I am a Zionist, and so I am a Palestinian nationalist. These identities are not inconsistent: they are mutually dependent. Jewish history (the agonies and beauties of which I absorbed through listening to chanted Jewish liturgies long before I studied it formally in school) bears witness to the indignities suffered by detested minorities dependent on host countries. Jews know well what it is to need the might of a government and military to protect us. We feel that need acutely at this moment. Not only has Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proved himself incapable of providing the defence for which he had always sold himself to the Israeli electorate: since the massacre of 7 October he has prolonged this hideous war with the primary objective of perpetuating his political career despite the costs to his own people, without sparing a thought for the two million people in Gaza he is targeting.
He said last weekend that he will refuse any deal with Hamas. He did so while knowing that his army will be responsible for the deaths of some – perhaps all! – of the Israeli hostages still held in Gaza. On 5 February it was announced that another 31 had been killed. Leading Israeli security officials told Netanyahu that the only way to save the Israeli hostages is to reach an agreement with Hamas. Not only did a member of Netanyahu’s own cabinet admit this publicly, he then called for immediate elections in the face of the premier’s egregious leadership during the war. On 22 January the family members of the hostages broke into the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, holding signs that read “you will not sit here while they are dying there!” and screaming in pain and fury at the chamber’s members who have and continue to fail them. Their pain is a product of a security failure far greater than the intelligence breaches of 7 October: Israel’s disregard for the peace process has yielded this hell. Netanyahu knows that the only way to secure the safety of the Israeli people is to work with a revitalised Palestinian Authority, towards a two-state solution. He knows this, but he will never do it, because it would cost him his precious base.
And that base is loudly, thuggishly trumpeting that it would like to annex Gaza just as it is working towards total settlement of the West Bank. In late January several members of Netanyahu’s cabinet held a conference at which the security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said, “It’s a shame to wait another 19 years to understand that we need to return to Gush Katif [the Israeli settlement in Gaza that Israel pulled out of in 2005] and northern Samaria. This is the time to go home, to return to the Land of Israel, to encourage emigration” – that is, to coerce the Palestinians to leave Gaza – “for the death penalty for terrorists, this is the time to win.” And he is winning. Unfortunately for Israel, and for the safety of all its citizens – Jewish and Arab alike – Ben-Gvir’s vision of the state is ascendant.
But the blight of this dysfunctional government, the danger it places every Israeli under, is nothing like the abject hell being inflicted on the civilians in Gaza. If Netanyahu is willing to let Israeli blood flow, Hamas actively puts its own people in front of the bullets. It is a sickening injustice that they have the authority to refuse ceasefire terms on behalf of a populous that they have led to slaughter. They won an election almost a decade and a half ago after convincing the electorate that they could be depended upon for protection. That their people, barely subsisting on the food and water diminishing within Gaza, use the strength they have to protest against them is a testament to Hamas’s betrayal. Every single political authority that has ever been tasked with defending the Palestinian people has failed them. In a brazen contribution to that tradition of failures, Hamas officials recently published a justification of its massacre. That hateful document evinces many brutalities, among them Hamas’s bloodcurdling disregard for the nightmares they have invited on their own people. Indeed, Hamas officials have said that they will repeat the actions of 7 October as soon as they are given the opportunity, Palestinian civilians be damned.
There is only one way for this conflict to end. There is only one future worth investing in: a future in which the Holy Land carries two flags. Every act done in service to hastening the advent of Palestine brings Israeli children closer to a world in which they will never know the shriek of sirens or the dank darkness of a bomb shelter. Every act done to deepen the immiseration of the Palestinian people, whether by pumping Hamas with Qatari dollars or permitting this war to rage unabated, is a world in which the repetition of 7 October slinks ever closer.
Fellow Zionists, let us be wiser than we were on 6 October. Peace is no fairytale: it is the only hope we have.
[See also: Joe Biden’s lost voters]