Why are some members of the Israeli Left against this War?

In general I stand to the left in my opinions regarding Israel’s domestic and foreign policy.  I’m vehemently against the occupation of the West Bank and the illegal settlement project.  But in this recent conflict between Hamas and Israel, I unequivocally support the Jewish State’s just war against  the terrorist regime in the Gaza Strip.  This fight has nothing do with the occupation nor settlement construction.  This is about fighting a fascist movement that seeks only to destroy us and makes no secret of this fact.  I therefore am surprised and disappointed to see members of the Israeli left opposing Israel’s actions, from the increasingly idiotic articles of Gideon Levy to a recent anti-war protest that drew thousands in Tel Aviv.

At face value, what could be more left than a liberal, western democracy fighting against an anti-Semitic, Islamic fundamentalist regime that openly seeks to destroy it?  Along with the consistent rocket attacks, this has been a regime that murders and kidnaps Israeli teenagers and has plotted atrocities against kibbutzim near Gaza that were luckily foiled by the IDF at the last minute.  Although commentators across the internet have frequently noted (sometimes lamenting) the dearth of causalities on the Israeli side, it certainly is not from lack of trying.  It seems that much of the world suffers amnesia and forgets when Hamas and fellow militant groups were regularly slaughtering Israeli Jews on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem during the Second Intifada.  And for those on the left who support a “one-state solution,” it must be remembered that Hamas calls not only for the establishment of Palestinian state to replace Israel, they advocate for an Islamic Palestinian state, which certainly would not bode well for Christian Arabs and Druze, to say nothing of Jews.

Of course I don’t mean to insinuate that left wing opposition to the war reflects an unspoken support for Hamas.  Their objection to the war likely stems from the large number of Palestinian civilian casualties.  This should not be taken lightly.  The hundreds of Arab families, women, and children who have been obliterated by Israeli missiles and tanks should weigh on the souls of Israelis.  But all the available evidence indicates strongly that the IDF has taken all measures to prevent civilian casualties.   And whether or not Hamas uses human shields should no longer be the subject of debate:  they make no secret of their human shield policy.

Mistakes and tragedies happen in all wars, including just ones.  The accidental killings that have occurred, like the deaths of the four Palestinian boys on a Gaza beach, does not negate the legitimacy of the entire campaign, just as the killings of civilians by US forces in Dresden and other German cities during World War II did not negate the justness of the Allies in their fight against the Axis powers.

Also, there is perhaps a mistaken perception that the left is all about pacifism.  The left, just like other political movements, has also taken up arms to fight for its ideals.  In the context of Israeli history, one should consider the MAPAM, a Marxist Zionist political party that is the antecedent to today’s Meretz.  MAPAM kibbutzniks made up a large percentage of the leadership and fighters of the elite Palmach during the War of Independence.  They were the crème of the Zionist fighting forces.  At the same time, they took positions to the left of Ben Gurion, advocating for the rights of Arabs, and protested against the forced expulsion of Arab villages during the war by IDF forces.  In short, the MAPAM balanced a strong liberal morality towards Arabs, while at the same time fighting valiantly for the existence of the State of Israel.  This tradition lives on today, as a large number of Israeli soldiers from kibbutzim serve in combat units, and a disproportionate number of them (based on their percentage of the Israeli population) have died in the current fighting.

The fight against Hamas is a just war for Israel’s safety that all Israelis, both left and right, should unite behind.  Yes, we can continue to talk about the need for peace, the need for a better longtime Israeli strategy, and the need to end the “cycle of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians.  But for now, Israeli survival and protecting the lives of Israeli civilians should be the only objective of importance for the Israeli government.

About the Author
Daniel Steiman received an MA from Georgetown University’s Department of Government in 2012. He is originally from Northern Virginia. He currently lives and works in Jerusalem.