The Western moderate left is associated with certain values, in no particular order and with no claim of completeness or nuance: social mobility, personal freedom, safety net, secularism, humanism, religious tolerance, racial equality, sexual inclusiveness, anti-jingoism, pro-immigration, multi-culturalism.

It seems to me that the Israelis score much better on virtually all of these traits than the Palestinians.

Why does the left overwhelmingly support the Palestinians while also holding the values listed above?


8 Answers 8


The question seems to assume that sharing values with someone necessarily implies that you support that person (or group etc) in all things.

There's a difference between sharing certain values with a person or group on the one hand and supporting them regarding a specific issue, conflict or contention.

For example, if Jane is a dyed-in-the-wool left-winger and she is out drinking with a fellow left-winger, Ted. If Ted were to steal a wallet from a right-winger, Lynda, the question's reasoning would imply that Jane would have to be out of her mind to support Lynda's right to ownership of the wallet or to call the police or what-have-you.

Now clearly whether or not Israel did something equivalent to stealing the Palestinian's wallets is obviously contentious, but that's beyond the scope of the question.

If the Western moderate Left (rightly or wrongly) believes that Israel acted unjustly towards Palestinians, it should not matter to them that Israel have more in common with the Left than Palestinians.

Indeed, the values of the Left would make them especially careful not to favour Israel (on the question of the acceptability of its treatment of Palestinians) simply because of Israel's similarity to the Left. To do that would be deciding a question of justice on the basis of their own similarity to either belligerant - that's a pretty clear case of discrimination.

Another way of reading the question is as implying that support for Israel or Palestine is necessarily a vote for who should exist versus who should cease to exist - a life or death decision. In that case there might be a stronger case for expecting the decision to boil down to which group the Left has more in common with. However, there's little reason to think Israel/Palestine needs to be a winner takes all conflict. More to the point there's no reason to believe moderate left people believe that it must. Indeed moderate left-wing people would likely be equally horrified if Palestinians were to completely dominate the land as if Israelis were to do so, they're hoping the land can be shared peacefully or separated equitably into two states.

  • 3
    The reason I am assuming that you would be more likely to side with people of similar values is that, unlike the wallet situation, absolutely nothing about the situation is clear cut. So even if you try to keep your judgment neutral, your interpretation of the facts will not be. Were the Jews immigrants or invaders? If they were merely immigrants, do the Palestinians have a right to wish them gone? Is the formation of the Israeli state imperialist aggression or self-defense of the new migrants? It would plausible to me that you arrive at conclusions fitting your ideology, but why against it?
    – John Woo
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 10:36
  • 1
    Here is some scientific support for the "facts by ideology" hypothesis: Check the paragraph "Motivated Reasoning" up until "know to be true". psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/confident-idiots-92793
    – John Woo
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 11:04
  • 7
    This is an excellent answer. It's not about similarity in values, culture or social norms with Palestinians and Israelis. It's about what is perceived to be an injustice, committed by people who are similiar to us, against people that are quite different to us. Mohammed Ali had more in common with white Americans than with the Vietnamese people, but he still sided with the Vietnamese, against his own people in the Vietnam war.
    – Icarian
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 6:46
  • 10
    The OP does, indeed, post a question, about a situation that has many layers, facets and complexity, in a very binary fashion. I don't see why I can't say that I support Israel's right to exist, and their right to defend themselves against existential threats, and also say they shouldn't violently oppress powerless minorities within their own borders. Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 14:41
  • 2
    @KarlKnechtel - you have that exactly backwards. Almost everyone on the "left" in North America both want Israelis to be able to live in peace, and oppose treating Palestinians like sub-humans. It's the right that will gaslight and claim that having a nuanced position is impossible, and either you support any and all Israeli government policies, no matter how brutal, or you are anti-Semitic. Or the idea that Palestinian automatically means Hamas/terrorist. If your "experience" is swallowing whatever right-wing media spoon-feeds you, that's on you. Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 19:42

The shortest answer I can give, is that Israel and Palestine aren't sports teams. We don't just pick one or the other based on a single issue, or based on how similar they are to us. We look at a wide range of issues and the history as best we can, and in the end, we find the Palestinian arguments to be more compelling. It would be silly to make a decision on the right of one group or another to live and settle in a land based on their record regarding LGBT rights or women's rights. These are also important issues, but do not relate directly to a territorial conflict and the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of each party's claim to the right to live, settle, and self determine in a geographic location.

LGBT rights and Gender Equality

Left wing people generally are pro LGBT rights, and Israel is of course the most friendly nation to LGBT folks in the middle east. It also has a good record for gender equality, something quite rare in the middle east (Assad controlled regions of Syria and Fatah controlled Palestine also have good gender equality laws, but are not good on LGBT rights.

Gender equality and LGBT rights are important to western liberals, and in this regard, the Israelis are better than Palestinians, so having these two common values more closely aligned, why do liberals seem to favor Palestinians over Israelis?

Pink Washing

Well, there are other factors and values that liberals hold, where Israel has a pretty indefensible record. Code Pink have coined the term Pink Washing, as using support for LGBT rights as a mask for some pretty terrible policies. Justin Trudeau is an excellent example of this, as is Hillary Clinton and Obama. They have far right, hawkish foreign policies, and have no problem waging war, bombing, invading, overthrowing sovereign governments and a host of other crimes. But they cover up their right wing policies with support of LGBT rights.

The goals of Zionism

Israel does the same thing. The Israeli state was founded via the Zionist movement. The goals of the Zionist movement are usually framed in an innocuous way that few could oppose. The right of Jewish people to self determination and create a national home for the Jewish people. This state was to be both Jewish and democratic. Sounds good? Of course it does! But this framing completely ignores the existence of another people.

Ethnic Cleansing

Palestinians, Christians and Arabs, who were the majority population. The foundation of a Jewish and democratic state required a Jewish majority in Palestine. And in 1948, even after decades of mass immigration, the Jewish population was still only 33% of the total population.


So how do you create a Jewish and democratic state in a land that is 66% non Jewish? This is the part that Israel's defenders don't like to address. There are two answers, one is mass immigration to bolster the Jewish population, the other is ethnic cleansing of as many Muslims and Christians as possible. And this is what happened. So here comes the first reason: liberals don't like racism, ethnic or religious supremacism, or ethnic cleansing. And these are the foundations of the Israeli state.

Settler Colonial Expansion

Zionism has a goal, explicitly stated among Israelis, but seldom mentioned in western press: Eretz Israel. An Israeli state that encompasses all the land between the Jordanian river and Mediterranean sea. This means that from the beginning, Israeli intended to expand their state into lands designated Palestinian, Syrian, Lebanese and Egyptian. Israel started a war in 1967 in which it expanded into all of these states and lands. Israel claims that this was a pre-emptive war, that it was in danger of being attacked. There is evidence to the contrary, including an admission from Menachem Begin:

The Partition of Palestine is illegal. It will never be recognized .... Jerusalem was and will for ever be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And for Ever. Iron Wall, p. 25 & Simha Flapan, p. 32

Israel will not transfer Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza District to any >foreign sovereign authority, [because] of the historic right of our nation to this land, [and] the needs of our national security, which demand a capability to defend our State and the lives of our citizens." Iron Wall, p. 356

In June 1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.

55 Address by Prime Minister Begin at the National Defense College- 8 August 1982

"In June 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him."

Another reason for the attack against Egypt is Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran as sea trade route to Israel. The Likud charter expressly states that Israel will never allow a Palestinian state between the Jordanian river and Mediterranean sea. The new Jewish Nation State laws also state the goal of creating illegal Israel colonial settlements on Palestinian lands. This is colonialism. Another reason why liberals do not side with Israel. We generally recognize the genocidal and racist nature of settler colonialism, and thus despite Israel's relatively good LGBT policies, we still do not support Israel.


A state that is created by an immigrant people, who usurped and ethnically cleansed many natives is going to have problems. Unless it kills all the people it wronged, those people are going to fight back. They're going to want to take their homes and lands back, so a powerful military is required in order to dominate neighbors and control the Palestinian population, to ensure they never achieve sufficient military capacity to retake their homeland.

Israel has somehow become the recipient of 4.5 billion dollars of military aid, annually, it is the single biggest recipient of American aid despite being a developed, advanced first world nation. It uses this aid to maintain its military dominance. It is the best equipped army in the middle east, maybe in the world. It also has nuclear hegemony. No other nation in the middle east has nuclear weapons. Israel gets a free pass. We can go into the reasons for this, but powerful lobbying interests as well as American desire to have a friendly military base in the region play a part.


The Palestinians on the other hand, are not allowed to have a military, not allowed to have air defense systems, not allowed to have nuclear weapons or anything like that, leaving them at a permanent military disadvantage. Given the vast gulf in military capabilities, there's not a lot Palestinians can do. Israel on the other hand, can basically do whatever they want. The only restraint is international outrage. Up until now, America has shielded Israel from any sanctions or punitive measures for crimes it has committed (which has necessitated the BDS movement as the only means left to pressure Israel to stop illegal behavior), but if Israel were to commit an outright genocide, even America couldn't shield Israel from the rest of the world. So instead, Israel has this process, where it colonizes the West Bank, demolishes Palestinian homes and villages, replaces them with Jewish settlements, then builds fences and roads around these settlements for the settlements security.

As a consequence, Palestinians have been shepherded into small bantustans. Basically little prisons with limited self autonomy, but with Israel controlling all movement in and out of people, goods and money. The Israeli Jewish settlers, who tend to be fanatical extremists, many from America, live under Israeli civil law, while the Palestinian, Muslim and Christian bantustans live under Israeli military law. This system very closely resembles apartheid, and liberals generally are opposed to apartheid. Right wingers on the other hand, have historically sided with Apartheid, whether it was Thatcher in the UK or Reagan in America. Today right wingers are horrified by the mild land ownership reforms in South Africa to restore a small amount of white colonized and "owned" land to the native African people. Apartheid and indigenous people land ownership has always been a left/right issue.

Siege of Gaza

Then there's the Gaza strip. This was also under apartheid control from 1967 to 2005 when Israel withdrew its 8000 settlers and began laying siege to the city and coastal enclave. The reason was the democratic election of a political party who had declared war against Israel, whose stated goal was the removal of all Jewish people from Palestine, and the restoration of Palestinian Muslims (Hamas doesn't care about Palestinian Christians). This group is far right, very repressive of women's rights and uses terrorism as a tactic in its fight against Israel. Terrorism is a widely employed tactic, its used by America and Israel. All nations really, but the term has been politicized in recent years to exclude Jewish or Christian attacks against civilians. Liberals aren't overly fond of this hypocrisy.

The siege of Gaza has resulted in Hamas firing unguided rockets into Israel, and in the second intifada, bus and suicide bomb attacks, car attacks and stabbings against both armed Israeli soldiers and innocent Israeli civilians. It has also resulted in Israel bombing schools, hospitals, refugee camps, sending military snipers to shoot unarmed protesters and more. Liberals here are not very fond of Hamas, but view the situation through a David and Goliath lens, the vastly disproportionate numbers of deaths of Palestinians, especially civilians and children, compared to Israelis, mostly soldiers has resulted in more sympathy for Palestinians, though no love for Hamas.

Political and media collusion against European and American liberals and Progressives

It doesn't help that liberals see Israelis and Israeli agents as siding with racists, white supremacists and right wing nationalistic parties in Europe and America https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/union-israel-european-180716085952930.html. Particularly parties than are strongly anti-Muslim. Israeli agents also fund right wing neo "liberal" and conservative corporatists (Haim Saban and Hillary Clinton, Sheldon Adelson and Trump) https://mondoweiss.net/2018/10/israeli-president-rewards/ and general opposition and hostility to left wing liberals, and "democratic socialists" like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Jeremy Corbyn, attempts to criminalize and punish peaceful resistance like Boycott Divest And Sanction, and to intimidate, smear and threaten college kids (Canary Mission). Here an Israeli diplomat (agent) admits to conspiring to "take down" UK MPs. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jan/07/israeli-diplomat-shai-masot-caught-on-camera-plotting-to-take-down-uk-mps . People should be up in arms about this in my opinion. Instead, Labour has just accepted a new definition of ant-semitism that equates criticism of the Israeli state and its policies as anti-semitism. This is 1984, Orwellian stuff... Facebook has been deleting social media accounts at the request of the Israeli and US government https://theintercept.com/2017/12/30/facebook-says-it-is-deleting-accounts-at-the-direction-of-the-u-s-and-israeli-governments/ . FOX news is a news network with a very strong pro Israel and anti Palestinian newtwork. FOX news founder Rupert Murdoch has investments in an Israeli shale oil company that is operating on illegally occupied Syrian land https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/03/27/rupert-murdoch-and-the-israeli-genie/, https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2011/05/11/conflict-of-interest-fox-doesnt-disclose-murdoc/179523 . This is not a quid pro quo arrangement in order to produce propaganda in America on behalf of the Israeli state, but it does demonstrate at very least, a conflict of interest and circumstancial evidence of close ties between the Israeli state and the far right news corporation.

Right wingers generally think in broader strokes, a lot of people view politics as team sports. We're on team "Judeo Christian values" (aka white European values), they're on team "Islamic Jihad". Liberals tend to have more nuanced views and can support Palestinians while acknowledging that culturally and socially, we have more in common with Israelis. In some ways, Israeli society is absolutely better and more liberal than Palestinian society. But I can't let that whitewash (or rather "pinkwash") colonialism, ethnic cleansing, ethno-religious supremacism, war mongering, apartheid, siege and oppression of Palestinians. And I really don't like the influence of Israeli agents on western governments and mainstream media.

Suppression of Free Speech

Liberals are increasingly concerned with pro Israel groups that attempt to censor and criminalize Palestinian rights activists. Palestinian poets https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/07/dareen-tatour-sentenced-months-prison-poem-180731084215893.html and artists https://www.timesofisrael.com/italian-graffiti-artist-arrested-for-mural-of-ahed-tamimi-on-security-barrier/ are arrested. Ocasio Cortez and Cynthia Nixon https://nypost.com/2018/09/09/ny-state-dems-call-cynthia-nixon-anti-semitic-prompting-outrage-denials/ are smeared as anti-Semites. British former MP George Galloway was smeared and assaulted by an Israeli extremist https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2738230/Attacker-breaks-George-Galloway-s-jaw-street.html (full details not published in print, but explained in his radio show. Jewish journalist Max Blumenthal being banned from giving speeches at German universities https://www.alternet.org/world/why-i-was-censored-talking-about-israel-germany. Son of two Holocaust survivors, Norman Finklestein is banned from Israel, loses his job at the university of Chicago despite being very popular with students and Israeli historians respecting his work https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/may/26/israelandthepalestinians.usa. Jeremy Corbyn is facing relentless smears https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/israel-running-campaign-against-jeremy-corbyn, accusations of anti-Semitism for attending a ceremony for PLO members killed in an Israeli terrorist attack, and for hosting an event where a Holocaust survivor criticized Israel or Holocaust Remembrance day. Ahed Tamimi is banned from leaving the West Bank, unable to attend events in Europe she was invited to https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/israel-bans-ahed-tamimi-and-family-from-traveling-abroad-1.6464439. Hurricane Maria victims in parts of Texas who support BDS are not eligible for aid for reconstruction of their homes https://forward.com/fast-forward/385628/houston-suburb-wont-give-hurricane-relief-to-bds-supporters/. Attempts in New York make it illegal for the city to do business with BDS supporters https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/cuomo-and-b-d-s-can-new-york-state-boycott-a-boycott. Facebook taking down Palestinian activist profiles at Israels request, criticism of Israel to be banned and on college campuses https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/trump-administration-moves-curb-campus-criticism-israel. Left wing folks find this kind of thing quite disturbing, as is the sight of US presidential candidates and politicians swearing loyalty to Israel at AIPAC events every election cycle (they don't do this for any other country). There's a lot of very disturbing political collusion and corruption, as well as censorship and media smear campaigns against Palestinian rights activists. Even if you're a hardcore, died in the wool Israel fan, who believes that Israel should be above criticism and Palestinians are the cause of the problems, these things should be of concern to you if you oppose government and media censorship of free speech and protests.

Religion and Morals

Lastly, the left tends to be less religious than the right, so Biblical promises don't move them as much. They also tend to be more interested in justice and fairness (human rights, animal rights, the environment, indigenous peoples, immigrants etc). As to why these same left wing people don't seem to be so sympathetic to Israelis, particularly the Mizrahi Israelis of Arab origin who have experienced ethnic cleansing, and the European Israelis descended from Holocaust survivors, it probably is because two wrongs don't make a right. The ethnic cleansing of Mizrahi Jews in Jordan, and genocide European Ashkenazi Jews in Europe, does not justify what the Jewish settlers have done to the Palestinians. Over decades of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, siege and massacres, and the very obvious injustice of it all, a lot of people just have lost sympathy for Israelis. The bullied became the bully. When I was a kid in school, and 9/11 happened, I felt very bad for Americans. Everyone did. And then America invaded Afghanistan, and then Iraq, and I started to news stories about Iraqi kids with their arms, eyes and legs blown off by American bombs, and whose family were killed. Then the oil for food program, no WMDs were found... My sympathy was lost, and now when I think if 9/11, it's very difficult to sympathize with Americam even though I know that the people who died that day had nothing to do with those events. Now I just think about all the bad things that were done, and how 9/11 was abused to justify what I would deem to be colonial invasions and illegal wars. I think a lot of people feel the same way about Israel. They may once have had sympathy, but it's gone now, spent, due to the terrible things they've done... It doesn't help that Israelis have weaponised and abused the legacy of the Holocaust in a smear campaign against Palestinians and their supporters, such as Natanyhu defending Hitler and blaming a Palestinian man for the Holocaust. https://youtu.be/-Ju1w-iDR0o So as a result of these factors, a lot of people who would otherwise be very sympathetic with Israeli people's various histories, have lost their sympathy.

  • 19
    For the records, this is a far-left view rather than a mainstream liberal view, well recognizable by painting Hillary Clinton or Justin Trudeau as right-wingers and claiming that Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders, both from the left of a left party, are normal liberals. Nevertheless, a worthwile read to understand a political view.
    – Thern
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 20:56
  • 8
    By Washington standards, it would be considered far left, but we have to keep in mind that there has been a big shift of the Overton Window to the right. Obama is a good example, he is considered left wing by the mainstream media, and far left by the American right wing media. But by his own admission, youtube.com/watch?v=ZJIlZxHfclc he would be moderate Republican by the standards of 20 years ago. Trudeau is very much in the same mold as Obama. Hillary is significantly to their right. Going by the issues and the voters, the politicians I support are populist center, not far left.
    – Icarian
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 3:40
  • 7
    Far left would be fringe, unpopular ideas like open borders, or communism. Sanders, policy wise, is really just a moderate center left politician. Perhaps center right on foreign policy. Sander is not a fringe figure. He won 43% of the vote despite collusion and corruption in the DNC and media against him. He's the most popular politician in America today, and his policies have overwhelming support by the majority of Democrats and even republicans now. You really can't call him far left. Center left at most. Jill Stein would be left left. And there is no far left in America.
    – Icarian
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 3:48
  • 11
    -1 because of the following serious flaws failing to explain why they are fine with behaviour on one side not the other: "Ethnic Cleansing" interestingly, they seem fine with the ethnic cleansing of Jews, which has happened repeatedly. "Suppression of Free Speech" of course the Palestinians are renowned for their free speech "Political and media collusion against European and American liberals and Progressives" but against pro-Israel people that's fine - e.g 'smear and threaten college kids '
    – user19831
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 8:32
  • 8
    more problems, this time factual: "The siege of Gaza has resulted in Hamas firing unguided rockets into Israel" factually incorrect - Hamas was at declared war with Israel when they were elected, precipitating the closing of the border. " when Israel withdrew its 8000 settlers and began laying siege to the city. " see above. It also is not a city, but multiple cities in the Gaza strip. The blockade also did not start at withdrawal but a year later.
    – user19831
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 8:36

I'd like to point out that the US left (as in Democratic Party) is, in this regard, not really comparable to the European left (as in SPD, Parti Socialiste, Swedish Social Democratic Party, ...) - and I have no idea about far eastern views on this but suspect that south-American views are more in line with the EU.

Anti-Capitalism & Anti-Imperialism
The Palestine Liberation Organization consists mainly of various communistic, socialist and far-left groups.
While Israel's involvement with the US obviously puts in on the other side (apart from the Kibbutz movement).
The whole "No border, no nation" thing also clashes with the wall around Gaza.

(This reasons especially is more of an far-left thing. The parties given above do not hold those views as extremely or even at all)

Left's general emphasis on equality of outcome and sympathizing with those worse off
(I stole that wording from DVK)
It cannot be argued against the fact that the Palestine Autonomy Regions are worse off than Israel. Compare infant mortality rate, unemployment rate, sources of drinking water, PPP, ...
Then there's the issue of the Palestinian refugees - since 1948 hundred thousand Palestinians live in Jordanian without any hope of getting back into either Israel or Palestine in the near future.


Israel has a tough decision to make. If Palestinians are foreigners, then their land should not be under Israeli control. If they are nationals, then they should be afforded the exact same rights as actual Israeli citizens.

As it is, Israel wants it both ways: they want to avoid the existence of more a non-Jewish State on its borders, and they don't want to be responsible for the welfare of Palestinians who live within the occupied territory. This means apartheid: the existence, within the same polity, of two different classes of people, one that are afforded all citizenship rights the State may grant, and the other who are denied many of such rights.

Any left that is worth such name is against apartheid. And so, it must "side", if not with Palestinians, with either one of the following positions: or for the end of the occupation, allowing the Palestinians to have their own State, or for the end of the sub-citizen status of Palestinians. Anything else is a right-wing position, in that it would support the current apartheid situation.

  • 6
    This is the crux of the issue, isn't it? If the West Bank truly does belong to Israel, as most Israelis and Zionists claim, then Israel is enforcing apartheid on millions of Palestinian Muslims living there. They didn't choose to be a part of Israel. They were merely engulfed by it, and had apartheid enforced upon them. If the West Bank is not part of Israel, then Israel has to withdraw all 600,000 civilian settlers living there and dismantle the setlements. Also, Israel has no right to the water and gas there.
    – Icarian
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 13:07
  • 7
    At present Israel is trying to have it both ways, colonize the land, exploit the natural resources, but refuse to give equal human rights for the non Jewish people living there. Israel refuses to even declare its borders. This leaves Palestinians in limbo, with the worst of both worlds, and Israelis in limbo with the best of both worlds. We know the end game. Take everything of value, make life as unpleasant and humiliating as possible for the people there and push the Muslims out into Jordan. It's not exactly a secret in Israel.
    – Icarian
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 13:10

The left, generally speaking, is anti-imperialist. Noam Chomsky essentially represents the Left's position on this, which is this: Imperialism is Imperialism, regardless of who the victims are. In fact Lenin has a book on this topic a well.

Anti-imperialism has been a long standing tradition on the Left.

Che Guevara also said...

imperialism is a world system, the last stage of capitalism—and it must be defeated in a world confrontation. The strategic end of this struggle should be the destruction of imperialism. Our share, the responsibility of the exploited and underdeveloped of the world, is to eliminate the foundations of imperialism: our oppressed nations, from where they extract capitals, raw materials, technicians, and cheap labor, and to which they export new capitals—instruments of domination—arms and all kinds of articles; thus submerging us in an absolute dependence.

In a nutshell, if you're anti-imperialist, you're anti capitalist... and the Left tends to be anti-capitalist. This is just an extension of that position.

..and expansionism is also a hallmark of imperialism and of course, Israel expanding into Palestinian lands would be interpreted as imperialism.

  • 2
    I'm not sure that the left is anti-Capitalist. Perhaps some fringe, far left college kids, but I think most people on the left would prefer a more regulated capitalism with social services and safety nets to ensure as equal as possible opportunities if not outcome. Even people on the right believe in taxation and social services like police and military. Right wing libertarians may differ. People on the left believe that these social services should extend to healthcare, education and water. That the private sector is doing a poor job with healthcare and puts profits before lives.
    – Icarian
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 22:03
  • @Icarian I think anti-monopolisation would be a better wording Commented Sep 8, 2021 at 4:36

Loosely speaking, I would say Western societies (UK, US, Aus, NZ, Canada, Europe etc) can be considered as "left" societies... We believe in freedom of speech, fair trials, democracy, limited power to government/police/military etc... Left vs Right becomes about strengthening or weakening those principles in the name of perceived protection from threats, or strengthening the economy, reducing government etc... But we consider western societies as peaceful and idyllic because they have traits that are most strongly advocated for by the left. It's not that the right directly moves against justice, equality etc... they just affect it as a bi-product of their agenda. So the dichotomy of "left" vs "right" is not really an "us" vs "them" it's more a difference in framing the problem, and a difference in focus.

So to your point: you're right in a sense. Israel is a Western society, Palestine or "the land left that Israel didn't arbitrarily decide to take over and force them out of" is more similar to societies which we don't consider Western, and without researching your claims of intolerance I can accept you're probably right: there are probably numerous examples of intolerance, abuse of power, etc within Palestinian society. So out of context, you would assume Israel is more Left, Palestine is more Right.

But like I said, the "left" is not about being a dichotomy with the right: the left just advocate for justice, freedom, non-violence, etc... i.e. Human Rights. The "right" is not AGAINST human rights (again: not always a simple dichotomy), it's just that the right happens to adversely affect human rights in its own agenda... The left can support Palestine because we believe that all humans are essentially the same (and all humans should celebrate our differences). While there may be corrupt or unjust mechanisms within Palestine, the Palestinian people should be regarded as: ... "people". With the same rights as anyone else.

When the left look at the Israel vs Palestine debate, we think about the entire history, and the left is on the whole opposed to the current and historical behavior of Israel. As a brief history (and forgive my recollection on all the details, it's been a while since I've read on the subject): there were people living in the Palestinian territory, Mass migration of Israelis was supported while it was under British rule, and yes migration is something the left support. But then the UN moved to split the land and declare "this part is Israel because roughly speaking a lot of the land within it is owned by Israelis because they have migrated there".

What a crazy concept. Australia is very anti immigration at the moment... imagine if the UN declared "well, these bits of land are privately owned by Muslims, and let's just build a big line around them as best we can and declare it as a new Islamic country". It's incredibly unfair to the people that were living on the land and their right to self-determination.

So they (with friends) went to war with Israel, unsuccessfully, so Israel thought "well here's a good chance to get MORE land in addition to what was gifted to us".

As a result of the war or various reasons 7 million Palestinians are refugees, who can't return to the land they once lived on, farmed, raised their families, etc...

So you now have a western country in the middle of land that millions of people consider "theirs". Without Israel then Jews and Palestinians would've lived together, formed their own government, progressed as a combined people etc.. That opportunity is forever lost to them now. But anyway...

And because Israel is western backed and very wealthy, there's bugger all they can do about it. So what happens when you get millions of people angry at a state and completely justified in their anger? They find ways to express it. Hence rockets, etc. I'm not condoning it (it hardly fixes the problem) but that's a typical human response ANY of us would have in that situation.

And the final problem the left has with Israel is its response to those attacks: how many times do you hear "some rockets land within 2km of an Israeli home: Israel decides to bomb Palestine for a week".

Israel kills roughly 10 times as many Palestinians: and they're the ones in the wrong! By all means defend yourself, but don't over do it! If you have the privilege of being given your own country, do you act like an aggressor or do you act with humility and work to mend relations with the people you affected?

So yes, while Israel society may be more "left" than Palestinian, its actions, its aggression, are akin to the "right". The "left" support Palestine because the left stand up for justice and human rights, and the Palestinian PEOPLE have been treated incredibly badly by Israel.

  • 3
    Without Israel then Jews and Palestinians would've lived together, formed their own government, progressed as a combined people etc.. What about the early Haganah and their counterparts?
    – user45891
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 21:29

Why do the left overwhelming support the Palestinians whilst holding left-wing values?

The implicit claim here is that it's not possible to support a people whose values are at odds with ones own. And all things being equal, this is more likely to be so than not. But not all things are equal here - and dramatically and transparently so. Here, other values come to the fore and weigh upon people's consciences.

Take a comparable situation. Why did the left overwhelming support the black South Africa in its bid for political and economic rights - self-determination and sovereignty - within the racist and Aparthied white dominated South Africa when black South Africans, on the whole, did not share their leftist values?

It's a question of justice and hence a question of a commitment to justice.

This was pointed out by Martin Luthor King in an early sermon given by him at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, 1953. Whereas he could not sympathise, he said, with the athiesm associated with Communism,

Yet we must realise that there is in Communism something that challenges us all ... it emphasises many essential truths that must forever challenge us as Christians. Indeed, it may be that Communism is a necessary corrective for a Christianity that has been all too passive and a Democracy all too inert.

It should challenge us first to be more concerned with social justice. However much is wrong with Communism, we must realise that it first arose as a protest against the hardships of the under-privileged. The Communist Manifesto, which was published by Marx and Engels in 1847, emphasises throughout how the middle-class exploits the lower-class. Communism emphasises a classless society. Along with this goes a strong attempt to eliminate racial prejudice ... with this passionate concern with social justice, Christians are bound to be in accord ... The Christian ought always to begin with a bias in favour of a movement which protests against unfair treatment of the poor, for surely Christianity was such a movement ...

We must admit that we as Christians have often lagged behind on this point. Slavery could not have existed in America for more than two hundred and fifty years if the Church had not sanctioned it. Segregation and discrimination could not exist in America today without the sanction of the Church ... How tardy we have been. The Church has too often been an institution that has served to crystallise the patterns of the status quo.

Who can blame Karl Marx for calling such a Church the opiate of the people, when religion becomes involved in a future good 'over yonder' when it forgets the present evils 'over here'. It is a dry as dust religion and needs to be condemned ... Marx revealed the danger of the profit motive as the sole [basis - remainder missing].

We cannot accept their creed, but we must admire their zeal, and their readiness to sacrifice themselves to the very uttermost and even to lay down their lives for a cause that they believe will make the world a better place ... would today, the Christian fire was burning with the same intensity in the hearts of Christians as the Communist fire is burning in the hearts of Communists.

In fact, in a book authored by him, Where do we go from here: community or Chaos?, he decried

Americas morbid fear of Communism

arguing that it

it prevented people from embracing a revolutionary spirit ... and declaring eternal opposition to poverty, racism and militarism.

These are common critiques by the left of the Palestinian situation: that they have been impoverished and marginalised and been reduced to asking for international aid, that the system of laws imposed by Israel in Israel proper and also on the West Bank and Gaza is racist, colonial and historically unjust and that their militarism makes negotiation difficult, if not impossible.

This is one reason that Palestinian civil rights group have come together in the last decade to campaign under the rubric of BDS - a campaign to acknowledge the injustice towards the Palestinians, to campaign for international pressure to be imposed upon Israel so that they come to the negotiating table under more equal terms; a campaign, modelled on the campaign against racial, economic and political injustice in South Africa by imposing Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions on - not the nation - but on its unjust constitution and it's unjust system of laws and custom.

  • 3
    It's interesting that you chose to reference MLK, given that he was a proponent of Israel and an opponent of antisemitism. The comparison of Israel to South African apartheid is also highly questionable. I think that this answer could be improved by including sources that show that (parts of) the left actually make this comparison (MLK certainly didn't), and that that is why they side with the Palestinians (which shouldn't be too difficult; the argument is wrong, but it is made by parts of the left).
    – tim
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 10:02
  • 1
    @tim: Highly questionable by those who are pro-Israel; controversial for those who are undecided and not at all controversial - mostly - - for those that are pro-Palestinian. I didn't say that MLK made the comparison of South Africa with Palestine but that MLK compared the committment to justice by Communists and that of the Church and America and he found the Church and America wanting. Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 10:23
  • 2
    @Tim: The situation of Israel was of course of importance after what had happened during WWII - I mean the holocaust - and so it's not at all surprising that MLK would call for the recognition of Israel then; that does not mean that he would still be pro-Israel today. It's worth noting - that he called for a Marshall Plan for the Arabs - presumably in recognition of how they had lost out. That suggests he recognised the injustice of the situation. Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 10:36
  • 2
    @tim: Goven this, how do you think he might feel about a $35 Billion dollar military aid given to Israel over ten years by the Obama administration, and $300 million of aid withdrawn from UNHCR - an organisation set up to deal with the desperate plight of the Palestinians? Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 10:40
  • 2
    Great answer! Yes, MLK was a supporter of the Israeli state. I daresay he wasn't particularly informed about the foundation of the state, and also American Jews were great allies of the civil rights struggle. Funnily enough South African Jews were also great supporters of the anti-apartheid struggle. I think, if MLK was alive today, he probably would not be supportive of what Israel has become. At the time he was more focused on the Labour Unionization and civil rights struggles than in middle eastern geo-politics,
    – Icarian
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 12:47


The left tends to see Judaism being regarded by mainstream society as more of an "in-group" religion than Islam being seen as an "in-group" religion. You're far more likely to hear right-wing people talk about the USA or Australia being a "based on Judeo-Christian values" than it being based on "Islamo-Christian" or even "Abrahamic" values.

This means that, all things being equal, left-wingers who oppose bigotry would support Muslims.

The left thinks that mainstream society sees Jews as racially more similar to whites than Arabs are to whites. They think that western society is more racially prejudiced against Arabs than against Jews.

This means that, all things being equal, left-wingers who oppose bigotry would support Arabs.


The left sees Israel as being allied with western governments, whereas Palestinians are not as strongly allied with western governments.

This means that, all things being equal, left-wingers who oppose imperialism would support Palestine.

Some of these factors don't just apply with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also with many conflicts between the west and non-western countries, even when the non-western country has an awful track record on causes that the left supports.

I have a suspicion that the left is more likely to evaluate the actions of western governments than the actions of non-western governments, but I can't give strong evidence for that, or an explanation as to why that's the case.

  • 8
    "all things being equal, left-wingers who oppose bigotry would support Muslims" = I think that's a bit of a logic stretch. Regardless, all things are absolutely not equal--which is probably the bigger draw to the left's political ideology.
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 3:26
  • There are various kinds of bigotry. It would be more accurate to say that left wingers who oppose imperialism or settler colonialism, support Palestinians in spite of the fact that in terms of LGBT rights, Palestinians are more bigoted than Israelis. In terms of gender equality, Fatah controlled secular West Bank is comparable to Israel. Hamas controlled Gaza is worse. In terms of religious tolerance, both have poor records due to conflict with each other and actual or perceived injustices committed by the other's religious group. We have to look at the history to decide who is better or worse
    – Icarian
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 7:56

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