In college I was a pretty typical hippie. I ate kale salads, bought local and organic where possible, listened to obscure alt/rock indie bands, and supported and participated in initiatives that sought to help the environment, promote aboriginal rights, reduce the influence of multinational corporations on government policy, and increase the minimum wage. I went to protests and gay pride parades, and even participated in a drag show and a feminist working group. I’m staunchly pro-choice and supportive of many social welfare policies and equal rights for gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals, many of whom I include among my closest friends.
In other words, I lean left. Quite left, in fact. That’s why I support Israel.
Yes, you read that right. I support Israel because I am a liberal.
I’m a feminist, environmentalist, queer ally, activist, and Zionist. Those terms are not mutually exclusive – in fact, they complement each other and are the very antithesis of hypocritical.
I support oppressed peoples around the world. I believe that every human being has the right to live in peace and dignity, however they choose – whether bikini or burqa. By that token, I do not support governments that legally oppress marginalized groups such as immigrants, gays, women, indigenous peoples, transgendered people, and those of a different religion from the ruling class. I also don’t blindly support groups just because they are oppressed, especially if their oppression is the result of their democratically elected leadership. I choose my support carefully, and support the groups whose values most align with mine.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is rife with black and white generalizations and anger on both sides. Some who take Marxist and Post-Colonialist ideology way further than was initially intended see the Palestinian Arabs as little more than poor, oppressed “people of color,” who have no choice but to resist the powerful, rich, “white” Israelis. Many ironically claim their movement is nonviolent, which cannot be further from the truth, as stabbings, suicide bombings, rocket launches, and myriad other methods have succeeded at killing thousands of Israeli civilians as intended. Even at so-called “nonviolent” demonstrations, pro-Israel counter-protestors are frequently subject to violence.
The anti-Israel movement is also marred with the “racism of low expectations,” which excuses violence from peoples they deem “oppressed” while decrying actions far less severe from those they deem “oppressors.” They use death tallies and alliances to determine guilt and innocence. Those officially allied with the “world superpowers” – such as NATO, or more specifically the U.S. – are automatically considered guilty and undeserving of any sympathy, whereas those allied with the “less-powerful” third world, the communist bloc, and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are cut more slack. Also, the ability to protect their own people with devices such as the Iron Dome, resulting in a lower death toll apparently makes the Israeli side more guilty, and the increased death toll, despite the fact that it’s the result of the use of Human Shields by the Palestinian side, confirms innocence. It appears to me that more Israelis need to die in order for us to be absolved from our alleged guilt, which to me sounds totally ridiculous, and highlights how little sense these metrics make.
I’m done taking sides. I chose to align myself with the humanitarian side, the side that would make a better life for Israelis and Palestinians alike. I choose to align with Israel, as that is the pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian way to go.
Israeli Arabs have full equal rights and live better in Israel than in any Arab countries. My values – supposedly leftist, liberal values – of protecting the environment and social welfare systems, fostering education and scientific progress and ensuring equality for all genders, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and abilities – align with Israel’s and are the opposite of the Palestinian Authority’s.
I support Israel because I am an environmentalist. Israel has always been at the forefront of water-saving technologies, as well as improved recycling, alternative fuel sources, and other green technology as a result of the need to make the most of what little natural resources the country has. Israel injects billions of dollars into these initiatives and startups, andcontributes even more to research and development (R&D) in its universities and think tanks, while the Palestinian Authority hasn’t contributed a cent.
I support Israel because I am a queer ally. Queers in Israel have more rights than queers in any other country in the Middle East, meaning they actually have rights. Queers in Israel are allowed to have civil unions that give them the same legal rights and benefits as straight married couples, and Israel recognizes gay marriages practiced outside. Queers in Israel are also allowed to go all out and be themselves, as is evidenced by the thriving scene, with loads of gay bars, drag shows, and pride parades.
I support Israel because I’m a feminist. Women serve alongside men in the IDF, enroll in university at higher rates than men, and hold some of the highest positions in the land. One of the most revered Israeli Prime Ministers of all time was a woman. Israel surpasses its neighbors by a mile at this metric, by virtue that woman are legally considered equal to men.
I’m not “pinkwashing” or “greenwashing” or whatever kind of “washing” everyone is using these days to silence pro-Israel attitudes among progressives. In fact, I am surprised more people aren’t realizing how nonsensical these terms are, and how little water they actually hold when subject to scrutiny.
I support multiculturalism and minority rights. So does Israel. Despite being called a “Jewish State,” Israel is only about 70% Jewish. The rest includes 1.4 million Muslim Arabs who are legally equal to Jews. They don’t only have equal rights, they have more rights, as non-Jews have a right Jews do not, the right to refuse to do military service. I’m not going to downplay the racism and discrimination they sometimes experience in many facets of Israeli society, but the government condones none of it. Israelis, especially if they are in IDF uniform, get punished severely by Israeli law for committing any kind of hate crime or discriminatory act against an Israeli minority. In contrast, the Palestinian Authority rewards those and the families of those who commit crimes against Israelis, from throwing rocks to suicide bombings, with money, fame, and prestige. Take a walk around any Palestinian Authority city and you’ll find streets, parks, monuments, and museums dedicated to suicide bombers for the sole reason of them sacrificing their lives in their quest to destroy Israel. Given that 40% of Palestinians think suicide bombings can be justified according to a recent Pew poll, these views are not unpopular. Most especially, all the Palestinian territories are strictly judenrein –meaning no Jews are allowed to live there. Somehow though, people call Israel an apartheid state, when the Palestinian Authority isn’t just apartheid, it’s genocidal. Just take a look at the Hamas Charter and see for yourself.
If the anti-Zionists got what they wanted, that is the kind of regressive society that would take over. The fact that any progressives would support it over an open and free Israel totally boggles my mind.
I support Israel because I support indigenous rights. A common myth that many people believe is that Palestinians, not Jews, are indigenous to Israel. For starters, there has only ever been a Jewish state in Israel: Judea. During all other periods of history, it was part of a larger colonial power – first it was a Roman colony, then it was a Muslim caliphate, then it was a part of the Ottoman Empire, then it was handed over to the British after the Ottoman Empire fell in 1917, and finally, the British handed it back to the Jews with the blessing of the UN, and it became a state for the first time in nearly two millennia. Genetic testing seems to confirm that “Palestinians” and their Arab brethren are genetically indistinguishable, and are the descendants of colonialists from the Arabian Peninsula. Jews, however, are originally from the Levant. In other words, Jews are indigenous to the State of Israel. Not only that, but Jews have always been in Israel despite numerous expulsions by their colonial rulers, and Jerusalem, the holiest city in Judaism, always had a Jewish majority.
Finally, I believe that Big Oil should not intervene with social policy, as any environmentally-conscious left-winger should. That’s why I recognize that Big Oil – in other words, oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar – spend billions of dollars on the anti-Israel lobby, as well as funding institutions that foster their anti-Israel and judeophobic worldview and even terrorist groups in both the U.S. and abroad. Right wing corporate lobbying by Big Oil in the U.S. is unacceptable but Islamist lobbying by Big Oil from the Gulf States is okay? To me this kind of selective allowance seems hypocritical and counter to the progressive liberal values I hold dear, especially since the brand of conservatism the Gulf states espouse makes the Tea Party look like a far-left hippie commune.
The “White ain’t Right, Strong is Wrong” mentality has infected my fellow lefties like a virus, and has stifled all critical thinking, probing, and intellectual curiosity. This mentality, along with its Marxist and postcolonialist progenitors, is a mental shortcut that is used to categorize and simplify the world in a way that is palatable to the human mind, but so dangerous that it causes people to completely ignore complexity, nuance and exceptions. These types of shortcuts – the very shortcuts that lead to racism by putting people into categories and assuming guilt or innocence based on superficial parameters – are antithetical to liberal progressive thought as they create unnecessary constraints on free thought and render the mind a prison to certain ideologies.
Although Jews have consistently, without a doubt, been through the ultimate proverbial meat-grinder, with entire civilizations trying to wipe us out at every turn, we should define ourselves by our successes and our triumphs. And, due to the above reasons, I see Israel as the greatest triumph of all.
That’s why, as a progressive and a liberal, I wholeheartedly support Israel.
Alexandra Markus is a freelance writer who lives in New York City and works as a producer for AskAbigail Productions. While attending McGill University, she was a student reporter intern at the Israel on Campus Coalition. She is passionate about debunking anti-Israel falsehoods wherever she may find them. She also remains active in other progressive causes.