Far left Gaza Strip Hamas Israel

Sympathy is not a zero sum game

Compared to Realistic Dove, Charles Lenchner’s blog, Peace in the Middle East, tends to attract a higher percentage of far left ideologues. That is because it is housed on the Change.org web site, which wants to be a haven for progressive activists. What follows is a slightly edited post by Lenchner from Jan. 31st, during the worst of the Gaza war. He makes a point that I should have made more forcefully to the Israel-is-always-immoral crowd, even as I was castigating the Israelis for their behavior. It is still painfully relevant and worth repeating, as the tit-for-tat violence in Gaza and southern Israel has not abated. And it is more effective coming from him, since he is able make unequivocal use of the pronoun “we” when addressing the activist left:

Over the past few months, as the progressive blogosphere rallied in support of the Palestinian victims of Israel’s invasion, there has been scant mention of the Israeli victims of the conflict. On one level, this makes sense: the death toll is 1300+ Palestinians compared to only thirteen Israelis.

There is one idea that does get a lot of repetition. It goes like this:

Palestinian rockets are homemade, inaccurate, and have caused such a small amount of destruction; they serve only as a pretext for Israeli attacks, not as a real military threat.

The motives for saying this are understandable. By minimizing the harm done to Israelis, we make its actions in Gaza appear more disproportionate and easier to condemn. In the war of public opinion, any sympathy garnered by Israeli victims is seen as a point scored by the Israeli PR machine, as though sympathy is a zero sum game.

[But]….living with the threat of rockets falling on you or your children is not…insignificant. It seems odd to have to explain this. The Israelis do not argue that rocket fire was a mortal threat [to Israel’s existence].They argue that it was an unacceptable situation for civilians to live with the threat of rockets. Which is true. It is unacceptable…The rockets could have been stopped by talking to Hamas and lifting the siege, as opposed to engaging in a full out assault. [But] to say that the harm caused by rockets is marginal and unworthy of public mention is to say that the Israeli experience of the conflict is not central to resolving it.

That’s just not true. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be resolved when – and only when – there is a broad enough majority of both Israelis and Palestinians to end it. Until that time comes, all efforts to marginalize the experiences of one side only serve to harden positions.

Comments are closed.