Liberal Zionism: Gatekeeping Criticism of Genocide

Image by Levi Meir Clancy.

Israel’s ongoing genocide is part of a downward spiral for the Zionist project. In the words of acclaimed historian Professor Ilan Pappe: “We are witnessing a historical process – or, more accurately, the beginnings of one – that is likely to culminate in the downfall of Zionism.”

Yet Zionism’s long-standing settler goals have not only thrived through genocidal aggression masked as “self-defence” with subsequent land grabs as obscene rewards for its adherents but also via its “liberal” flank serving a crucial propaganda role, posturing as benevolent and humanitarian whilst aligned with aims of American imperialism.

Now, confronted with Israel’s failure to achieve its stated goals and international outrage over its barbaric aggression, liberal Zionist propagandists are intensifying efforts to whitewash Zionism’s genocidal criminality. Their aim is to prevent the project’s collapse by shifting from circling the wagons to rehabilitating the liberal Zionist facade, enabling a return to management of the Occupation with periodic “mowing the lawn.”

What is Liberal Zionism?

The liberal wing of Zionism sanitises and revises the movement’s reactionary, settler-colonialist, and white supremacist nature, masking its true strategy and motive of expansionism through apartheid and genocide.

It deceitfully presents Zionism as compatible with human rights, containing a right-to-left political spectrum with democratic and progressive values and a desire for peace and justice. This facade sanctifies a “peace process” of futile negotiations, while Israeli bulldozers and contractors continue to colonise Palestinian land, marketed in the US at Zionist land sales in synagogues.

Zionism’s liberal propaganda apparatus presents Israeli and Palestinian narratives as parallel truths, duplicitously portraying both peoples as victims with legitimate claims that require lengthy negotiations and concessions. This revisionist narrative equates Israeli settler colonialist aggressors, backed by the global US hegemon, with their Indigenous Palestinian targets.

Liberal Zionist media, NGOs, academia and other organizations have been busy obscuring the events of October 7, as well as Israel’s subsequent deceit, including atrocity propaganda and the Hannibal Directive.

They portray Zionist genocide as a trait of an “extreme” form of Zionism, scapegoating Prime Minister Netanyahu and his coalition as an anomaly rather than acknowledging it as an inherent aspect of the eliminationist project. Additionally, they suggest that by ousting Netanyahu, Zionism could revert to an acceptable trajectory.

Subject to military oversight and censorship under Israel’s “democratic” laws, Haaretz, Israel’s longest-running newspaper and a bastion of liberal Zionism, has engaged in atrocity propaganda, served as a stenography service for political and military agendas, including targeting hospitals in the Gaza Strip, alongside Islamophobic rants which conflate Zionism and Judaism, and attempts to whitewash war crimes such as looting.

Haaretz and its editorial board claim to advocate for “left-wing” and “liberal” agendas, though in fact they promote civil liberties for the privileged class (Zionists) and refuse to address the core white supremacist nature of Zionism, which has terrorised Indigenous Palestinians for over seven decades.

Indeed, anti-Zionist writers, other than a token couple of regular columnists, stand no chance of being published there. Similarly, Israel bars participation of parties in its elections if they negate “the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” clearly outlining the boundaries of acceptable debate.

Israeli academia has also served Israel’s reactionary Zionist agenda. In her recently published book, Towers of Ivory and Steel (Verso, 2024), Maya Wind lays out the case against Israeli academia and universities as embodying the apartheid typical of Israeli society and tools of Zionist settler colonialism and ongoing oppression of Palestinian people.

To this end, Israeli universities and legal scholars frequently collaborate with the Israeli military, legitimising Zionist atrocities and collective punishment of Palestinians, while developing and marketing police and military methodologies and weaponry intended for export.

Well-known liberal Zionists, including politicians, such as Israeli President Isaac HerzogYair Golan and former Chief of Shin Bet Ami Ayalon, and academics such as Yuval Noah Harari have all stepped up to the Zionist plate, regurgitating claims of guilt on “both sides” of “the conflict,” amongst other liberal Zionist canards.

The new political movement, Standing Together, exemplifies efforts to normalise the liberal Zionist framework. Consistently strengthening the conflation of Zionism with Judaism, Standing Together blames “extremists on both sides,” recently with homophobic graphics.

As stated by the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions: “By trying to paint Israel as a tolerant, diverse, and normal state, and focusing on “hatred” rather than oppression as the problem, this organisation is intellectually dishonest and outright complicit. It is serving a key role in Israel’s international propaganda strategy at this time.”

Within our Lifetime

Popular protest in a democracy is aimed at producing political pressure on elected representatives to create substantial change in policy. Protest is typically effective if those protesting have sufficient power to vote the target of the protest out.

Recently, Within Our Lifetime (WOL), a Palestinian-led community organisation in New York City since 2015, faced strong opposition from liberal Zionists, progressives, and Democratic Party loyalists.

They protested at a rally featuring progressive Congressmembers Bowman, Ocasio-Cortez, and Sanders for their continued support of the Biden administration, demanding “pro-Palestinian” politicians: (i) rescind endorsement of Biden; (ii) declare anti-Zionism is not antisemitism, and; (iii) defend Palestinian right to resist. Following WOL’s protest Nerdeen Kiswani, an organiser at WOL said: “Our action accomplished the goal of confronting the hypocrisy within the Democratic Party and not allowing the demonization of those fighting against genocide to be normalised.”

Haaretz critiqued WOL’s protest with typical liberal Zionist talking points, smearing them as a “hard-line group,” simply for reiterating the Palestinian right of self-defence in all forms against occupation as established by international law, echoing critique against the group for rightfully demanding accountability from their elected representatives.

Haaretz’s gatekeeping aligns with recent findings showing wide-ranging Israeli government efforts to shape US discourse around the genocide in Gaza.

In contrast to their portrayal as aligned with humanitarian and leftist values, liberal Zionists sanitise, justify, sustain, and gatekeep the Zionist project. Media, academia, and political figures within the liberal Zionist sphere are complicit in advancing Zionist agendas and silencing dissent.

To effectively halt ongoing aggression and the genocide of the Palestinian people, and in line with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) it is crucial to recognise liberal Zionists who act as agents for the Israeli regime and are reactionary proponents of Zionism and to advocate for their boycott, divestment, and sanction.

This piece first appeared in The New Arab.

Yoav Litvin is a Doctor of Psychology/ Behavioral Neuroscience. For more info, please visit