Being left behind by the left

By Bradley Laye

I have many friends on the political left, which, as most folks know, is where I am generally comfortable. I believe in human rights, civil rights, equality and fairness and I generally accept the idea that government has a role to play providing for the neediest among us, ultimately benefiting all of society. Of late, I have admittedly felt more and more isolated and abandoned by the end of the spectrum where I live. To those many friends, I want to ask you to sincerely consider your relationship with the Jewish community, with the democratic and liberal state of Israel (even despite the current and temporary administration) and with me. Imagine looking into a mirror first and then out a window to examine your own beliefs and that of your cohorts and ask:

1. Have I been posting and promoting the idea of a ceasefire while having been silent about Oct. 7 — the kidnapping of civilian hostages by Hamas, rapes and sexual assaults of Israeli women by Hamas and the killing and mutilation of Israeli children by Hamas?

2. In calling for a ceasefire, did I ever consider demanding that Hamas surrender and release the hostages to end the war?

3. Did I know that both last week and this week, Hamas rejected a ceasefire in exchange for hostages?

4. Have I voiced dismay against those seeking to hurt my Jewish friends? Am I supporting my Jewish friends and colleagues as the target of many of those supporting Hamas in the United States who are targeting Jewish businesses, organizations and places of worship?

5. Did I do even a cursory amount of research to understand the broad strokes of the history that has led us to where we are and have been vis-à-vis Israel/Palestine?

6. Do I understand the difference between support and sympathy for the Palestinian people (including the combined millions living in oppression in Jordan and Lebanon) and tacit support for the terrorist organization Hamas?

7. I believe in intersectionality to advance causes that are politically aligned toward a liberal and legally fair society. Have I examined the liberal and generally fair nature of Israel (flaws there are many) versus Hamas’ rule in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority rule in the West Bank? Does my support of Gaza really align with my values? If Hamas were to win this war and continue to rule Gaza, would their government and laws reflect my values?

8. Have I asked a progressive supporter of Israel how best to express my concern for Palestinian civilians living in Gaza while not attacking Israel or Jews or encouraging antisemitic behavior in the U.S.?

9. Do I understand allyship as a partnership where our shared values allow us to support one another rather than counting on one side regardless and then backing away when that allyship becomes complicated or uncomfortable?

I believe there will be extraordinary consequences between the mainstream (overwhelmingly progressive) Jewish community and the organizations on the left going forward that will take a very long time to repair. Allow me to shut down any idea that somehow, politically left-leaning Jews should abandon our values and decide to become political conservatives. Rather, we will live in this discomfort until we can figure out how to create or recreate politically appropriate spaces for ourselves. This includes the cessation of historical support (financial, volunteerism and advocacy) for organizations that were closely held as important and meaningful.

I could not be prouder of the Biden administration’s and the overwhelmingly bipartisan congressional support for Israel. Sadly, Israel has been used as a wedge issue to divide the two parties, but the support of Israel has held strong.

Finally, just to provide some relief, please know that the issues facing the region and particularly Israel, the Palestinians and Israel’s neighbors are ridiculously complicated and deep. While one need not be an expert to feel a certain way or to care about the people affected by the conflict, it’s also OK to ask someone who may know more, to qualify your feelings as just that rather than express a political or historical opinion or to do some good old-fashioned research (TikTok, memes and social media do not count as research).

Israel/Palestinians/Iran/Gulf States relationship status: It’s complicated. Let’s talk.

Bradley Laye is the past president and CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. He currently lives in expat bliss in Cuenca, Ecuador. This op-ed appeared originally as a Facebook post on his page and his reprinted with permission.

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