Robert Reich: An Overwhelming Tragedy – OpEd


The warfare in Gaza is calamitous and heartbreaking. 

But many of the things I hear or read about it from otherwise intelligent people strike me as blind to its realities. For example:

“Gazans are unfortunate collateral damage.”

I heard this today from an Israeli official. This view is morally bankrupt. Innocent children, parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters are not “collateral damage.” Their lives are no less valuable than any other lives. Their deaths and suffering add to the deaths and suffering of everyone. 

“Jews should be ashamed.”

I heard this yesterday from a so-called “expert” on the Middle East. It’s an absurd and antisemitic remark. Even if you condemn the decisions of the Israeli government that have led to this cataclysm (as I do), assigning complicity to all Jews is morally repugnant.

“No one should hire any student who blames Israel.”

I heard this from a titan of Wall Street. It’s outrageous. Students should be free to express their views, even if you believe them misguided. Harming their careers because of the views they express when at college is a form of blacklisting akin to the worst of Senator Joe McCarthy’s communist witch hunts. Wealthy donors from Wall Street and C-suites who seek to silence young people are morally wrong.

“I won’t vote for Biden because of his support for Israel.” 

A young progressive activist told me this yesterday. I told her she has a right to vote for whomever she wishes, of course, but that a vote withheld from Biden will in effect be a vote for Trump. And no matter how much she disagrees with Biden’s support for Israel in the present conflict, Trump’s foreign policies will be far worse — giving authoritarian tyrants whatever they want.

“Israel has no choice.” 

I heard this from a graduate student who specializes in the Middle East and says a ground invasion of Gaza is the only way to destroy Hamas. I think he’s wrong. Israel is wealthy and powerful. It has other ways to contain Hamas. The ground invasion will not destroy Hamas — it may even enlarge it, as more Gazans and other Palestinians are radicalized by it. 

Israel can invest more and better in intelligence about Hamas (its intelligence failures in the current crisis are mind-blowing). It can infiltrate Hamas and destroy its leadership. It can work with other Arab states to isolate Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran’s other terrorist clients. 

I fear that the choice Israel is now pursuing — a ground war in Gaza — is exactly what Hamas hoped for when it launched its October 7 assault, because it is undermining whatever sympathy Israel had, deflecting world attention from the murderous regime in Tehran, and forcing Israel to stretch its forces to permanently occupy Gaza and the West Bank.

“America can’t afford to support Israel and Ukraine simultaneously.”

I heard this yesterday from a senior House Republican who wants to send additional billions to Israel but not to Ukraine. It’s a foolish and misleading position. Of course we can afford to send additional aid to Ukraine even if we’re also sending aid to Israel. Trump Republicans must not reward Putin’s aggression.

The tragedy unfolding in Gaza requires clear thinking and a moral compass. I’m not observing a lot of either.

This article was published at Robert Reich’s Substack

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