(This is the second article of the On Zionism series.)
True to my Euro-leftie roots, especially someone whose political consciousness was formed after the Camp David Accords (i.e., after all serious existential threats to Israel had been extinguished), watching the 1982 Lebanon war and the Sabra and Chatilla massacres I grew up with no empathy or real understanding of the Israeli perspective, an attitude that was cemented by a hapless visiting Israeli’s attempt justify to our sixth form the 1982 invasion of Lebanon immediately after the camp massacres.
This lack of empathy for Israelis is something that held sway until I came across Seth Freedman’s articles on Comment is free. Seth grew up in London (Hampstead Garden Suburb) and moved to Israel, serving in the IDF between 2004 and 2006, but is now living in Jerusalem and seemingly spending a fair amount of his time in the occupied territories engaging with Palestinians, writing about his experiences and making sense of his Zionism. It is fearless, intelligent and compassionate writing—rare indeed, especially on such a charged topic. And writing the article is only the beginning, Seth, like many writers on Cif, engaging in robust debate with his commentators.
It was Seth’s compassionate engagement with the Palestinians (e.g., his latest article, The continuing catastrophe) allied to his own grappling with his commitment to a fair and just Jewish state (e.g., Self-help for self-haters) that caused the penny to drop for me. There was no way on earth that I could justify opposition to such a reasonable aspiration, especially given the horrible history of European Jewish persecution.
Next: The Great Hypocrisy