Join our email list

We Must Continue to Support Israel’s War

We must continue to support Israel’s war — and honestly grapple with tough questions from critics.
Rafael Ben-Ari via Adobe Stock
Rafael Ben-Ari via Adobe Stock
Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer is president of the Shalom Hartman Institute. Yehuda is a leading thinker and author on the meaning of Israel to American Jews, on Jewish history and Jewish memory, and on questions of leadership and change in American Jewish life. Yehuda led the creation of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America in 2010 as a pioneering research and educational center for the leadership of the North American Jewish community, and teaches in

“At the outset of the war in Gaza — a war that Israel did not seek, a war triggered by a heinous attack by Hamas — I argued in the Forward that our responsibility as Jews was to define the war as a ‘just war’ and to commit to support Israel’s fight.

I understood myself then to be an ‘Amos Oz Zionist,’ following the model of the late Israeli author who broadly identified with the politics of the left and was an outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation, but who consistently supported the moral and political necessity of Israel’s military response to Hamas’ history of brazen violent incursions.

In 2014, a German reporter asked him, ‘Are you among the 85% of Israelis who want the offensive to continue until the strategic goals of destroying the tunnels and rockets are reached?’

Oz responded:

‘Unlike European pacifists I never believed the ultimate evil in the world is war. In my view the ultimate evil in the world is aggression, and the only way to repel aggression is unfortunately by force. That is where the difference lies between a European pacifist and an Israeli peacenik like myself.’

The challenge for liberals in this just war moment is to support the fight and hope it is fought justly and speedily. I find affirmation in the philosopher Michael Walzer’s words: ‘Now I pray for a smart war and a smart politics afterward.’

But it is also true that as the war drags on, it is getting harder to hold onto this view. The costs of the war are profound: thousands of Palestinian deaths, incalculable destruction in Gaza, and a constant stream of the news of deaths of Israeli soldiers from whom I often have but one degree of personal separation.

It is our responsibility to reckon with the arguments of those who challenge the morality of continuing this war, as difficult as doing so may be.”

Read the full article on The Forward.

Join our email list


The End of Policy Substance in Israel Politics