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Justifying the unjustifiable: How “progressive” Zionists justify Israeli war crimes

3 min read
A dense city with a pillar of black smoke in the middle, rising from a probable airstrike

It's impossible for anyone who wasn't there to imagine the extreme horror, fear & pain Israelis went through on October 7th.

This Twitter thread by Amir Tibon, a journalist at Haaretz, illuminates his experience as Hamas killers were roaming the kibbutz around his house.

Without ever detracting from the trauma Amir, his family, and a thousand other Israelis went through, this thread also shows how "progressive" Zionists like Amir justify Israeli war crimes and why they can never be a part of a just solution to the conflict.

Screenshot of a tweet by Amir Tibon that says "I don't want revenge in Gaza. I don't feel any satisfaction upon hearing that civilians are killed there now. I'm as sad as one can be over their deaths. But I know that when Hamas came into my community on that morning, it knew EXACTLY what would happen in Gaza the next day."

Amir says he doesn't want revenge and that he is sad to hear about civilian deaths in Gaza. But he immediately moves on to blame Hamas for these deaths. What we are to understand is that when an Israeli missile is launched from an Israeli plane by an Israeli soldier kills a family of innocent civilians, it's not Israel's fault.

This goes back to the idea that any Palestinian pain is never Israel’s fault. In my experience, this perspective is carried by an overwhelming majority of Zionist Jews, including "progressives".

 Screenshot of a tweet by Amir Tibon that says "Hamas declared war after several years in which successive Israeli governments looked for ways to improve the economic reality in Gaza. In my own community, we were proud to employ workers from there, paying them 10 times the average wage inside Gaza, helping them build homes."

Here, Amir proudly boasts of Israeli attempts to improve Gaza's economy, as if Israel was generous and benevolent. This is of course despite the fact that poverty in Gaza is a direct result of Israeli policy and of the blockade Israel has imposed for years.

And this is not just since the 2007 blockade. Harvard Professor Sara Roy was already saying in 1987 that Israel "de-develops" Gaza's economy: it discriminates against Gaza producers, restricts the trade allowed in and out of the Gaza Strip, prohibits the development of financial institutions necessary to economic development, etc.

Screenshot of a tweet by Amir Tibon that says "I'm the last person to claim Israel has no fault or blame in our long conflict with the Palestinians. I have written hundreds of articles against the policies of Netanyahu and his far-right allies, and in favor of a real commitment to Palestinian rights and sovereignty. But.."

Amir also falls into the classic "it's not Israel, it's Netanyahu and the far right" trope. This is a travesty of history that aims to clear Israel from any wrongdoing before Bibi: forget about the Nakba, the massacres, or the occupation. It's as if Israel's oppression of Palestinians only started in the past 15-20 years.

Screenshot of a tweet by Amir Tibon that says "What Hamas did on October 7 had nothing to do with any of this. It was a suicide mission to murder as many Israelis as possible, specifically in civilian communities, with no policy goal or endgame other than murder, torture and pain. It shut the door on improving Gaza's economy."

Here, Amir again directly links Hamas' atrocities with the collective punishment of Gazans. The use of collective punishment against Palestinians (a war crime and a moral horror) is completely normalized and accepted in Israeli society, including by progressive Zionists.

Screenshot of three tweets by Amir Tibon that say "I have my own criticism of the Israeli government's response. I don't understand what's the long-term strategy guiding our action, and I'm afraid Netanyahu, a corrupt, failed, useless man, will try to prolong the war for personal gain. But none of that changes Hamas' culpability. No country in the world would have accepted what happened to my family on that awful morning - and you must multiply it by many thousands of families. A country that doesn't kill the people who tried to murder my daughters, and those who sent them, has lost its right to exist. This hasn't changed my belief, based on a cold, calculated read of the reality, that in the long-run, we must find ways to share this land, provide measures of sovereignty to the Palestinians, protect their human rights. But first we must survive. We can't do that if we're dead."

Finally, Amir suggests that Israel, despite having one of the most advanced and technological armed forces in the world, has literally no other option than the current atrocities: Israel has to wage all out war in Gaza, no matter how many civilians die or how much destruction it creates.

Saying that to save Israeli lives, it is okay for an unlimited number of Palestinian civilians to die, no matter how many that is, is admitting to the belief that Palestinian lives are less valuable than Israeli lives.

My point here is simply that we cannot look to progressive Zionism for a path out of this conflict. Progressive Zionists may be "against settlements" and proclaim to "want peace" but they still view Palestinian lives as inherently less valuable than Israeli lives.

That the more progressive forces in Israel do not see Palestinians as equally worthy of safety and dignity in the same way Israelis deserve safety and dignity shows that no just peace can ever come from within Israel.