The way anti-Israel leftists reacted to the Gaza invasion and resulting massacres didn’t surprise me.
If you’re a keyboard warrior in Brooklyn, and your sole, overwhelming issue is the destruction of the state of Israel, you’re used to turning a blind eye to atrocities like suicide bombings in schools, on buses and in nightclubs.
Why would you not be gladdened by an operation like this, a kind of mashup of all the atrocities you didn’t mind in the 90s, but on a much larger scale?
For you, it’s like when the Star Wars rebels blew up the Death Star.
Indeed, the statements from anti-Israel leftists, out of context, were run-of-the mill.
But there is a context, and the context is an atrocity that, eventually, once all the gruesome details came to light, even an anti-Israel leftist couldn’t really continue to justify.
The Underlying Root Cause
Their new shtick is: well, ok, something-or-other happened on Saturday, but let’s talk instead about the root cause of the conflict.
With a dash of what-aboutism.
“We don’t bother ourselves with justifying what happened because that’s none of our business,” Osama Abuirshaid, director of American Muslims for Palestine, told The Forward. “We want to inject the Palestinian narrative and say, ‘Look, there is suffering here, too[.]”
Eva Borgwardt, IfNotNow’s political director, told that paper, “We’re calling on our politicians to support a de-escalation and to address the root causes of occupation and apartheid.”
Abirshaid’s comment is just kind of pointless. He’s not saying that Palestinian suffering justifies the atrocious massacres in Israel, but not saying it doesn’t. He’s saying it’s none of his business; but he wants us to note that there is also suffering “here,” in the Palestinian territories.
The Israelis have suffered? Well, what about the Palestinians? They suffered too. What about many other people, around the world, who have also suffered?
“Whataboutism” is one of the most dishonest forms of debate ever invented. (And it was invented by Stalin.)
As for Borgwardt, she says that “occupation and apartheid” are the “root causes,” but she doesn’t say what they are the root causes of.
Are they the root causes of the conflict itself? (I don’t agree with the term “apartheid” to describe the situation in the territories, but I know what she means, so I will use her terminology here.)
In a way, “occupation and apartheid” are the root causes of the current conflict. If that’s what she’s saying, her argument is sort of correct, as far as it goes.
I say “sort of correct” because these root causes have their own root causes. The root cause of the occupation, for example, was Egypt, Jordan and Syria’s planned invasion of Israel in 1967. Otherwise, no war of 1967, and no occupation.
Similarly, the root cause of the current regime of “apartheid” was the intifada of suicide bombings, which caused Israel to crack down.
Those two things (the intifada and the planned Arab invasion) also have root causes (occupation, again, and the “nakba”, respectively), which have their own root causes. This can go on and on, back to the Israelite seizure of Philistine lands during Biblical times, which, itself, has its own underlying justification.
But if Borgwardt is saying that “occupation and apartheid” are the “root causes” of the horrendous atrocities that we saw on Saturday, she is wrong.
Furthermore, if she is contending that these are kind of understandable things for a Gaza Palestinian to do, given the poverty in Gaza, then I would say that Borgwardt is not only wrong, but she is downright racist. There is no one more condescendingly racist against Palestinians than a well-meaning anti-Israel leftist.
The average Gaza Palestinian wants to work and live in peace, has no love for Hamas, rockets or genocide, and would accept a reasonable peace plan. (Here’s one, which I worked out based on extensive conversations with Palestinians, in Gaza and elsewhere.) Anti-Israel leftists spend too much time talking to other anti-Israel leftists, and not enough time talking to Palestinians within Palestine.
“Occupation and apartheid” are not the “root causes” of the operation itself.
The leaders of Hamas live elsewhere, in luxury; they don’t know from Gaza poverty. The Hamas military that they command is primarily an Iranian proxy army, which does Iran’s dirty work and follows Iran’s orders.
So why this operation, and why now? What is the “root cause” of the operation?
The Biden administration has been working on a peace deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel, which would by necessity have been highly favorable to the Palestinians, at Saudia Arabia’s insistence. A common fear of Iran pushed Saudi Arabia into Israel’s arms, and this deal would have been bad for Iran.
So the Hamas operation was designed to provoke an Israeli reaction that would kill Palestinians, which would delay or scuttle the Saudi Arabia/Israel peace deal. Killing Israelis was a nice extra for them, but the main goal was to get Palestinians killed.
The operation was not at all about Palestinian rights and self-determination.
The operation scuttled Palestinian statehood. It was bad for the Palestinians, but good for Iran, which, after all, is what an Iranian proxy army is interested in.
A Justifiable but Unfortunate Punishment
Ryna Workman is the president of the university’s Student Bar Association; up until yesterday, they were associated with a lot of little-noted but admirable goals and aspirations. Really, if you read their online presence, they used to say a lot of nice things. They’re likable.
But, on Tuesday, Mx. Workman (who identifies as nonbinary) wrote an online message to the group stating that “I will not condemn Palestinian resistance…. This regime of state-sanctioned violence created the conditions that made resistance necessary.” (You can see the entire statement in the screenshot.)
In addition to their prestigious presidency, Mx. Workman also had an offer at “white-shoe” law firm, Winston and Strawn, which promptly rescinded the offer (and announced it in a press release that it distributed on Businesswire). The Student Bar Association then began the process of removing Mx. Workman.
Let’s be clear: the statement was odious.
But, but, but.
They do not actually praise the massacre; they decline to condemn it. And they ask us, instead, to consider the root causes.
What if, instead, they had said, “I will not condemn Palestinian resistance, because that’s none of my business…. This regime of state-sanctioned violence created the conditions that are the root cause of the resistance.”
As a Jew and a leftist Zionist, I would still consider it odious. It means the same thing.
But what lost Mx. Workman their job was that word, “necessary.” One word. A single, ill-chosen word that destroyed a promising lawyer’s life.
Even in its original form, it’s the kind of thing young left-wing people say and post online. They heard identical sentiments, over and over again, in their echo chamber.
Rather than termination, Winston and Strawn might have talked to Mx. Workman, discussed the litany of atrocities committed on Saturday, and asked them, again, if they truly declined to condemn them, and if they wished to reconsider their statement. Mx. Workman is a compassionate individual with a conscience, and I think they would have reconsidered.
Winston and Strawn’s decision was good for business. Had they kept Mx. Workman at the firm, they might have lost clients. A swift cancellation, with an unnecessarily humiliating and publicly shaming press release, costs the firm nothing beyond a few hundred dollars to distribute the press release. Winston & Strawn doesn’t need to worry that anti-Israel leftists will pull their business. This was about money, not ideals.
Imagine, if you will, the trauma of losing your job. Now imagine if your employer put out a press release about why they fired your ass.
It was justifiable, of course; the firm had a perfect right to rescind the offer, given how despicable Mx. Workman’s statement was. Still, it seems like an awful result. This is not just a job loss. Students from NYU begin their careers immediately after law school; not having a job lined up at this point is horrible. This is truly a career- and life-destroying event for a young student with misplaced idealism (and burdensome student loans).
Leave a Deal on the Table
In 2015, I wrote a Kindle single proposing a workable solution to the Situation, which I developed in consultation with numerous Palestinians in the territories. It’s good! Read it, if you have a chance.
But more important than the specific details of my proposal is this:
“I think that carrots are as important as sticks; we need something that both Palestinians and Israelis can see on the other side of this conflict. What we need now is an offer on the table, negotiated between the Israelis and the Quartet, which will be passed into Israeli law and preferably even ratified by the UN, and will be there for the Palestinians to accept, when they are ready…. [I]t would effect the international sea change that any sensible person should be seeking.”
In 2000, Israel accepted the Clinton parameters, a proposal that would have created a Palestinian state on the entire Gaza Strip and nearly all of the West Bank, with offsetting land swaps for the settlements within the West Bank retained by Israel. The Palestinian Authority did not accept. A few years later, when the Palestinian Authority finally accepted them, they were off the table; the Israeli leadership had changed, and so had the U.S. leadership. Imagine if that proposal had still been on the table! We’d have peace.
A few years later, Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, proposed his own resolution of the conflict, a more generous version of the Clinton Parameters, and the Palestinian Authority didn’t respond. Now the leadership has changed again, and the Olmert plan is gone.
Now, no offer is on the table.
Most Palestinians are law-abiding and nonviolent. Their governments, however, are a different story. We’ve given up asking their governments to accept peace; now we are asking the Palestinians themselves to turn against their leaders and sue for peace. If we expect them to risk their lives in such an endeavor, we need to tell them what they will get in return.
Steven S. Drachman has written on the Israel-Palestinian conflict on a webzine, now archived but available to read, in a Kindle single entitled Enough Already, and in a TedX talk. He’s also a novelist. His film writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, The Chicago Sun-Times, and many other places.
Image by hosnysalah/Pixabat.