I recorded a second video this week (I promise I won’t make it a habit) because I finally formulated something I’ve been mulling over for a while now.
Hope to see many of you on our call for paid subscribers this Thursday at 11 AM EDT with Josh Paul and Adam Ramer, who last week resigned their positions in the State Department and Congress, respectively, to express their opposition to US policy toward the Israel-Gaza War.
I don’t usually make two videos in one week, but there’s something that I’ve just been thinking about that I wanted to try to say. And many of my criticisms—for people who know my work—are of the Israeli government, the organized American Jewish community, the American government in terms of the way they treat Palestinians. But I think at this moment I wanted to think about something that I feel like the pro-Palestinian left really needs to do to change. And it’s for people on the pro-Palestinian left to appeal very publicly and loudly to Hamas to release the captives. And the reason I think that’s so important is, first of all, maybe, just maybe, Hamas might listen to people on the left in the way they don’t listen to people who have no track record of a deep concern about Palestinians. I just think there’s a possibility that if those voices were loud enough it might resonate because Hamas is worried about losing people who have shown sympathy and solidarity for the Palestinian cause and fundamentally alienating them. So, maybe it would have a special impact.
But beyond that, because one of the things that I worry about the most is that October 7th has really shattered, ruptured bonds that were forming around a movement for mutual equality and freedom between Jews and Palestinians and other people of conscience. And those have been ruptured of course by the actions of Israel, and by the organized American Jewish community, and Senators, and people who’ve shown just an appalling lack of concern for Palestinian life at all just continuing a profound dehumanization that has taken place for so many decades. Of course, they bear that blame. But I think the left bears some blame as well because the fact that so many prominent people and institutions either justified the attacks or just ignored the attacks altogether and essentially said nothing about them, and only focused on Israel’s actions—as bad as Israel’s actions in Gaza are from my perspective. I think you see this if you listen to Israeli leftists. It has created a real sense of betrayal. And I think we need to recover that. We need to knit that together. And that’s why I think there has to be a kind of a tikkun—as we say in Hebrew—a tikkun, or repair by the pro-Palestinian left to show that the movement that they want to build for Palestinian liberation respects the sanctity of all human life, including the life of Israeli Jews.
Now, it may be that there’s some people who feel like they just couldn’t afford the time to do this because they’re so focused on organizing for a ceasefire. I want a ceasefire, too. I admire the people who are organizing for a ceasefire because I think [without] a ceasefire it will just create more incredible suffering for Palestinians and not make Israeli Jews safer. But maybe those folks can take a little bit of time amidst that, and also to organize some kind of public statement, a letter, articles from people who have unimpeachable pro-Palestinian credentials, saying that Hamas should release these captives. Now, maybe some people will say, well, but what about the Palestinian prisoners, and isn’t Hamas holding these people so it can trade them for Palestinian prisoners? And I recognize how important the Palestinian prison issue is to Palestinians. So many people have been held for so long and many of them didn’t get any due process because they live without basic rights in their trials. But if you can’t bring yourself to call for the release of everybody, at least call for the release of civilians because if you’re thinking in terms of a trade, Israel could release the civilians and keep some of those soldiers still with an eye towards trading them for Palestinian prisoners. Again, I would much rather see everyone unconditionally released. But if you can’t bring yourself to call for Hamas to release everyone, at least you could bring yourself to call for the release of civilians with an eye towards the idea that there could be some larger prisoner swap for the soldiers.
The last thing is that I know that the politics of this kind of appeal would be really hard for some people on the left because it would be seen as, why you paying attention to this given the destruction of Gaza. And I totally understand that. And I know that left communities and Palestinian communities have their own really, really difficult politics just like the American Jewish communities have such difficult politics. But I would just say to anyone who’s listening who feels like they’re worried that they would be attacked for such a statement or attacked for such a letter because it would seem like the wrong priorities for people who are struggling for Palestinian liberation at this moment, I would just say this: if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that when people do courageous things that affirm common humanity, it produces a positive response. And the more difficult those actions are—people can sense when it’s difficult—the more difficult it is, the more courage it requires to affirm common humanity, the more powerful a kind of corresponding response you get from the other side of willingness to do courageous things to affirm common humanity.
We in the Jewish community, we need to have courage to fight for Palestinian freedom and Palestinian equality, even as the conditions in our community have gotten so difficult. I’ve never seen anything like this. And we need people on the pro-Palestinian left to show that same kind of courage when it comes to affirming the lives and the humanity of Israeli Jews, because those people who are captives, some of them are very young, some of them are very badly injured. They don’t deserve the unbelievable distress that they’re in, and their families, and the agony of the families. They just, they don’t deserve that. And if the left can play a role in getting them to safety, I think it would be a healing moment that would help us build the movement for Palestinian and Jewish liberation that I desperately hope we see. Thanks.