Critiquing Israel and Zionism Without Indifference to the Pain of October 7

Multiple things can be true at the same time, and it’s important to say so

Tim Wise
ZORA
Published in
9 min readOct 29, 2023

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Photo from Palestinian side of the “security fence” in Bethlehem, Neil Ward, Flickr, used under Creative Commons license 2.0

Let me state this clearly.

I have been and will continue to be a critic of Israel and Zionism itself.

I believe critiquing both is my ethical obligation as a Jew, for reasons I’ve written about and spoken about for decades. I reject ethnic and/or religious nationalism on principle and will make no exceptions for a group to which I belong, for there are no principled reasons to do so.

I believe the bombardment of Gaza and the shutting off of food, water, and electricity by Israeli authorities, which is producing an ever-increasing death toll, are moral abominations — as has been the treatment of Gaza for generations, and the occupation of the West Bank.

That said, it is also true that much rhetoric and action within the Palestinian solidarity movement since October 7 when Hamas murdered 1,400 people in Southern Israel and kidnapped hundreds more is morally grotesque and so strategically inept as to boggle the imagination.

It is important that those of us who are critics of Israel and who have a principled opposition to Zionism distance ourselves from the irresponsible, unthinking, and often anti-Semitic in our ranks.

And this is true whether you believe this contingent to be a small minority or a substantial cadre within the solidarity movement.

It is possible to hold fast to our criticisms of both Israel and the philosophy underpinning it without making alliances with Hamas apologists and those who rationalize killing children in the name of decolonization.

It is even possible to understand why marginalized peoples lash out violently in such a horrific manner, as a predictable reaction to trauma, while still condemning the action as unacceptable.

It is possible to hold fast to our criticisms of Israel and the political philosophy underpinning it without making alliances with Hamas apologists, and those who rationalize killing children…

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Tim Wise
ZORA
Writer for

Anti-racism educator and author of 9 books, including White Like Me and, most recently, Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020)