Ethical Problem For Left

Karl Liebknecht to Ben Arad

Yorgos Mitralias

The revelation of the enormous ethical problem caused to the international left by the Russian war in Ukraine and the Israeli war in Gaza, is shaking it to such an extent that it is losing its internationalist and humanist compass, in other words, its very raison d'ĂȘtre! With the inevitable and nightmarish consequence to pave the way to the more or less fascist international far right!

Ethical deficit is evident in the attitude of many on the Left to Israel's genocidal war against the Palestinian people. And the unfortunate thing is that this problem has taken on enormous dimensions in Israel and the Diaspora. That is, precisely where the Left could and should play a decisive role in the struggle for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza and the occupied territories, as well as in supporting the Palestinians and their right to life and freedom.

This is a tragic and at the same time catastrophic development, similar to that which forever marked the international left in the week following the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914: the same withdrawal, literally overnight, of the vast majority of people on the Left in defence of their nation-state, the same demonstration of exacerbated patriotism, the same rallying to the armed defenders of the fatherland, and the same betrayal of the oaths of eternal fidelity to internationalist and humanist principles that some had been accustomed to making for decades.

It's no coincidence that in an article emblematic of this attitude, written by a well-known left-wing journalist, entitled "Israel is at a critical crossroads", published on April 2 by a Greek business daily, Israel's present and future are mentioned without the slightest reference and without a single word (!) being devoted to the destruction of Gaza and its tens of thousands of dead civilians! As if all this not only didn't concern Israel, which provoked it and continues to do so, but didn't have a crucial impact on its own present and future! And what's more, the same article seems to be suffering from a sudden loss of memory, as it repeats that all the suffering began exclusively... on October 7 with the Hamas terrorist attack, as if the 76-year occupation of Palestinian land and the daily inhuman oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli state, which denies them the most basic democratic rights and freedoms, had never happened.

But there's also something serious enough to go unnoticed, which differentiates the current betrayals from the - alas, very many - past betrayals of internationalist and humanist oaths by the Left and people on the Left. Indeed, unlike in the past, no one can now say that they didn't know and didn't see the daily display of barbarity by their own state, in order to justify their attitude. From now on, all systematic and planned "patriotic" atrocities are broadcast "live", and no-one can hide behind alleged ignorance of the incredible suffering inflicted on Ukrainians, and even more so on Palestinian civilians.

Just as, moreover, none of the Israeli and diasporic leftists can justify their attitude by hiding behind the crimes of Hamas and invoking the absence of an alternative, when even the Israeli media can no longer keep quiet and evoke the case of at least one Israeli who, like another Karl Liebknecht in faraway Berlin in August 1914, publicly protests, even alone, against the so sad and frightening warmongering "national unity" of his compatriots. This is the courageous young Israeli internationalist Ben Arad, who is in fact saving the honour of the entire Israeli and international left, by publicly declaring that he chooses to go to prison here and now rather than perform his compulsory military service in an Israeli army distinguished by its genocidal operations and countless war crimes! (1) And of course, it's no coincidence that Ben Arad willingly assumes the label of "traitor" that his compatriots have not failed to hurl at him, nor that on his balcony flies not the national flag with blue the Star of David, but the red flag once waved by so many great Jewish internationalist revolutionaries...

But in reality, it is the international left as a whole that is shaken by a major ethical crisis, as it is divided into two camps characterised by their symmetrical amoralism: that of the supporters of the Ukrainian resistance who do not support the Palestinian resistance. And those who support the Palestinians but refuse to support the Ukrainians. The consequences of this situation are obvious and predictable: a total lack of credibility and the inevitable bankruptcy of the Left, which keeps applying double standards, despite the fact that the wars of extermination launched by Putin's Russia and Netanyahu's Israel against the Ukrainian and Palestinian peoples have far more similarities than differences. After all, Russia's Foreign Minister and Putin's right-hand man, Sergei Lavrov, would not contradict this stand when he insists categorically that"Israel pursues similar objectives to Russia", since it is doing in Gaza what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

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Vol 56, No. 44, Apr 28 - May 4, 2024