The violently frenetic ebbs and flows of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict trick our grasp of time and memory. At one point in time, many leftists viewed Israel, and their Israeli Labor Party Zionist comrades specifically, with kinship. That seems rather unimaginable today.
It shouldn’t be. The Israeli left is an indispensable natural ally in the struggle for a purportedly shared goal: peace and two states.
Cynics and status quo beneficiaries insist it’s untimely—delusional—to mention peace, let alone two states, in the throes of war and especially after what the world witnessed on Oct. 7. But the tragedies and traumas of today demand that we sow the seeds for what must come, because Israelis and Palestinians can’t return to what was.
Israelis don’t need to wait for an autopsy of the Oct. 7 catastrophe to know that a political reckoning is coming. If the past is any prologue, Israelis might ratchet further rightward. But conventional wisdom doesn’t take into consideration that Oct. 7 completely unmasked the bankruptcy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli right’s security-through-subjugation doctrine.
A window of opportunity thus emerges for the Israeli left, with the right mix of conviction, strategy, and global solidarity, to catalyze its long-awaited resurrection and reorient Israel’s posture toward peace.
Much is made about the status and stability of the Israeli left—no strangers to the scorn of their own countrymates. Once decades-long power brokers, now largely relegated to agitating from the outside, ridiculed for still having the radical temerity to believe that a saner future, rooted in peace and coexistence, is within striking distance if we have the courage to chase it.
Dimmed as it might be by Oslo-esque failures, the spirit of the older generation of peaceniks endures in heroic figures like Yair Golan and ignites the younger generation—embodied by organizations like Standing Together—who’ve taken up the painstaking mantle of peacebuilding and cross-communal solidarity work.
No rest for the weary, even in a uniquely dark and devastating chapter in Israeli-Palestinian history.
An alienated minority within the hostile confines of their own country, Israeli leftists turn to their ideological counterparts internationally in search of solidarity only to be met with a different strain of the same ostracization. While some are simply driven by plain antisemitism or anti-Zionism, the broader pro-Palestinian left disregards this potential ally for reasons of ideological dogma.
Much of the global left reductively conflates the Israeli left and right as two sides of the same expansionist coin. As a consequence, leftists insist that unconditional solidarity with oppressed Palestinians necessitates shunning their oppressors—without distinction. Others are mired in the mentality that engaging with the Israeli left is tantamount to selling out the Palestinian struggle.
Forsaking natural allies in service of maximalist solidarity with Palestinians or out of ideological purity is a strategic mistake. It’s also the epitome of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. One hundred percent ideological harmony even amongst ideological counterparts is illusory. Practically speaking, peace can’t even be made by freezing out the other party in the bilateral relationship.
Unlike the right, who makes no apologies for their illiberal alliances, liberals too often find themselves tangled in this web of sanctimony at the expense of building partnerships that translate to power. The frustrating irony is that leftists, by nature, understand that the power of a movement largely rests in its numbers.
The Israeli left has been fighting for decades—at great personal sacrifice and to much derision—for the same cause the global left has been marching for the past couple months. Peace with Palestinians has long been, and still remains, part and parcel of the Israeli left’s ethos. Oct. 7 further crystallized that peace isn’t an idealistic liberal rallying cry, as the hawks would patronizingly have you believe, but a moral, ethical, and safety imperative.
Rather than our disdain, these imperfect bastions of hope deserve our support.
Empowering the Israeli left, particularly when Israelis writ large are questioning existing conceptions of safety, lends their message greater credence and naturally strengthens their influence and viability. Their voices, in concert with the global left, and amplified by the megaphone of leftist politicians, become harder to minimize. Disaffected peaceniks traumatized by past tragedies may rediscover hope in a shattered dream. That momentum then has the potential to graduate to political power.
In reality, the Israeli left’s ongoing isolation indirectly does the work of the Israeli right who’ve been champing at the bit to cement the left’s status as historical artifacts. The left’s total collapse would clear the way for the right’s permanent consolidation of power and the irrevocable implementation of their antidemocratic, annexationist ambitions. The mere utterance of the word “Palestine,” let alone “two-state solution,” would fall on deaf ears.
Those hoping that this crisis will breed renewed opportunity for peace should aggrandize the folks on the ground fighting for that future. Splintered solidarity is no match for the unsustainable status quo.
The post The Best Hope for Peace Is the Israeli Left. Don’t Abandon Them. appeared first on The Daily Beast.