Avi Shamir

The Balancing Act of a Sane Zionist Leftist

Many Israelis would say that the catchphrase “sane Zionist Leftist” is a contradiction in terms. As a self-styled Zionist Leftist of sound mind, I obviously think that brand name suits me. But the “sane” part of that personalized label comes with a certain degree of disquiet. As opposed to insane Israeli Leftists, and there are a few of those, I have to account for certain aspects of my political outlook which some may construe as inconsistent.

For instance, unlike my less sane Leftist counterparts, I have no sympathy for Palestinian terrorists or those who support them. I do realize that they and their families must have suffered in the many years of conflict with Israel. But I clearly avow that most of their suffering is caused by the internal conflicts fueled by their own terror-mongering leaders, with their radical, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, pseudo-Islamic agenda.

Many Israelis can’t fathom how a seemingly mainstream anti-terror stance squares with anti-occupation designs. Some Leftists of questionable sanity might ask: “How can you be both against the occupiers and the freedom fighters?” while Rightists, the sane and the senseless, seemingly imply: “You can’t be both in favor of the good guys and the bad guys.”

Here comes the tricky part: I have to convince these overly simplistic types of Left and/or Right affiliation that the world as we know it is not all black and white, a concept that is too complicated for some folks. I have to explain to them that terrorists are not the same as freedom fighters. And I have to point out that there are good guys and bad guys among the occupiers as well as the occupied. But the real hard part is clarifying that just because we have ancient historic rights to the land, i.e. Biblical Judea and Samaria, doesn’t mean we can realistically hold on to it in the Twenty First Century, with all the hell-bent, homicidal elements among a local population that will never receive Israeli citizenship. Sadly, many Israelis don’t have the time or patience to sort things out and make the right choices in that convoluted mess that is our part of the Middle East.

As an Israeli who strongly believes that we have to end the occupation, I could make international allies if I simply marched through the streets of London or Brussels waving a Free Palestine banner, joined the BDS boycotters, attended anti-Zionist symposiums and reinvented myself as a devotee of the so-called Global Left. But I can’t and won’t do any of those things. As a sane Israeli I would never stray so far from the mainstream by aligning with thinly disguised anti-Semites who have no understanding of the need for a Jewish state.

As a Leftist who is mindful of the threat of Palestinian terrorism and doesn’t automatically rule out every Right-wing argument, my politics might be more palatable if I just shed the Left stigma and pledged allegiance to mainstream Israel. But as long as the mainstream elects governments that would indefinitely prolong our conflict with the Palestinians and conveniently blames them for the political stalemate, the only recourse of a sane Zionist Leftist is to try to win over mainstream Israel. That is most certainly doable. On balance, many if not most Israelis are receptive to the long overdue two-state solution, in one form or another. And after all, most of our founding fathers were sane Zionist Leftists.

About the Author
Avi Shamir is a freelance writer, editor, translator and the author of "Saving the Game," a novel about baseball. A Brooklyn College graduate with a BA in English, Avi has contributed to the Jerusalem Post, The Nation, Israel Scene, In English and The World Zionist Press Service.