A left wing worth fighting for (on Israel)

So previously, I touched on conflict about Israel in the left. And specifically how it was affecting me. I miss being scrappy, knowing I’m on the right side, and moving quickly and decisively. It’s quite different than managing a nonprofit organization.

So, out of that, a few of us started thinking about what a concrete path forward would be. Charles, Danny, and I already have had connections with a great organization, Standing Together. But we also wanted to broaden beyond just one organization.

Charles, especially, took the lead. (I was hanging with Sarah’s family in New Jersey, then at a beautiful wedding of a good friend).

We made an emergency event for people on the left in the US and west to actually hear from people on the left in Israel. Jews and Arabs, in partnership.

I think the israeli left (both jews and arabs/palestinians) is the most politically advanced group on this issue in the world. They have good values, and also are connected to actual events and people — this isn’t theoretical for them, and not a place to actually talk about something else via metaphor. (The non-israeli palestinian left seems to have been murdered by hamas). Some of what they say, I just flat out disagree with. But also — all of them clearly are good people who share my values. Even if they come to different conclusions.

In 48 hours, we went from pulling the trigger to actually doing the event. Zoom can only hold 500 people — exactly 501 people were in the zoom room, and I think hundreds of others registered but couldn’t get in. I’m proud of it.

I helped kickstart it, wrote much of the text of the event invite, and did behind-the-scenes Q&A moderation and synthesization during the event.

Here’s the recording:

Here’s how I talked about it:

I and a few folks have been setting up something that we think is timely, relevant, and frankly an important intervention in the discourse.

In short — the actual israeli left exists! They’re thoughtful, they’re kind, they’re an arab-jewish partnership, and they have a perspective on things that is neither “bombings good” nor “murder is actually social justice”. I’ve been following them for years.

A few of us created an emergency event around them. We don’t have an organizational affiliation. We’re not trying to build a list out of it. Literally, this is 100% about impact and offering an alternative and a path forward

(tweets by me, and also adapted from text of emails I sent)

And here’s some of the text of the google doc invite that I had a hand in:

In the face of multiple tragedies on the ground in Israel and Gaza, it may seem like our space for hope is narrowing. It may seem like the agenda for a truly international, values-aligned left is calcifying into something strange. We have good news. There is hope. 

For the last few years, Israel/Palestine has been witnessing a new movement of Palestinian-Jewish partnership truly anchored in our shared values. Some amazing work is happening, in particular bi-national teams showing presence in mixed cities and neighborhoods, to prevent the eruption of right wing violence and visibly assert the full equality and citizenship of Palestinian Israelis, who are under threat. This joint left is also demanding that the Netanyahu government prioritize freeing the hostages, instead of the savage brutality inflicted on Gazans, mostly innocent civilians.

On this call we will hear from people on the frontlines of organizing. What they have to say is as important as how they say it. Join us; lighting a candle is better than cursing the darkness.

Many friends of mine went. I was, honestly, too busy running the event to really synthesize it. But the friends said great things. Like:

I really appreciated Sally’s point at the end that I’m heavily paraphrasing here: “a lot of the academic movements abroad for Palestinian liberation are very theoretical. They need to be more connected to reality on the ground, hold the humanity of Jewish Israelis, work together to build political capital.”

and Yael’s also heavily paraphrasing: “we are intertwined, from the river to the sea. And nobody is going anywhere. Yes this is a settler colony of refugees. We need to stop the killing and bring back the hostages. There is no military solution. We need a political solution.”

I’m not sure I agree with everything the invite even said. Or the speakers. Or their choice emphasis. I’m not sure where I fall, overall: I like what Yair Lapid is saying. But also I like what Ayman Odeh is saying. I like what Bernie is saying. I like what Biden has been saying.

But I do know this: an international left that actually stands up for its values — values I share — would sound a lot more like Sally Abed and Uri Weltmann and Charles Lenchner (and even Yael Berda and Kefah Abukhdeir, who I know less) than the horrific display I saw on October 7th and 8th.

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.


You’re telling me my funeral is inconvenient for your activism

There’s been some drama on a big listserv I’m on. It’s been hard, because I both value the community there, and I see it as a synedoche of the broader left. I’ve been processing it with a few other people who are similarly outraged.

Micah Sifry has been a particularly public, yet oblique, commenter and synthesizer on this.

First he wrote: What Israel/Palestine ‘Hot Takes’ Have Revealed: From the center, to liberals and the left, blind spots and callous calls. And a deep schism inside the progressive movement.

Then No Place to Stand: How pro-Palestinian, “anti-colonial” progressives are painting themselves into a corner, and damaging the prospects for a left that matters in American politics.

Lastly, he quoted me directly in “Your funeral is inconvenient for my activism”: On the weaponization of “genocide,” polarization on the center-left over Israel-Gaza, and the still necessary work of building Israeli-Palestinian co-existence.

To that last, I want to be clear — I have felt that others have told me that the funeral and grief I’m feeling are inconvenient to their activism. Not the other way around.

Regarding that drama — something good came out of it. More on that in a bit, but here’s a sneak preview.