part.
Unless, that is, one considers history before June 30, when the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens were found. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was already outraged by a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal made in late April that created an interim technocratic government without Hamas and called for Palestinian elections. That would have meant a more unified Palestine, something Netanyahu has worked...Read More