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Why is it so hard for leftists to speak out amid terror attacks?

Because we are shocked by the terrifying violence. Because we don’t want to play into the interests of the Right. Because we don’t want to appear disconnected from our society. But mainly because we tend to forget that, unlike the right wing, we have a solution for the conflict, and it benefits both Jews and Palestinians — not one or the other.

Palestinian shops are shuttered in the Old City of Jerusalem after Israel restricted entry of Palestinians following a series of stabbing attacks, October 5, 2015. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Palestinian shops are shuttered in the Old City of Jerusalem after Israel restricted entry of Palestinians following a series of stabbing attacks, October 5, 2015. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Each morning it seems, or at least I wake up hoping, that this round of violence is over. That there won’t be any more attacks, that “neither side has any interest in an escalation,” as they like to say on television, and any moment now the clouds will cool things down, the rain will wash away all the tears and there will be just a little less bloodletting and pain.

But for now, until that happens, I feel like I have nothing to say. Nothing. Depression and speechlessness. Mostly after the murder of the two parents in front of their children. Mostly-mostly after the deadly stabbing in the Old City, and bewilderment at those people who refused to help the wounded woman. I simply have no words.

And that’s a pretty bad thing for a leftist journalist and blogger, for whom words form an integral part of life, who doesn’t have anything to say. And it seems that it’s not only me. I look around at other writers on Local Call and +972 Magazine and I realize I’m not alone. I refresh my Facebook feed and find the same silence. And what better cure for silence is there than writing about silence itself?

Why is it so hard for us leftists? Among other things, it seems that sometimes we forget, just a little, why and what we are struggling for. I’ll try and describe it through the things I thought about writing. First, I was certain that I would not play the apologetic condemnation game of the Right. I didn’t do anything wrong and our entire struggle — every day and on every front — is for peace, equality, social justice, and as a basic rule we are clearly fighting for life and oppose the murder of civilians. So no, we really don’t need to “condemn” anything.

I also thought of writing something about the shock, the pain, maybe about the fear. Maybe something along the lines of what Mijal Simonet Corech wrote, about a politics first and foremost of love for all people. That’s important, and it’s beautiful, and it truly is the basis for everything. But I don’t know how to write like Mijal, and I’m always worried that it’s not enough, that I need to be more direct and clear and concrete about what we must do now.

And then I thought that it’s necessary to write about the occupation. Perhaps to mention the Palestinian children who Israel murdered, the hundreds in Gaza, and the baby and his parents in Duma. Not to mention, like Amira Hass wrote about, that this war we are waging is being waged every day – every day, all the time, and not only when Jews are murdered and the Israeli media is reminded that a war is going on.

But then there is the fear that if I make a direct connection between the murder of Jews and the occupation that it will sound like a competition of suffering, as if it’s zero sum, as if it’s necessary to decide and prove whose suffering is greater. As if I’m saying that it’s not so awful, the creation of four new orphans or not helping a wounded victim in Jerusalem. As if I could be apathetic when things are so messed up.

That fear of mentioning Palestinian suffering, that readers might think that it’s justifying the murders, which simply cannot be justified, even if we understand where they are coming from. (And it’s pretty stupid, I must say, all that talk of “justification.” As if some Palestinian guy, who has been moderate and quiet while living his whole life lived under a foreign, violent and discriminatory regime, is waiting for some leftist from the occupying population to “justify” his actions.)

So I find myself not wanting to talk about Jewish suffering, because it serves the right wing, and I don’t want to talk about Palestinian suffering, because then I would be ignoring Jewish suffering (or justifying the violence), and I don’t want to say that everyone is just horrible, because on a human level there is room for comparisons, on a political level there are differences between the occupier and the occupied, between a country that murders thousands with advanced weapons as part of its attempts to preserve its control and Jewish supremacy, and between individuals or organizations that murder as part of a struggle for independence. And now I’ll shut up.

Silence as acquiescence

But at the end of the day it all comes back to the fact that we are in danger of forgetting what we’re fighting for, and what is the nature of that political struggle. The struggle against the occupation — which is first and foremost a struggle against displacement and disenfranchisement, against racism, against a military regime, against separate legal systems based on ethnicity or nationality, against war crimes committed by our country — it is a struggle for our future. Yes, it’s primarily a struggle in support of the Palestinians, the primary victims of this regime, but not entirely. It is a struggle for the viability of a better future, a sustainable peace, for everyone who lives in this land.

That is something we need not apologize for. This is where we need to be absolutely clear. Because now, more than any time in the past, it is clear that the right wing has no other solution. The Right has been in power, nearly continuously, for almost 40 years. Benjamin Netanyahu is prime minister for the fourth time, the third continuous term. The government is a right-wing government.

And with all of the right wing’s harsh criticisms, from within and outside of the government, they really don’t have a single clue what to do. They know that they can’t ignore the Palestinians. They know that they’re not planning on giving the Palestinians either a state or equal rights. And they know (even if they deny it) that the Palestinians won’t stop resisting — whether through non-violent means or through violent attacks — regardless of how high the oppression is turned up. At most they can suffocate the resistance for a while, but never win. And that is the only vision, a depressing and frightening vision, that the Right has to offer us.

By contrast to that vision lies the Left’s solution, which requires true concessions on all the benefits Jews enjoy from the occupation (exclusive control of resources: the economy, land, politics, immigration, the monopoly on power, etc.). But the latter is the only long-term solution. It will not be easy, and it demands that we, the Jews, let go of the idea that our fate in this land can be entrusted only to ourselves. Because it’s not. It requires us to work toward building one state or two states on the basis of peace, equality and democracy. Only neighbors who feel equal to each other can truly live side by side without fear.

We have to remember that there is a way of getting there. That there are Palestinian activists who have been waging an unarmed struggle against the occupation for years with protests, marches, creative direct actions, boycotts, diplomatic and legal tools, and an endless list of methods that do not include murdering civilians. And our job is to join them in the struggle to build a new, joint path — together.

It’s been a very long time already since there was a large protest in Israel that called for an end to the occupation. There will be one such demonstration this Friday in Tel Aviv, and as there are every week, there will be joint struggle demonstrations across the West Bank. Let’s go together. Let’s remember that silence speaks volumes, that silence is acquiescence and capitulation. Let’s not be silent any longer.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. Tony Riley

      That demonstration in Tel Aviv isn’t going to go too well.

      Stop giving a free pass to Palestinian terrorists.

      Reply to Comment
    2. BigCat

      “Why is it hard for leftists to speak out amid terror attacks?”

      1. FACT: It is hard for leftists to speak out amid terror attacks against Jews;

      2. FACT: It is also hard for neo-N@zis to speak out amid terror attacks against Jews;

      3. FACT: It is also hard for Islamists, Jihadi and terror organizations to speak out amid terror attacks against Jews;

      4. FACT: leftists, Islamists, Jihadi-and Muslim terror organizations and neo-N@zis have ONE thing in common: hatred of Jews and the Jewish State;

      5. BUT: It should NOT be hard to speak out against the heinous murders, stabbings and maiming of innocent Jews. And he for whom it is hard to do so, has lost his humanity, is immoral and a threat to his fellow man.

      6. AND: You need not be right-wing or left-wing to know right and wrong and publicly, in vocally and/or in writing forcefully and unequivocally condemn evil. It is a matter of common decency. It is simple common sense.

      So, “Why is it hard for leftist to speak out amid terror attacks?”

      The victims are Jews – FULL STOP!

      Leftism borders on – if it already is not – an anarchist immoral ideology.

      Reply to Comment
      • BigCat

        “6. AND: You need not be right-wing or left-wing to know right and wrong and publicly, vocally and/or in writing forcefully and unequivocally condemn evil. It is a matter of common decency. It is simple common sense.”

        ….was meant.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      “I don’t know how 972 journalists retain their resolve and integrity. This in itself is one of the hopes latent in this land.” -Greg Pollock

      The Israeli +972 Magazine and its journalists are extraordinary. In a class by themselves. Relevant like no other publication.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      I would like to draw readers’ attention to an extraordinary debate going on over at Haaretz at the moment.


      With no solution in sight: Between two national movements
      There is more than one reason for the failure of the Oslo Accords, but at the basis lies a fundamental difference in how each side views the conflict.

      Shlomo Avineri


      Shlomo Avineri’s three mistakes on Palestinians and the peace process
      Netanyahu, in his wisdom, has succeeded in fooling even such respected and experienced people as Professor Avineri.

      Yossi Beilin


      The man who knows too much: A reply

      Reply to Comment
    5. BigCat

      So, “why is is hard to leftist to speak out against terror attacks?”

      These are the deranged farewell words of evil BEFORE she set out to murder innocent folks:

      “I’m going to become a shahid [martyr],” 18-year-old Shorouq Dwayyat wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday morning. In the post, Dwayyat, a resident of East Jerusalem’s Tsur Baher neighborhood and a student at Bethlehem University, wrote: “Mother: Where are you going? Mother, I am going to become a shahid Mother, I want to ask a request of you Don’t cry about me, when I become a shahid #Our greatest desire is to become shadids for Allah. (…). Wednesday’s terror attack took place close to where a Palestinian man stabbed two Israeli men to death Saturday night. The wife of one of those murdered and her toddler child were also wounded in that attack, while the stabber was shot dead by security forces”. http://www.timesofisrael.com/im-going-to-become-a-martyr-palestinian-teen-wrote-before-attack/

      So, why is it hard for leftist to speak out against this kind of evil that is not only destroying the Muslim-Arab communities like cancer, but is a real and present threat to the same civilization leftist pretend to be fighting for?

      Speaking out forcefully and condemning evil is NOT and should NOT be hard at all – in any sense whatsoever! And if it is, then there is something very rotten at the heart of Leftism: anti-Semitism (to name just ONE of many).

      Reply to Comment
    6. Gustav

      “But mainly because we tend to forget that, unlike the right wing, we have a solution for the conflict”

      I doubt it very much. Right now, there is NO solution short of national suicide. Of course, to at least some extreme lefties THAT IS the solution!

      For the rest of us, a solution will be easy once the Palestinian Arabs accept the fact that the Jewish state is here to stay.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Karl

      Who are the indigenii of the Land of Israel & its neighborhood? Those who speak Hebrew, Aramean, and Coptic.

      The Arabics of the Land of Israel can assimilate into the indigenous population… or they can go back to Arabia, thei indigenous place.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Eve

      Thank you for this thoughtful and honest article. I am in California, and appreciate your words. Yes the solution of equality and dignity for all doesn’t sound the gong as loudly, when it’s competing with killing and blood and rage – they get the heart pumping fast. Everything speeds up. Your article encourages us to slow it down and think and continue to see the dignity in everyone.

      Reply to Comment