What can Israelis learn from October 7 about the prospect of peace with Palestinians?
This is a segment from The “Things Change” Edition.
And now it is time for our first discussion.
So Allison, what, if anything, did leftists learn from the ruthlessness and inhumanity of October 7th?
So one strange fact about the Hamas massacre on October 7th is the fact that most of the approximately 1400 people who were murdered and most of the 230 people who were taken back into Gaza as hostages were and are leftists.
That’s because most of the farming villages just outside Gaza are collective settlements, kibbutzim or moshavim, and most of these collective settlements are mostly populated by people with progressive and collectivist leanings.
At kibbutz, Barry alone, more than 100 residents were murdered.
Then there was kibbutz kfarazah, holit, nir oz, nachal oz, sufa, en hash lo shah, zikim, keram shalom, niram, alumim, sad, kisufim, re’im, erez, magen, yad mordechai, miflasim, miftachim, nirim, and gavim, along with moshav, nithiv ha-sarah, yechini, moshav pregan, moshav miftachim, and moshav en ha-basol.
In the last elections in kibbutz, Barry, to take a representative sample, 35% of the vote went to labor, 16% to merits, 29% to Yay or Lapid’s Yeshah Teed party, and 13% went to Benny Gantz’s National Unity party, meaning that if the entire country voted like Barry, there would be a secular center-left coalition of 113 seats in the Knesset, with the Likud holding four seats and all the religious parties taken together holding just one.
It is true that of the 1400 murdered, 300 or so were soldiers, and 260 were people out for a good time at a peace-love and Brazilian music festival outside of kibbutz Rahim, so it’s hard to know for sure what their politics were, but you know.
Most of the people murdered were among the people most likely to favor Israel doing whatever needs to be done to achieve peace with Palestinians.
What is true of the victims is probably even more true of the hostages, who overwhelmingly come from the kibbutzim and moshavim.
Among them are some of the country’s most well-known peace activists, like Vivian Silver, who maybe because she comes from Canada, or maybe she was a founder of the revived kibbutz gazer, almost everyone we podcasters on the Promise podcast know seem to have met and have had a happy anecdote to relate about her.
She is the founder of Women Wage Peace and of an NGO called the Road to Recovery that drives sick Palestinians, mostly kids, from Gaza to Israeli hospitals and then back home again.
She was hiding in a closet on Bery, WhatsApping her goodbyes to one of her sons when she was apparently abducted and taken into Gaza.
The image of peace activists murdered in their homes or dragged out of a closet and driven into captivity in Gaza is evocative.
And maybe all the more so since reports have surfaced that one reason the Hamas thugs knew the layout of the kibbutzim they rampaged through was because the laborers from Gaza, whom they hired, were debriefed by Hamas map makers.
It was easy to worry and many people did that hiring Gazans to work in their communities is what led in the end to Gazans rising up to destroy those communities.
Some idiots posted on social media that Silver, for example, ought to stay in Gaza with her peace-loving friends and this is a story of an Israel hater who made her bed and slept in it.
Now that’s just awful, but it raises a question that a lot of people who aren’t jerks are asking.
Is what happened on October 7 somehow a disaffirmation of the worldview that guided a lot of peace activists and leftists more generally?
Does October 7 offer lessons about the chances of reaching peace with Palestinians or the advisability of Israel ceding occupied territories to the Palestinians?
Does it somehow confirm Ehud Barak’s conclusion more than two decades ago that, quote, there is no partner among Palestinians with whom it is possible to negotiate peace?
This week Haaretz and Yidiot Akronot dedicated a good part of their weekend magazines to this question and presented pretty much opposite answers.
The Haaretz essay by Shani Litman is descriptively headlined Israel peace activists who lost loved ones in the Hamas massacre stand their ground.
It tells the story of kids who lost parents and parents who lost kids, none of whom lost their belief that peace must be pursued and that Israel deserves a good deal of the blame for peace growing more distant with time, not closer.
It accounts, for example, the eulogy that Yaakov Godot delivered for his son, Tom Godot, who was murdered in his home at Kibbutz Kisufim on October 7.
Yaakov Godot said the fingers that pulled the trigger and murdered the hands that held the knives that stabbed and beheaded and slashed were the loyal and determined emissaries of the accursed messianic and corrupt government of Israel, which consists of an arch criminal accused of illegal acts and a group of entirely incompetent sink offense who lack any political vision.
At these very moments, a violent rampage of Jewish messianic terrorism is being waged to ethnically cleanse and kill Palestinian residents in villages and communities around the West Bank and the Jordan Valley backed by the army and the police.
In a more measured way, Neta Hyman Mina, a member of Kibbutz near Oz and an activist in women wage peace whose 84 year old mother Dietze Heyman is captive in Gaza, said of the impact of the ordeal she is going through that her, quote, believe that the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must be a diplomatic one, has not been undermined, it has grown stronger.
By contrast, the article in Yidiyot, but itai, Ilanae is headlined The Peace and its Shattering Camp.
It starts, quote, the horrifying videos, the many friends who were murdered, the lack of condemnation and support from abroad.
All these have led many on the Israeli left to declare over the past couple weeks that they are no longer on the left.
Like a religious man who suddenly discovers there is no God, says the Kibbutznik writer Rani Gelbisch, until the 7th of October, I thought we need to fight for peace and enter into dialogue with everyone.
Today, the only thing that is clear to me without a doubt is that Hamas must be erased.
Whoever planned and carried out these acts deserves to die.
We cannot live if these people continue to live.
The article describes how, for some people, the break came when they watched the GoPro videos that the Hamas people posted on social media of murdering children and old people and found themselves thinking, can we ever really achieve peace with people who take joy and satisfaction in murdering babies?
Ilanae asks Gelbisch, an award-winning novelist, what it feels like to come to a realization that all her years of peace activism were misguided and she answers, it is horrible.
My heart is crushed and my brain wants to go back to believing what I believed, but I feel this is dangerous.
I don’t want to have to, but I do feel that until now I have forced myself to believe things that are childish and naive.
And that brings us to our question, Dawn, what, if anything, can we learn from this pogrom on October 7th?
What can we learn about peace activism or about any kind of mainstream attitudes of the left here over the past decades, whether they were wrong, whether they’re still right?
Well, I think both articles are making good points.
So if it’s impossible for the left, for peace activists, it’s impossible for anyone to remain unaffected by what just happened.
And it would be morally and politically wrong to slough off acts of absolute evil.
There can be no contextualizing atrocities.
That’s contemptible, as are the anti-Israel protesters who didn’t protest this atrocity and now are calling for genocide against the Jews.
They have a broken moral compass.
So trying to explain how Hamas became so degraded that they would not only commit these acts, but celebrate them.
I think that’s a question that Palestinian, those who found joy in it, and those who are appalled, need to ask themselves and the left can’t ignore this either.
And we have to acknowledge that one of the two major entities leading the Palestinian cause has gone beyond the bounds of civilized behavior.
So the calls to destroy them, to treat them like ISIS, are legitimate.
And I think the left has to acknowledge that the Palestinian cause has always been tarnished by the ethos that murdering civilians is a legitimate form of resistance.
And this maybe now is its apotheosis.
And that’s something the left also has to press to end once and for all.
But most leftists I know are not now and never were naive or Pollyanna-ish, like the people quoted in one of those articles.
And we’re always well aware that there were violent and despicable elements in the Palestinian resistance camp.
And so at the same time, all those people are saying, we told you so, also have to recognize that Hamas does not represent all or even most Palestinians.
And they tyrannize their own people.
I mean, Palestinians in the West Bank and Palestinian citizens of Israel, I know, are afraid of reprisals from Hamas right now.
Nobody’s willing to speak out because they’re afraid they’ll get clobbered by the Jews or by Hamas activists who know who they are.
And at the same time, we’ve seen amazing acts of kindness and generosity and sympathy from Palestinian citizens of Israel who are also Palestinians.
So, you know, I think we have to look for the good at such times of absolute evil and such awful things.
You know, in the political case, I think the desire for peace should be stronger than ever, but it can’t be framed only in terms of justice or fairness.
And the weakness of the case that the left has been making since the second intifada, I would say, has been that we have not offered a compelling alternative that would guarantee our personal security.
And we’ve treated opponents of the peace process, especially the majority of Israelis in the middle, who had tentatively signed on to give peace a chance under Rabin, but then felt betrayed by the suicide bus bombings in the 90s and the second intifada of the 2000s.
Treating those people as Neanderthal reactionaries, I think, has been a continuous mistake.
I mean, most people who gave up our peace were making a reasonable calculation.
Why take more risks?
Why put myself and my family in greater danger in order to let Palestinians fulfill their national aspirations?
Better to keep them weak and divided.
Now, I think that’s led us to a disastrous situation.
And now we’ve seen an absolute horrific, horrific expression.
But the left has to change its vision, its strategy, its tactics, and recognize what just happened and change how we present our vision.
Precisely now, in the face of such evil, we have to remind ourselves what’s good in life and ask the hard questions about where this rage came from.
How could the conditions be created that so many Palestinians, despite suffering themselves, do not see Jews as human beings, are Palestinians anti-Semitic?
Is there a partner for peace in the Palestinian Authority?
How do we move forward?
You know, I think what we’ve seen now is the conflict can’t be managed.
That idea should now be off the table and Palestinian aspirations can’t be swept under the rug.
But how do we move forward?
I think the desire to move forward now should be stronger than ever to find some resolution to this conflict.
Yeah, everything you said.
I’ve been asking myself whether what happened on October 7, in any way, shakes my belief in say, the two state solution, the fact that there has to be a Palestinian state or that there has to be some humane solution to the Palestinian problem or at minimum, some end of the occupation.
And I don’t see, I don’t learn anything from what happened that makes me cast any doubt on my conviction that the occupation has to end.
I don’t, neither do I find, like some people find, some reinforcement for the belief that it must end.
I really don’t learn anything about it from what happened on October 7.
A couple of things that I do learn myself are one is that I kind of bought into the argument that if you give an organization like Hamas responsibility, if you allow them to continue to have responsibility for all the civilians in Gaza, and you make them into civil leaders as well as military leaders, that it will have the impact of making them more concerned about day to day life, which in some way over long years, will make them less likely to be committed to just killing Israeli Jews and destroying Israel.
And I think that I was just wrong about that.
That was Netanyahu’s logic.
And it was the logic of a lot of people.
And I completely, and it was the logic of a lot of people on the left, too, I think, certainly me.
And I think that that’s just not true.
I think that Hamas is more committed to a hateful ideology than, than I imagined.
And I had this image of like, people are all people.
And in the end, when you, when you make people responsible for running daycares, then it softens them.
And I don’t think that anymore.
That I learned maybe from October 7.
And I think that I also, though I was pretty damn cynical about it beforehand, I still learn something, I think, about the, about the worldwide left, the I think that I just think that the the ridiculous, heartless simplicity and cruelty that a lot of people on the left displayed is just, just makes me realize that I underestimated the degree to which they are unreliable as, as fellow travelers, they’re people whose moral judgment means nothing to me.
Where I think before on October 6, maybe it meant a little to me, those 222 Columbia professors who signed that letter this past week, for instance.
Those are the only two things that I think that I learned, I’m like overwhelmed with sadness and, and, and worry and all sorts of things.
But I don’t think that I’m, I don’t think that I’ve gotten any smarter.
And I don’t think that I’ve, and I don’t think my, my, my views about peace with the Palestinian people, I think that the I don’t think I’ve changed in that.
I think that the only real possible solution is a diplomatic solution.
But of course, diplomatic solutions have to come, I guess now I believe out of a real military victory, defeat, humiliation, whatever you want to call it, you know, how did Nazi Germany come to the table?
They were smashed.
Many of their civilians were killed.
It’s very interesting to see the comparison of how many German civilians died in World War II.
German civilians died in World War II, you know, versus when people are looking at body counts for who’s right and who’s wrong.
And I think—I’m thinking sometimes about the nuclear bomb and Hiroshima and people making those calculations.
Was it worth it, you know, that whole dilemma of how many lives were saved by all of those lives who were destroyed?
I mean, I don’t know if it’s a leftist or not leftist thought or concept that I guess has been changed by October 7th, but I felt and, you know, have been reporting or observing or pundit-ing that Israel moved from dreaming about peace like we had in the, you know, 80s and 90s and, you know, peaking with the Oslo process to feeling like, yeah, we’re not going to get rid of this conflict, so we’re going to manage the conflict and that conflicts can be managed and that you can have someone living next door to you like Hamas who declares that they want to kill you and they want to destroy you and they want you to be eliminated and you listen to rhetoric and you think, yeah, yeah, yeah, but you know, behind the scenes, you know, people are talking and, you know, making deals and that conflict can be met.
And we have a fancy electronic fence that could never be breached.
Well, you know, aside from those screw-ups, but just the concept that someone can stand there and say to your face, I want you dead, I want you eliminated, I want you gone.
And yet at the same time, you can live next door to them and manage that conflict.
And I think for me, and I don’t know if you want to call it a leftist illusion that was shattered or just an illusion that was shattered, you have to, I guess, believe people who say that they want you gone dead and eliminated and you can’t, you know, live next to them next door in a semi-neighborly yet hostile way where people go in and they work and, you know, there’s back and forth and there’s trade and you provide them with this and they provide you with that.
And you know, I don’t want to sound heartless and like the people are like, we shouldn’t give them electricity and we shouldn’t allow them water.
Look, it’s very complicated because we know that the residents of Gaza are tyrannized by Hamas and they’re also afraid because Hamas kills them, kills people who oppose them.
We also know they have support.
They have support in the West Bank.
They have support among Gazans in different Poles, 30%, 40% more support in the West Bank than in Gaza.
You know, so I think militarily everything has to change and the idea of managing the conflict should now be canceled and we need to, we have to approach this completely differently.
What gives me hope, and you mentioned Germany, Japan after the war.
I looked at it today and I say, you know, if the United States, if the United Kingdom of France can all be allies of Germany and Japan today after World War II and after the atrocities, which, you know, are vastly, you know, greater than what we just went through.
We had one horrific day.
Anything is possible.
I will put the caveat that Germany after World War II was still run by Nazis.
You know, it took a generation, at least one generation for that to change, you know, until those people died out or, you know, people with different views took power and started to educate the next generation to reject those views.
Germany in 1946 was not Germany of today, but it happened.
It became a completely different society.
Japan rejected its imperialist past, you know, except for, you know, a small group of extremists and created an entire new culture.
Now, it’s also true that allies stayed in those countries for 10 years.
You know, it wasn’t just a handover and reconstructed everything.
We’re a tiny country.
They have a sizable population.
I don’t know of anything comparable as possible here.
In the Middle East is not Europe or Asia.