HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

February 4, 2008
Lebanon and Sderot and Gaza:
A Plea for a Fair and Common-Sense Left

James Adler


Four years ago the Jerusalem Post's preceding and just as conservative editor as today's, Brett Stephens wrote that what Israel needed was "a Zionist left." And he gave as an example the great Israeli novelist and essayist Amos Oz, who had just published his immediate and memorable classic, "A Tale of Love and Darkness." That is, what Stephens called for was for more people to remain left-wing Zionists rather than become non-Zionists.

Now, with Lebanon and Sderot and Gaza this bears reflection, but adapted and broadened to include the larger world, such that it need not necessarily be a Zionist Left at all -- and just as I would be uncomfortable with that term --, but something much more basic and simple:  "A Common-Sense Left."

A Common-Sense Left values straightforward observation, irrespective of what otherwise may be its general views of the conflict,  and whether it sees through Zionist or non-Zionist eyes.  Because it is just baffling to me that the Left often seems to fail to see what is so obvious as to stare everyone else in the face.

The following four items are almost a litmus test which one should maybe have to pass for membership in the "Common-Sense Left."

****

1.  The security fence and checkpoints. The first was initially proposed by the sensible Labor dove, Amram Mitzna when he ran against Ariel Sharon.  And one may devoutly wish it ran completely on the 1967 lines, as I do, but it would seem to be better to have it where it is than to be nowhere at all.  It has saved hundreds of lives.  The second, the checkpoints, are certainly time-consuming frustrating inconveniences, but are equally for safety, and would seem no different in principle from Western airport security checkpoints of which everyone recognizes the need.  In sum, both are obviously for civilian Israelis' and their families' safety from terror, and without terror there would obviously be no border impediments but a completely free flow of people and goods. Israel obviously wishes there were no terror and therefore no need for border impediments. And both will obviously go away if and when the conflict and threats do.
      
2.  Gaza and Lebanon.  Israel withdrew from Gaza, and obviously would like nothing more than to be free of it and not to have to guard seacoasts and airspace and its own borders against terror, and obviously there would be no border impediments to free flow of people and goods if there were no bombings of Sderot, weapons smugglings, and past and declared and absolute danger of more murders and abductions. To its north, Hizbollah stockpiled weapons for years, initiated unprovoked abductions of Israelis, and just as Hamas, notoriously and scandalously and ironically "paid Israel back" for its withdrawal from Gaza.
       
3. Occupation. Without the abductions, Qassams on Sderot, weapons smuggling, other terror and attempts and it, and Lebanon War, Ariel Sharons'  Kadima, under a would-have-been popular Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, could have by now removed Israel from most of the occupied West Bank, which is what had been intended and keenly anticipated by Olmert, Israel, and most of the grateful world.
               
4.  Boycotts.  Due to the obvious and straightforward facticity of 1 through 3, a boycott singling out by itself Israel would be especially devoid of any moral common sense.
      
****

Without the abductions and Lebanon war and Qassams on Sderot, Sharon's "Kadima" ("Forward") party, under Edhud Olmert, would by now have moved Israel politically "forward" out of most of the West Bank and the occupation.

Why is it so hard for the non-common-sense Left to absorb this straightforward and observational common sense?

This is not to say (as we all know) that Israel is perfect.

For the Common-Sense Left, the 550,000 Settlers are a terrible affront to justice, and this is only one of many places where the Common-Sense Left -- including Stephens' Israeli "Zionist left"-- can and very much should take a stand.

And I too get frustrated and disgusted by the right-wing fantasies and furies of the right-wing "Talkback Nation." But with crises such as surrounding Lebanon and Sderot and Gaza, I begin to understand how it is driven to such fury and invective by this absence of fair-minded perspective of so many constant critics of Israel of the international Left that, which, in its sympathy for the Palestinians (sympathy that I deeply share) nonetheless leaves it bafflingly bereft of basic common sense of simple and straightforward observations of fact--that Israel justifiably feels tiny, beleaguered, threatened, and severally attacked, and whose only reward for withdrawing from Gaza was missiles from north and south alike.

Again, to broaden and adapt for the world the call of Brett Stephens.  Please, may I plea: For a "Common-Sense Left."

And also a request.  The "Left" shouldn't be used by the right as a term of near-profanity.  Some of us want and try -- we desperately want and try-- to use common sense and to be fair.


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