They Say, We Say: "Why does the Left criticize Israel for its policies and actions on Gaza?"
We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.
You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.
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What about Hamas and Gaza?
Why does the Left criticize Israel for its policies and actions on Gaza? For years, Hamas has terrorized Israelis with rocket attacks from Gaza. Israel has a right to self-defense that nobody can deny.
We have consistently and unequivocally condemned attacks on Israeli civilians by Gaza-based Palestinian terrorists and supported Israel's right to defend itself in the face of such attacks. Israel has a right to self-defense and an obligation to protect its citizens from attack. This right and obligation, however, poses tremendous challenges for Israel, as demonstrated in each round of Israeli military operations against Gaza.
First, as past efforts have clearly demonstrated, Israeli military action can at best achieve short-term tactical gains in Gaza. What it cannot achieve is the destruction of Hamas, the total removal of the threat of rockets from Gaza in the future, or a resolution to what is fundamentally a political challenge, the future of the Gaza Strip – a challenge that can only be resolved through a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Second, Israeli military action in Gaza, no matter how carefully targeted, inevitably leads to large numbers of casualties among innocent Palestinian civilians, including children, and massive destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure in one of the most densely populated places in the world. Israeli statements assigning all blame to Hamas cannot prevent images of death and destruction in Gaza from being disseminated to the entire world, stoking concern and even outrage, both among anti-Israel forces and among those who are in no way anti-Israel but who object to seeing such a degree of disproportionate force being used in this manner.
Third, to the extent that Israeli military action may be able to deal a blow to Hamas, it cannot avoid at the same time strengthening more extremist forces in Gaza and, potentially, in the West Bank, where the viability of the Palestinian Authority is increasingly in doubt. Political instability within the Gaza Strip and the weakening or dissolution of the Palestinian Authority would likely result in chaos, which is definitely not in the national security interest of Israel, the United States, Egypt, or any other relevant parties.
Fourth, as military action against Gaza inevitably escalates with each round of fighting, Israel risks each time becoming bogged down in another open-ended, ill-defined mission in Gaza, increasing the dangers to Israeli soldiers and civilians alike. And open-ended military action in Gaza increases the danger that Israel could face a multi-front conflict, with the possibility of new fronts opening up in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and even along the Lebanon border.
Fifth, Israeli official statements and actions that appear to send a message that it would prefer to keep fighting in Gaza rather than change its policies (like the blockade) risk sending the world a message that Israeli is exploiting the right to self-defense to engage in a punitive campaign and pursue military adventurism. This message risks undermining the credibility of Israel’s claims that it is indeed acting in self-defense.