Why is it so hard for leftists to speak out amid terror attacks?

Because we are shocked by the terrifying violence. Because we don’t want to play into the interests of the Right. Because we don’t want to appear disconnected from our society. But mainly because we tend to forget that, unlike the right wing, we have a solution for the conflict, and it benefits both Jews and Palestinians — not one or the other.

Palestinian shops are shuttered in the Old City of Jerusalem after Israel restricted entry of Palestinians following a series of stabbing attacks, October 5, 2015. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)
Palestinian shops are shuttered in the Old City of Jerusalem after Israel restricted entry of Palestinians following a series of stabbing attacks, October 5, 2015. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Each morning it seems, or at least I wake up hoping, that this round of violence is over. That there won’t be any more attacks, that “neither side has any interest in an escalation,” as they like to say on television, and any moment now the clouds will cool things down, the rain will wash away all the tears and there will be just a little less bloodletting and pain.

But for now, until that happens, I feel like I have nothing to say. Nothing. Depression and speechlessness. Mostly after the murder of the two parents in front of their children. Mostly-mostly after the deadly stabbing in the Old City, and bewilderment at those people who refused to help the wounded woman. I simply have no words.

And that’s a pretty bad thing for a leftist journalist and blogger, for whom words form an integral part of life, who doesn’t have anything to say. And it seems that it’s not only me. I look around at other writers on Local Call and +972 Magazine and I realize I’m not alone. I refresh my Facebook feed and find the same silence. And what better cure for silence is there than writing about silence itself?

Why is it so hard for us leftists? Among other things, it seems that sometimes we forget, just a little, why and what we are struggling for. I’ll try and describe it through the things I thought about writing. First, I was certain that I would not play the apologetic condemnation game of the Right. I didn’t do anything wrong and our entire struggle — every day and on every front — is for peace, equality, social justice, and as a basic rule we are clearly fighting for life and oppose the murder of civilians. So no, we really don’t need to “condemn” anything.

I also thought of writing something about the shock, the pain, maybe about the fear. Maybe something along the lines of what Mijal Simonet Corech wrote, about a politics first and foremost of love for all people. That’s important, and it’s beautiful, and it truly is the basis for everything. But I don’t know how to write like Mijal, and I’m always worried that it’s not enough, that I need to be more direct and clear and concrete about what we must do now.

And then I thought that it’s necessary to write about the occupation. Perhaps to mention the Palestinian children who Israel murdered, the hundreds in Gaza, and the baby and his parents in Duma. Not to mention, like Amira Hass wrote about, that this war we are waging is being waged every day – every day, all the time, and not only when Jews are murdered and the Israeli media is reminded that a war is going on.

But then there is the fear that if I make a direct connection between the murder of Jews and the occupation that it will sound like a competition of suffering, as if it’s zero sum, as if it’s necessary to decide and prove whose suffering is greater. As if I’m saying that it’s not so awful, the creation of four new orphans or not helping a wounded victim in Jerusalem. As if I could be apathetic when things are so messed up.

That fear of mentioning Palestinian suffering, that readers might think that it’s justifying the murders, which simply cannot be justified, even if we understand where they are coming from. (And it’s pretty stupid, I must say, all that talk of “justification.” As if some Palestinian guy, who has been moderate and quiet while living his whole life lived under a foreign, violent and discriminatory regime, is waiting for some leftist from the occupying population to “justify” his actions.)

So I find myself not wanting to talk about Jewish suffering, because it serves the right wing, and I don’t want to talk about Palestinian suffering, because then I would be ignoring Jewish suffering (or justifying the violence), and I don’t want to say that everyone is just horrible, because on a human level there is room for comparisons, on a political level there are differences between the occupier and the occupied, between a country that murders thousands with advanced weapons as part of its attempts to preserve its control and Jewish supremacy, and between individuals or organizations that murder as part of a struggle for independence. And now I’ll shut up.

Silence as acquiescence

But at the end of the day it all comes back to the fact that we are in danger of forgetting what we’re fighting for, and what is the nature of that political struggle. The struggle against the occupation — which is first and foremost a struggle against displacement and disenfranchisement, against racism, against a military regime, against separate legal systems based on ethnicity or nationality, against war crimes committed by our country — it is a struggle for our future. Yes, it’s primarily a struggle in support of the Palestinians, the primary victims of this regime, but not entirely. It is a struggle for the viability of a better future, a sustainable peace, for everyone who lives in this land.

That is something we need not apologize for. This is where we need to be absolutely clear. Because now, more than any time in the past, it is clear that the right wing has no other solution. The Right has been in power, nearly continuously, for almost 40 years. Benjamin Netanyahu is prime minister for the fourth time, the third continuous term. The government is a right-wing government.

And with all of the right wing’s harsh criticisms, from within and outside of the government, they really don’t have a single clue what to do. They know that they can’t ignore the Palestinians. They know that they’re not planning on giving the Palestinians either a state or equal rights. And they know (even if they deny it) that the Palestinians won’t stop resisting — whether through non-violent means or through violent attacks — regardless of how high the oppression is turned up. At most they can suffocate the resistance for a while, but never win. And that is the only vision, a depressing and frightening vision, that the Right has to offer us.

By contrast to that vision lies the Left’s solution, which requires true concessions on all the benefits Jews enjoy from the occupation (exclusive control of resources: the economy, land, politics, immigration, the monopoly on power, etc.). But the latter is the only long-term solution. It will not be easy, and it demands that we, the Jews, let go of the idea that our fate in this land can be entrusted only to ourselves. Because it’s not. It requires us to work toward building one state or two states on the basis of peace, equality and democracy. Only neighbors who feel equal to each other can truly live side by side without fear.

We have to remember that there is a way of getting there. That there are Palestinian activists who have been waging an unarmed struggle against the occupation for years with protests, marches, creative direct actions, boycotts, diplomatic and legal tools, and an endless list of methods that do not include murdering civilians. And our job is to join them in the struggle to build a new, joint path — together.

It’s been a very long time already since there was a large protest in Israel that called for an end to the occupation. There will be one such demonstration this Friday in Tel Aviv, and as there are every week, there will be joint struggle demonstrations across the West Bank. Let’s go together. Let’s remember that silence speaks volumes, that silence is acquiescence and capitulation. Let’s not be silent any longer.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.