Why True Progressives Should Support Israel
There appears to be a concerning trend, especially on university campuses, of universal condemnation of Israel within the progressive community — all because of a supposed disconnect between the Jewish state and progressive values. This rhetoric often involves criticism of the IDF for defending Israeli citizens against violence and terrorism. But looking at the situation empirically shows that Israel actively promotes a multitude of progressive values, which is why Israel must remain a multi-partisan issue on campus.
For instance, some progressives emphasize ecological sustainability and the need to address climate change. It’s worth noting that Israel’s enemies don’t show the same care for environmental protection; the ongoing riots at the Gaza-Israel border have seen endless “tires set ablaze,” which releases tons of harsh toxins into the air. Aside from the fact that burning tires serves as cover for violent attacks on Israel, how can progressives ignore the ecological damage that is also done? Progressive students should instead recognize that Israel works to protect nature and to promote sustainability through inventions like drip irrigation technology. Have Israel’s enemies and detractors taken any similar initiative?
Furthermore, from its conception, Israel has been a beacon of feminism. Many powerful women have blossomed in Israeli society. Just two examples are Golda Meir, who became Israel’s first female prime minister, and Dorit Beinisch, who served as Israel’s first female president of the Supreme Court. Feminism has also flourished in contemporary Israeli pop culture, as seen by the remarkable success of songs such as Netta Barzilai’s “Toy.” When discussing the song, the singer cited the #MeToo movement as her inspiration. Her song crossed international borders after winning the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest.
Furthermore, in a show of solidarity with Palestinian women, the Israeli organization Women Wage Peace has organized collaborative women’s marches in which Israeli and Palestinian women demonstrate together, demanding a peace deal between their governments. This civic action reminds us that when women speak up, even two tension-filled communities can come together under a common cause of peace.
In addition to recognizing these advances, progressive students should join the fight against oppressive Palestinian policies against women and homosexuals in Gaza at the hands of the extremist Hamas regime. Measures against women there — and in the West Bank — include severe restrictions on allowing women to play sports and make decisions independent of their male relatives. Furthermore, Palestinian leaders often allow and tolerate honor killings of Palestinian women. Similarly, homosexuality in Gaza is criminalized, and gay people have been thrown from rooftops.
Last, but definitely not least, Israeli initiatives such as Save a Child’s Heart have exhibited the Jewish state’s willingness to help all people around the world — including its enemies. The aforementioned project has helped children with heart conditions from 58 developing countries by offering them free heart surgeries, including “more than 2000 [youth] from the West Bank and Gaza.” Save a Child’s Heart has also taken in children from Iraq, Syria, Latin America, and several African countries. These and other humanitarian efforts — such as providing aid to Syrian war victims and Palestinians (even those who have tried to harm Israelis) — show that Israel promotes and works towards peaceful coexistence.
The progressive idea of helping oppressed minorities drove Jews and the international community to embrace Zionism, which, by simple definition, is the call for “the re-establishment … development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.” After several millennia of persecution, assimilation, and genocide, the Jewish people have returned to their historic homeland, offering a safe haven for their constantly threatened community. The progressive origins of the world’s only Jewish state, coupled with its desire of moving the world forward, shows that progressivism and support for Israel are completely compatible.
Gershon Tsirulnikov is currently studying political science in his second year at the University of Ottawa. He is a fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle Eastern Reporting in America (CAMERA).