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The American Jewish left is wrong about Palestinian ‘resistance’

If you think Hamas violence can bring Palestinian safety and freedom, keep watching the news

Some of my best friends are Jewish leftists. I’m often, and credibly, accused of being one myself. But here’s where I find myself veering far away from some of my compatriots on the left: I draw the line at men, women and children being slaughtered in their homes.

In the last 36 hours, we’ve seen the body of a murdered woman dragged naked through the streets of Gaza. Toddlers grabbed by armed men and hustled away from their parents. More than 200 unarmed young people from around the world shot dead as they danced together on a desert night.

As news of these and other atrocities from Hamas’s terrorist attacks flooded in, some on the left — even on the Jewish left — responded in a knee-jerk, predictable and utterly wrongheaded way. They blamed Israel and America, and let Hamas off the hook.

I’m not talking about the left that opposes the occupation and seeks a just solution to the conflict. I’m talking about the left that can’t bring itself to admit that Palestinian leadership can also be flawed or that Israel is not always to blame.

A statement issued Oct. 7 by IfNotNow, the American anti-occupation group, said the civilian bloodshed “is on the hands of the Israeli government” as well as “the U.S. government which funds and excuses their recklessness.”

“There is no path to a future of safety and freedom for all Israelis and Palestinians without accountability for this fascist government,” the statement concluded, “and an end to the ongoing, untenable status quo of Israel’s apartheid system.”

If you think the road to Palestinian and Israeli safety and freedom lies with what Hamas just did, I suggest you keep watching the news over the next 30 days.

Hundreds of innocent Palestinians will die. Those who survive this war will find their lives made immeasurably worse.

Israel is fascist? If you say so. But how would you characterize a regime that, according to Human Rights Watch, cancels elections, beats, jails, tortures and kills political opponents, controls the media and tortures journalists, hoards resources to enrich its leaders and stoke its population’s rage, and embraces only violent resistance?

It isn’t me, or pro-Bibi Jewish propagandists, leveling these charges. These are the findings of international human rights groups and the voices of Gazans themselves.

“OK, Palestine is our cause, and it is a just one,” a Gazan man told interviewers for Whispered in Gaza, a powerful 2023 documentary by the New York-based Center for Peace Communications and The Times of Israel. “But that doesn’t mean you should keep getting Palestinians killed, again and again, without any result.”

A 2022 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 62% of Gazans felt they could not criticize Hamas for fear of retribution. How ironic that when brave Gazans created a movement in 2019 to protest Hamas rule, they called it “They Kidnapped Gaza.”

If you hate Bibi, you must also hate Hamas. If you hate Bibi’s intransigence, you must also hate Hamas’. If you hate Bibi’s right-wing, fundamentalist cronies, what of Hamas? If you want to throw off the chains that Israel has locked around Gaza, you must also work to unchain Gazans from Hamas.

Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow and others who purport to care about the Palestinians — including many Palestinian Americans —  are defending what Hamas did as a legitimate act of resistance.

They’re wrong.

“I don’t want to see violence. I don’t want to see death,” said the Jewish comedian and activist Jonathan Randall in one widely viewed, post-attack Instagram post.

He, like many on the far-left, tried to justify what Hamas did based on Israeli policies. “There is a difference between terrorism and resistance,” he said.

There is a difference between terror and resistance, and I think I can explain it: Actual resistance leads to liberation. If you want to see where Hamas’ violent notion of resistance leads the Palestinians, like I said, stay tuned.

Those like Randall who justify Hamas’ actions, or only blame them on Israel, are consigning future generations of Palestinians to misery.

For decades, other Arab leaders — with much stronger armies than Hamas — tried to obliterate Israel. They caused untold suffering to the Israelis and to their own people. But they failed — until they either made peace with Israel or collapsed.

The leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat, tried the route of terror as “resistance.” It may have awakened the world to the Palestinian cause. But it ultimately failed to secure anything tangible for the Palestinians.

Violence is ultimately self-defeating. It probably feels good at the time — and I do sense a bit of smug I-told-you-so satisfaction in all of these far left responses — but it blows up any paths to peace.

It flabbergasts me that the same people who call Israel a fascist, brutal, nuclear-weaponized militaristic regime backed by the world’s great superpower find a way to justify armed conflict against it. If Israel is so immoral and all-powerful, killing Palestinians with impunity, then why support a strategy of futile armed resistance? Why not speak out against Israeli and Palestinian violence?

Hamas will fail, even if it can claim, as it did this week, the occasional victory. Ultimately, Palestinians will suffer.

“Great anger and violence can never build a nation,” Nelson Mandela said. Never.

Israel, certainly, has not been doggedly pursuing peace. Over the past two decades, it could have been building up the Palestinian economy, educational system and civil society in the West Bank so that Gazans would see the benefits of peace. Instead, Hamas can point to land seizures and military invasions and tell Gazans and the world: That’s what happens when you cooperate with Israel.

At the same time, imagine what Hamas could have been doing in Gaza: using its billions in foreign funds to build up the economy and civil society. Engaging in non-violent protest when Israel stood in its way. Showing Palestinians on the West Bank the benefits of Hamas rule.

Instead, Hamas kidnapped Gaza. And Gazans have nothing to show for it.

As for those on the left who refuse to condemn Hamas? To quote from Whispered in Gaza, they “keep getting Palestinians killed, again and again, without any result.”

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