Now What? Reflections on Israel and the Palestinians


I was six years old. As dawn transitioned into daylight I came up to the top deck of the Marine Carp, a World War 2 freighter now outfitted for passenger travel. We left a New Jersey pier a few weeks earlier. Through the morning’s haze I saw land. It was 1949 and this was not just any land, it was The Promised Land and we had come to live in the new state of Israel. 

In 1912, my maternal grandfather, Benjamin Malamud, like many young Russian Jews inspired by the modern Zionist movement of the late-19th century made the perilous journey from his shtetl in Ukraine to Ottoman-ruled Palestine.  He left in Ukraine his wife and young daughter, my mother, planning to bring them once he had established a new life in Israel. His stay was not long.

As a Russian citizen, a dubious honor for Jews, he was considered an enemy alien by the Turks once World War 1 began, so he and other young Russians were summarily deported. Benjamin made his way to the New World city of New York where his wife and child eventually joined him after a harrowing trip across Europe. America became their new Promised Land.

I was born into a family steeped in Zionism and the dream of a Jewish homeland. From the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 until the dawn of the 21st century members of my family lived there at different times. Over my life I have witnessed a doughty little country born after the fires of the Holocaust become a pariah now itself accused of genocide. 

It’s a painful and perilous time to be a Jew with a strong emotional attachment to Israel. This in no way tempers my horror with the slaughter taking place in Gaza. Nothing can justify the killing of thousands of civilians nor the starvation of many others in a war of retribution against an implacable foe. Nor do I believe that any justification exists, certainly not as “an act of armed resistance” as some have called it, for the savage October 7 attack by Hamas slaughtering civilians and taking many hostages. 

As an adult I have always supported a two-state solution.  I deplore the horrendous Israeli treatment of Palestinians on the West Bank. I condemn Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition and the violent settler youth. I believe that the greatest dangers to Israel are its twin existential crises: the internal challenges it faces as a democratic state, and the ongoing failure to reckon with the Palestinian question. Solutions for the latter have been tried and failed. Who will now speak for the Palestinian people and who will speak for Israel in any future negotiations?

It’s easy for its detractors to hold Israel responsible for all the ills of the Middle East. It’s easy to say that the Palestinians and the Arab states have missed opportunities to achieve some settlement. There is more than enough blame to go around, and it is fruitless to continue to argue who is at fault. Constantly invoking the grievances of the past only creates impediments to the future. 

At the signing of the Oslo Accords at the White House in 1993, Yitzchak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister, spoke of his difficulty in entering into this agreement but stressed it needed to be done for the future of his country and its children. Yasser Arafat, a man without a country, offered a litany of the horrors that the creation of Israel imposed on his people. The burden of history is a heavy weight yet one difficult to abandon.

For the great majority of American Jews of my generation, Israel was a touchstone, an affirmation of who we were and where we came from, a symbol of our continued existence. Not all of us believed in the validity or wisdom of the Zionist enterprise but still we looked on its survival and its accomplishments with pride. 

Much of the rest of the world, including left-wing progressives in the West, don’t see it that way. To them Israel is a colonial outpost in the sea of the Arab Middle East, a creation of the imperial West that represses, disenfranchises, and murders innocent Palestinians and denies them legitimate rights to their homeland. What perplexes me is exactly what and who is being attacked. Is it the government of Israel, the Jewish population of Israel, Israel’s right to exist, those who identify as Zionists, or Jews in general?

I don’t believe support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement or being harshly critical of Israel’s policies is inherently antisemitic. Many Jews, especially young ones, line-up on this side. I don’t think they are self-hating Hebrews. At their age the Holocaust and the creation of Israel, events that defined my experience, are ancient history. They are far more concerned with issues of racial justice, diversity, inclusion, and the future of this earth.

With the Gaza war this line has been increasingly blurred. Jews are now targets, whatever their sentiments about Israel and her policies.  When pro-Palestinian demonstrators shout “from the river to the sea” this is seen by many as a rallying cry for the extinction of Israel. Spokespeople for the cause rationalize it as a generalized call for Palestinian rights, but Israelis and many Jews feel, with reason, that it is something far different; a call to drive the Jews into the sea.

There has long been a double standard about Israel from the international community especially starting after the 1967 war when Israel occupied chunks of formerly Arab lands — Gaza, Sinai, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank. Most notable was the notorious “Zionism as Racism” resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1975. From 2015 through 2023 this body adopted 140 resolutions critical of Israel. In that same time period it passed 68 resolutions critical of all other nations combined — this from UN Watch, a pro-Israel organization.

Perhaps it is easier for the UN to censure what they perceive as a nation with a majority population of Europeans, interlopers in the Middle East. This was true in the early years of Israel’s founding though currently more than half the Israeli Jewish population (20% of the country is Muslim) is Mizrahi – those with their ancestry in Arab or non-European lands. 

Israel has been accused of being an apartheid state, clearly referring to South Africa. There is truth to this, as with the charges of colonialism. There is also a long list of nations worthy of such censure, east and west, yet none has received the same widespread and continuing opprobrium as Israel.

This includes Syria, where the Assad regime has murdered hundreds of thousands of its citizens; China’s continuing eradication of Muslim Uygur (and Tibetan) culture, including mass incarceration in what many observers describe as concentration camps; the repression of Rohingya people, essentially now stateless, by the Myanmar military; Sudan’s eradication of half a million or more people in Darfur; Indonesia’s on-going war against the independence movement of Irian Jaya; or the repression of Afghanistan’s girls and women by the Taliban. And lest we forget, the building of much of America by enslaved people and the dispossession and near extinction of its indigenous population.

I was on a bus years ago in Seattle and wearing a t-shirt with Hebrew on it. A man demanded of me, “aren’t you ashamed?” I was not. Shomrim HaAdamah means “protectors of the earth.” It was a Jewish American organization created to advance environmental awareness. The shirt was a gift to me by a friend who was a farmer in Maryland.

I am familiar with the classic and newly minted signs of antisemitism, some of which I have had the experience of personally encountering: killed Christ; money grubbers; control the world’s finances, media, and Hollywood; too loud; complain too much; claim victimhood; need the blood of Christian children for Passover matzoh; have horns; pushy; the orchestrators of replacing American Christian whites with immigrants of color; all Jews and all Israelis opposed to Palestinian rights; and using the Rothschild family’s vast resources to employ lasers from space to start forest fires. 

Why the preoccupation with Israel even before Gaza by so many nations, the same with the so-called progressive left in the USA and Europe? One answer may be that so much more was and is expected from Jews and by extension Israel — people who have historically experienced so much pain at the hands of others. How could these people visit the same on the Palestinians? Doesn’t the Book of Isaiah tell the Hebrews to be “a light unto the nations”?

Another way to think about it is this: to many of what used to be identified as “non-aligned countries” or the “Third World,” Israel might appear a vestige of a colonial past – Western people subduing non-Western ones. Zionism, the founding principle for Israel’s rebirth, was no longer seen, as it once was, as a national identity movement to re-establish a homeland for the Jewish people. The revisionist view became Israel as an anachronism practicing its own form of colonialism, apartheid, even ethnic cleansing. This view is reinforced in Arab and Muslim lands where many see Israel and the Jews as an alien form within the body of Islam.

Because the United States has become identified as Israel’s protector and funder, attacking Israel is also shorthand to do the same to the Great Satan. Or maybe it’s just easier to pick on a small target, whose majority population you don’t care for in the first place whether in Israel or not. None of this, of course, excuses Israel for its terrible behavior towards Palestinians and the madness of its expansionist ambitions.

What would I like to see happen now?  Stop the killing in Gaza and feed the people. Release all the hostages. Get rid of Hamas and replace it with an interim government linked to the West Bank and backed by a Pan-Arab peace force.  Send Netanyahu and his right-wing cronies into retirement and elect a moderate government that is willing to enter into peace talks.

The US and Arab countries with diplomatic relations must play a stronger role in pushing for change. I suspect the Gulf states, Jordan, and Egypt would like to see Hamas gone. Curb the violent settler movement. Israelis can no longer, especially after Gaza, live in a bubble with walls, technology, and their armed forces sealing them off from the despair that surrounds them. The occupation has corrupted the youth of both countries and hardened their hearts towards each other. 

Hamas will not disband or give up power easily even in its diminished condition.  The Palestinian Authority is a moribund organization that seems to be barely functioning and has lost much of its credibility among Palestinians on the West Bank. Who then will be a partner for peace? What mischief will Iran and her clients like Syria and Hezbollah engage in? Will a strong Israeli leader emerge from the baroque politics of Israel once Netanyahu goes? 

Israel may be in worse condition than seems apparent. It may be more or less united at the moment by being at war, but this will not last. How damaging will be the upcoming battle to de-throne Netanyahu and the right-wing? How damaging to Israel’s military and government will be the reckoning for the overconfidence and incompetence that allowed the October 7 attacks? The country seems at a stalemate, split between those who are hawks and those more dovish. Confidence in governing institutions has been seriously undermined by October 7 and the hostage situation. The battle over reforms to the Israeli Supreme Court that split the country before Gaza is framed by larger questions of the future of Israeli democracy. 

The Haredim, the ultra-orthodox, demand all sorts of concessions to join a government coalition. They are a drag on the economy as half or more live in poverty receiving government services other Israelis don’t, almost half the men are unemployed choosing study over employment and a secular education, and many are exempt from serving in the military. Their percent of the population is growing. 

For decades there has been an exodus of Israeli Jews to other countries, many well-educated and highly talented, upwards of a million people or more. I expect that may increase even if some accommodations are made with the Palestinians. The Abraham Accords — a business deal that did nothing for the Palestinians but make Jared Kushner even richer — are at a standstill. Most significantly, Israel may no longer be able to count on the huge military and economic support it receives each year from the United States.

Many years ago I thought that if only the Arabs would leave Israel alone, the country would fall apart from its own internal contradictions.  Or as the old joke goes, if there were only two Jews left on earth, they still wouldn’t go to the same synagogue. 

So I’m not an optimist about all of this. But who knows? Don’t expect too much and you might get more than you expected. 

Spider Kedelsky
Spider Kedelsky
Spider Kedelsky is a former choreographer, performing arts producer, and a co-founder of Town Hall Seattle.


  1. Thank you for such an honest and thorough assessment of a conflict that cannot be easily analyzed. I wanted to write this for Post Alley but I am glad I waited until someone with your personal perspective did it so well. CJW

  2. Isn’t Netanyahu under indictment for corruption and other charges? That could be one reason for his Ahab-like obsession on the Gaza war, that the longer it goes on, the longer he can postpone a trial.

    I personally think that the Middle East will be much better off without both Hamas and Netanyahu. I just hope that their replacements won’t be even worse for peace.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments Policy

Please be respectful. No personal attacks. Your comment should add something to the topic discussion or it will not be published. All comments are reviewed before being published. Comments are the opinions of their contributors and not those of Post alley or its editors.