In Gaza and Israel, side with the child over the gun

Naomi Klein

The Guardian  /  October 11, 2023

Some continue to minimize massacres of Israeli civilians – this only fuels militant Zionism.

I spent the evening in candlelight and tears with a dear friend who just learned that a close family member was among those massacred in Israel. I won’t name the kibbutz to protect her privacy but yes, it was unequivocally a massacre.

We tried to explain the killing of this family member – a civilian with two kids – to our kids. We tried to do it in a way that would not fill their young hearts with fear and hatred for the people who committed the crime. That was hard enough, but possible. Harder for us adults is the fact that, in their desire to celebrate the powerful symbolism of Palestinians escaping the open air prison that is Gaza — which occupied people have every right to do — some of our supposed comrades on the left continue to minimize massacres of Israeli civilians, and in some extreme cases, even seem to celebrate them.

In fact these callous displays are a gift to militant Zionism, since they neatly shore up and reconfirm its core and governing belief: that the non-Jewish world hates Jews and always will – look, even the bleeding-heart left is making excuses for our killers and thinks that Jewish kids and old ladies deserved death merely by living in Israel.

For Zionist believers (I’m not one of them), Jew-hatred is the central rationale for why Israel must exist as a nuclear-armed fortress. Within this worldview, antisemitism is cast as a primordial force that cannot be weakened or confronted. The world will always turn away from us in our hour of need, Zionism tells us, just as it did during the Holocaust, which is why force alone is presented as the only conceivable response to any and all threats.

The Israeli state’s current murderous leveling of Gaza is the latest, unspeakably horrific manifestation of this ideology, and there will be more in the coming days. The responsibility for these crimes of collective punishment rests solely with their perpetrators and their financial and military backers abroad. But we all have to figure out how to make it stop.

So how do we confront this violent ideology ? For one thing, we can recognize that when Israeli Jews are killed in their homes and it is celebrated by people who claim to be anti-racists and anti-fascists, that is experienced as antisemitism by a great many Jews. And antisemitism (besides being hateful) is the rocket fuel of militant Zionism.

What could lessen its power, drain it of some of that fuel ? True solidarity. Humanism that unites people across ethnic and religious lines. Fierce opposition to all forms of identity-based hatred, including antisemitism. An international left rooted in values that side with the child over the gun every single time, no matter whose gun and no matter whose child. A left that is unshakably morally consistent, and does not mistake that consistency with moral equivalency between occupier and occupied. Love.

It’s certainly worth a try. In these difficult times, I’d like to be part of a left like that.

Naomi Klein is a Guardian US columnist and contributing writer; she is the professor of climate justice and co-director of the Centre for Climate Justice at the University of British Columbia