On Palestine And The Worthlessness Of The Western Liberal

Caitlin Johnstone
4 min readMar 3, 2024

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

There’s an infuriatingly common type of liberal who purports to oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza while also saying they support “Israel’s right to exist”, as though Israel’s existence is somehow separable from its genocidal murderousness. This is a state that literally cannot exist without nonstop violence and tyranny, as demonstrated by its entire unbroken history since its inception. It was set up as a settler-colonialist outpost for western imperialism from the very beginning, and that’s exactly what it’s been ever since.

History has conclusively established that it is not possible to drop an artificial ethnostate on top of an already-existing population in which the pre-existing population is legally subordinate to the new one without tremendous amounts of warfare, police violence, mass displacement, apartheid, disenfranchisement and oppression. This is not actually debatable. It is a settled matter (no pun intended).

Is it possible to have a nation in which Jews are welcomed and kept safe? Of course. Many such nations exist outside of Israel, and the majority of the world’s Jews live in them. What isn’t possible is a Jewish ethnostate in historic Palestine in which the pre-existing population is treated as less than the Jewish population that does not necessarily entail nonstop violence, tyranny and abuse. This is self-evidently a direct contradiction in goals, but it’s what the liberals we’re discussing here pretend to believe is a reasonable possibility.

There absolutely could be a state in that region wherein Palestinians and Jews coexist peacefully, but it would be so wildly different from present-day Israel that you can’t pretend it would be the same state as the one we see now. It would entail such a radically dramatic overhaul of Israeli civilization, such a comprehensive dismantling of deeply ingrained racism, such a drastic restructuring of governmental and living systems, so much labor, sacrifice, humility, inner work and reparations, that to call it by the same name as the state that presently exists would be nonsensical.

And that isn’t what the liberals in question are talking about instituting when they say they oppose Israel’s atrocities in Gaza but “support Israel’s right to exist”. What they are saying is they want Israel to remain the unjust and tyrannical apartheid state that is has always been, but for the killing to stop. They want the injustice to continue, but they want its most overt manifestations to stop causing them cognitive dissonance. They want the status quo, without the murderous savagery that is necessary for the status quo’s existence. They want to pretend they live in an imaginary fantasyland where such a thing is possible.

In order to make this fantasy seem more believable, liberals will pretend that the violence we are seeing can be blamed entirely on the Netanyahu government, as though things would be fine without Bibi in office despite the fact that Israel’s abusiveness began long before he showed up, and despite the fact that Israel’s atrocities in Gaza have the approval of the vast majority of Israelis. Israeli violence isn’t the product of Netanyahu, Netanyahu is the product of Israeli violence. He built his political career upon sentiments that were already in place.

They’ll also tell themselves fairy tales about a two-state solution to make their position seem more valid, ignoring inconvenient facts like that Israeli officials have been openly saying a Palestinian state will never happen, that Israeli Jews overwhelmingly oppose such a measure, and that Israeli settlements are being built in Palestinian territories with the explicit goal of making a future two-state solution impossible. Liberals subscribe to these fantasies as a kind of cognitive pacifier, which allows them to relax and feel okay with themselves despite the fact that they’re not actually endorsing any viable path toward justice.

And to be clear this isn’t just what liberals do with regard to Israel-Palestine; it’s their whole entire position on everything. On every issue their position is little more than “Maintain the status quo, but make it pretty and psychologically comfortable for me.” They never want to do what’s right, they just want to feel like they are right. Theirs is an imperialist, militarist, tyrannical oligarchic ideology with a bunch of feel-good social justice bumper stickers slapped on top of it. A boot on your neck and a flower in its hair.

That’s who liberals are. It’s who they’ve always been. Phil Ochs released the song “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” in 1966, and they haven’t changed one iota ever since. The issues change, their arguments change, but their “maintain the status quo but let me feel nice about it” values system has remained exactly the same for generations.


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Featured image via Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)