Commentary Magazine


Israeli Left Divided on Palestinian Issue

One remarkable sideshow of the Israeli summer protests has been the bitter disputes between Israeli “social justice” activists pushing for more socialist economic policies in the country, and the anti-Israel activists whose main focus is demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state.

The anti-Israel activists have become incensed that the protests are unrelated to Israel’s imaginary war crimes and assorted evils. And on the other side, social justice demonstrators have shunned groups like the New Israel Fund, out of fear the crusade for “economic equality” might be tarnished by these organizations.

The dispute is becoming more prominent as it makes its way into national politics. Prospective Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich, who has been one of the most prominent politicians involved with the protests, outraged anti-Israel activists last week when she defended the settlements and opposed boycotts.

One social justice activist involved in the protests, Yossi Gurvitz, is calling for a “parting of ways” between the two factions. He summed up his problem with the single-issue, pro-Palestinian activists on his blog:

They suffer from tunnel-vision: All they see is the occupation. As if there wasn’t an Israel beyond it, as if people did not live and breathe and love and die here, who had topics on their mind. …

They don’t see themselves as partners to an intra-Israeli struggle, mainly because they consider all Israelis to suffer from an original sin, which, as long as they don’t scrub themselves like Lady Macbeth while wearing the heretic’s robe and chanting “we have sinned, have mercy upon us,” they are unworthy of justice. We’re not talking about humans, after all: Just cardboard characters from a morality play.

The divide seems to be both ideological and politically expedient. If the social justice movement embraces the anti-Israel activists too strongly, it’s questionable whether it would receive as much support from the general public. But it’s also true when BDS groups work to delegitimize Israel, that scope includes left-wing Israeli Zionists – and it would also be interesting to see a strong anti-BDS pushback from within the Israeli left.