The Left’s ‘moral’ crusade against Israel and Zionism

Settlers, it is claimed, are undermining the “rule of law.” This generates self-doubt and feelings of guilt and shame.

SETTLERS DANCE and sing in front of IDF troops outside the Neveh Dekalim synagogue on August 18, 2005 (photo credit: OLEG POPOV/REUTERS)
SETTLERS DANCE and sing in front of IDF troops outside the Neveh Dekalim synagogue on August 18, 2005
(photo credit: OLEG POPOV/REUTERS)
Accusations Israel is “occupying Palestinian territory,” “stealing Palestinian land” and building “illegal settlements” – which the ICC’s chief prosecutor, a Muslim, condemns as “war crimes” – are commonly used by Israel’s enemies to denounce and delegitimize Israel. Although thoroughly refuted, these legal arguments are effective weapons in the propaganda war against Israel.
Less controversial, however, is a moral argument which appeals to many, including marginal Jews and leftist Israelis who consider themselves to be pro-Israel and Zionists; this helps to explain why people turn against Israel. It is a generally accepted principle that one national group should not rule over and suppress minorities under its control. Used successfully against racist regimes in South Africa, Rhodesia and other countries, it is used to depict Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
This crusade is also part of the Left’s media campaign against Israel (i.e. Jews) who target “innocent Palestinians,” such as the “al-Dura incident,” in which a child was killed by a Palestinian sniper but was blamed on the IDF. It is used to depict “Jewish settlers” (most of whom are religious) for violence against left-wing activists who attack Jewish-owned property and efforts by Jews to protect their homes and property.
They are powerful indictments because, even though they are untrue, they suggest that Israel is violating laws and human rights and, just as important, Jewish ethics and values – justice. Settlers, it is claimed, are undermining the “rule of law.” This generates self-doubt and feelings of guilt and shame.
It led prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and leftist Israeli politicians to appease terrorists and agree (the Oslo Accords) to establish the PLO-run Palestinian Authority, and prime minister Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four Jewish communities in Samaria, which empowered Hamas. It explains why then-prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert made generous offers to the PLO – “land for peace,” and the “two-state solution” – which undermined Israeli security and empowered terrorist groups.
“Moral” arguments against “Israeli occupation” are why many support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and anti-Israel NGOs; it’s why they support the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), and oppose Jewish communities (“settlements”) built over the 1949 armistice lines.
As moral arguments, they appeal to those who are concerned about human rights. This has led some to question Zionism and Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people. If Palestinians don’t have self-determination and a state, they argue, neither should Jews.
For Israel to maintain its national identity as a Jewish and democratic state, they argue, it must “end the occupation” of Palestinians – as a moral obligation. This ignores basic questions, such as if it will empower terrorists. Since Palestinians define their proposed state as “from the river to the sea,” that means eliminating Israel. Yet, Palestinians have not defined what they mean by “Palestinian people.” Does that include Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel? What about millions of “refugees” in UNRWA-sponsored villages in Lebanon, Syria, and millions of Jordanian citizens who consider themselves to be Palestinians, and millions in the Gaza Strip?
“Ending the occupation” and establishing a PLO-led state in Judea and Samaria would mean uprooting a million Jews from their homes and endangering Israel’s existence. That’s a moral issue.
Condemning Israel for “the occupation,” moreover, applies not only to what Israel conquered in 1967, but also to what Palestinians call “the first occupation,” the 1948-49 war, the Nakba (catastrophe) – Israel’s establishment. This explains why Palestinians refuse to compromise; it violates their covenant and denies their Nakba narrative; it means admitting defeat.
Obviously, further withdrawals and “land swaps” (with or without an agreement) won’t protect Israel’s security or advance the cause of peace. Extending Israeli law and sovereignty to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, on the other hand, is consistent with Zionism, and follows the same laws which Israel used to incorporate land which it conquered in the War of Independence.
Condemning Israel for “occupying and oppressing Palestinians,” however, has a far more pernicious and insidious effect. It encourages hatred of Jews and hatred of Israel.
Promoting the canard of “occupation” and blaming Israel not only tramples the memory of thousands of IDF soldiers and victims of Arab terrorism, and tens of thousands who were wounded. It legitimizes terrorists as “freedom fighters,” “martyrs” engaged in Jihad, a “holy war,” “resisting Israeli oppression,” and is used to promote terrorism and justify rewarding families of terrorists.
Hatred of Jews and Israel is not because of Israeli policies, but its existence. Nothing that Israel can do is enough – except to commit suicide.
Although moral and ethical arguments are important and persuasive, they must be weighed carefully in the light of reality and facts. When used to condemn Israel without understanding the issues and ignoring Palestinian terrorism and the danger of Iran/Hezbollah, such arguments are perverse; ironically, they are immoral.
The author is a PhD historian and journalist.