The Left, Right are both correct and wrong about Israel - opinion

No one narrative is fully correct, and the truth (whatever it may be) will often upset the partisans among us. So let’s try to set the record straight (or further complicate it) on a few issues.

YAIR LAPID (left) walks with Naftali Bennett at the Knesset in Jerusalem in 2013. (photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
YAIR LAPID (left) walks with Naftali Bennett at the Knesset in Jerusalem in 2013.
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
 Spoiler alert: Your opinions on Israel are wrong. Well, not all of them; but you most certainly don’t have all the answers. So it’s about time you stop acting as if you do. In fact, you should probably stop labeling your ideological opponents on the issue as “anti-Israel” and “extremists,” as well.
To overcome this obstacle, we first need to admit an uncomfortable fact for many: The Left is correct about Israel. But so is the Right. They’re also both wrong.
In recent years, the debate surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been placed in paralysis, with the majority of discussions largely centering around the future of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Should Israel withdraw, or should it cement its presence? Is the territory occupied, or is it the biblical, historical and legal right of Jews to live there?
Unfortunately for the partisans in the conversation, both sides – as explained by Micah Goodman in his bestseller, Catch-67 – have been “vindicated” by history. At the end of the day, says Goodman, “the right wing is correct, and so is the left wing.”
A side effect of this, however, is that it has sent us crawling back into our ideological wombs. With the knowledge that we are (at least partially) correct, yet the simultaneous acknowledgment of our apparent inability to create real progress on the ground, we have built echo chambers to reinforce our beliefs. As a result, we have not only limited our constructive interaction with those who vehemently disagree with us, but by extension we have come to often view opposing views as illegitimate, and even as posing a danger to Israel.
This is by no means a phenomenon limited to discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; we are living in increasingly polarizing times. But if we’re truly committed to improving the situation for the world’s hottest piece of real estate, it behooves us to break away from this dichotomous thinking.
Truth is, the reality is messy and uncomfortable for both sides. No one narrative is fully correct, and the truth (whatever it may be) will often upset the partisans among us. So let’s try to set the record straight (or perhaps further complicate it) on a few issues.
Do Israeli-Arabs receive full rights under Israeli law? Yes. But are they treated equally by Israeli society as a whole? No. Does Palestinian society (both in the Palestinian Authority territories and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip) have a problem with ingrained antisemitism? Yes. But does the Israeli government and military sometimes mistreat Palestinians, often in self-defeating ways? Yes. Does the Palestinian leadership need to stop incitement of and support for terrorism against Israeli civilians? Yes. But does Israel also have a problem with settler violence against Palestinians, which is largely ignored by the Israeli public? Absolutely.
None of this is supposed to make you comfortable. Nor am I equating any one issue with another. The aim is simple: to acknowledge the messy reality that both sides are correct on various issues. However, they’re also both wrong, and often ignore glaring concerns that are inconvenient to their narrative.
Micah Goodman exposed just that in his Catch-67. As a result, says Goodman, “many right-wing readers argued that I took a left-wing stance, while many left-wing readers argued that I favored a right-wing position.” The aim, of course, of characterizing Goodman’s book as being ideologically biased, was to discredit it. Not only is this intellectually dishonest, and suggests a lack of creativity, but it prevents any genuine dialogue – and thereby progress – on the most pressing issues at hand.
I, too, have experienced attempts to discredit my work through labeling it as unfairly partisan. In the lead up to the recent US election, I wrote a column on why I believe Donald Trump poses a danger to American Jewry. In response, I was told that I “pander[ed] to the left wing,” while another individual questioned whether I am actually Zionist. Yes, such comments are manifestly uninformed and suggest exceptional levels of hubris, and were not representative of the mainstream response. They do, however, represent an increasingly common practice, whereby we label individuals as “left-wing” or “right-wing” – or outright traitors – so as to delegitimize their argument without actually addressing them on their merits.
As articulated by Tablet Magazine’s Yair Rosenberg in a 2018 article about the Gaza border protests, “the entire debate around Israel’s conduct has been framed by absolutists who insist either that Israel is utterly blameless or that Israel is wantonly massacring random Palestinians for sport.” Any fair observer knows that neither of those realities exist. Yet for some reason, many are unwilling to admit it.
It’s time to reject dichotomous thinking vis-à-vis Israel. No single point on the political spectrum can claim to hold the keys to a universal truth, and that’s OK. Go forth and learn from other viewpoints. It’s our surest way to continue strengthening Israel, and our only hope of ever bringing about a solution to a seemingly intractable conflict.
The author is an Australian writer and activist for Jewish and Israeli issues, and writes independently of any organizations with which he is affiliated. Twitter: @joshrfeldman