Opinion | The Massacre in Israel and the Need for a Decent Left

“I’m trying to hold on, personally, to my commitments, my values, which now feel in conflict, in a way, with the political community that I lived alongside in the United States for basically my whole adult life,” he said. “It certainly has begun to feel like a breaking point.”

Conservatives reading this might take a jaundiced satisfaction in what some surely view as naïve progressives getting their comeuppance. But part of what makes the depravity of the edgelord anti-imperialists so tragic is that a decent and functional left has rarely been more necessary. As I write this, Israel has imposed what the Israeli defense minister, Yoav Gallant, called a “complete siege” of Gaza’s two million people, about half of whom are under 18. “No electricity, no food, no water, no gas — it’s all closed,” said Gallant. “We are fighting human animals, and we act accordingly.” Such collective punishment is, like the mass killing of civilians in Israel, a war crime.

Hunger was already rampant in Gaza before this conflict broke out; today the World Food Program estimates that 63 percent of its population, living in one of the most densely populated places in the world, is “food insecure.” “If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza,” António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, said in 2021.

If Gaza was already hell, we lack the language for what it’s about to become. Over the weekend, Ariel Kallner, a member of the Knesset from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, called for a new “nakba,” Arabic for “catastrophe,” which Palestinians use to describe being driven from their homes at Israel’s creation in 1948. This time, Kallner said, the catastrophe befalling Palestinians would “overshadow” the last.

When the Israeli ground invasion begins, there will be little political pressure to take pains to spare civilians. The American special envoy charged with monitoring and combating antisemitism has insisted, “No one has the right to tell Israel how to defend itself and prevent and deter future attacks.” But if humanist principles spur total revulsion toward the terrorist crimes in Israel, they also demand restraint in Gaza. Among those principles are these: Victimization and dispossession are not alibis for barbarism. The distinction between civilians and combatants must be respected. No cause, righteous or otherwise, excuses the killing of children.

You may also like...