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Myriam Miedzian: Chasm on the Left — Blame Israel vs. Blame Both

IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN when I am careful not to utter the words “Israel, Palestinians, Gaza” to a certain number of my leftwing friends and acquaintances. We agree on just about everything going as far back as the Vietnam war, which we all vehemently opposed — as we did the Iraq war. We supported equal rights for blacks, women, and gays, rooted for single-payer, universal healthcare, support living wages for all Americans and access to college education for all, etc.

Infographic: Majority of Americans Blame Hamas for Current Violence | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

So why are we so at odds when it comes to this one issue? Well, we do agree on one thing — we all reject AIPAC’s “Israel Can Do No Wrong” perspective.

But that still leave us with a chasm. On one side there is the Blame Israel (B.I.) group — represented by Jewish Voice for Peace and Code Pink, among others — and on the other side the Blame Both (B.B.) group, represented by Americans for Peace Now and J Street, among others.

Like most categorizations, this one simplifies — the lines are not always entirely clear cut; there are disagreements within each group and people on the fringes of both. Nevertheless the rift is striking. Frustrated by it, I have spent  hours visiting websites on both sides, gone back to key books — Noam Chomsky, Benny Morris, etc. — and gleaned key, underlying, opposing assumptions,  perspectives, interpretations, and historical understandings from these documents. I have also relied on lectures and conferences I have attended, as well as conversations with friends and acquaintances.

What follows is first an outline of some divisive underlying issues, and then links to a  few of the books, articles, and blogs which have influenced my understanding of what divides the two groups .

But before going any further, I want to put my cards on the table — I support Americans for Peace Now and I have written in support of J Street.

The following represent a few of the underlying issues that divide the two groups:


Group B.I.
Views Palestinian leaders as trustworthy, does not take seriously charters and past statements by leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah stating the destruction of Israel as their goal, trusts that Hamas leader are sincere when they state that they now are willing to accept the existence of Israel. They view these organizations as consisting  of freedom fighters for the rights of Palestinians — akin to black South Africans or Algerian Muslims fighting for their freedom — so that once Palestinians get what is due to them, a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza or a binational state, there will be no threat to Israel. The present Gaza crisis provides an example of Israel’s brutal aggression and indifference to innocent Palestinian lives.

Group B.B
Is vehemently opposed to the ever-increasing number of settlements in the West Bank, extremely critical of the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and deeply concerned about the increased strength and power of rightwing parties and groups in Israel. They support a two-state solution, but do not dismiss concerns about the security threat that a Palestinian state would represent. They view Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations, take their covenants vowing the destruction of the state of Israel seriously, and do not trust statements to the contrary by Hamas leaders who refuse to change their covenants. While critical of some of Israel’s actions in the 2014 conflict with Gaza, which have led to large number of civilian deaths, they believe that Hamas provoked the conflict by attacking Israel with missiles, and is therefore also responsible for these deaths. They take seriously Israel’s contention that Hamas places its military targets among civilians so that large number of civilian deaths will be met with worldwide sympathy and support for the Palestinian cause. Hamas tunnels are viewed as a serious threat to Israel’s security…. {continue reading}

— by Myriam Miedzian writing for Jewish Currents

Dr. Myriam Miedzian (myriammiedzian.com), a member of the Jewish Currents editorial board, is a former philosophy professor who writes frequently on social, cultural, and political issues. She is the author of Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking The Link Between Masculinity and Violence.

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