Thursday, April 02, 2009

Palestinian violent/non-violent resistance: nothing works

From Mondoweiss

What Sleeper [a writer for TMP] evidently doesn't understand is that the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its very essence, is that the Israelis have used massive violence against the Palestinians and their political organizations since 1947, and not only against Hamas and other extremists.

Moreover, this violence has repeatedly been directed not only against resistance movements, but also against civilians--for that matter, not only Palestinian civilians but also Egyptian, Jordanian, and (repeatedly) Lebanese civilians. To be sure, earlier Israeli violence against the Palestinians was on behalf of an historically just cause: the creation of a Jewish state, following centuries of murderous persecution of the Jews, particularly but not only the Holocaust.

When unjust methods are used on behalf of a just cause, it can reasonably be argued that a moral dilemma exists. However, when unjust methods are used on behalf of an unjust cause--the maintenance of the occupation and repression of the Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza--there is no moral dilemma at all.


In a sense, then, Phil Weiss's comment that lecturing the Palestinians on how they "ought to behave to compel us to get our boot off their neck" is an appropriately acerbic comment on the moral blindness of many Israelis--as illustrated, for example, by Golda Meir's infamous comment: "We will never forgive the Palestinians for forcing us to kill their children.”

The history of Israeli violence against the Palestinians is not a matter of opinion, but of plain, repeatedly demonstrated fact. Anyone who fails to grasp, willfully denies, or simply forgets those facts is not qualified to lecture the Palestinians on the virtues of nonviolence--even more so, because these lectures also ignore the long history of Israeli repression of Palestinian nonviolence, which in fact many Palestinians have tried, only to see the occupation consolidated and expanded.

To be sure, it is clear that Palestinian violence has also failed, and my own view is that for both moral and practical reasons they should eschew violence and employ only nonviolent resistance. Nonetheless, anyone advocating this should also honestly admit that Palestinian nonviolence in the past and present has repeatedly failed, and that the likelihood is that it would continue to fail, given Israeli ruthlessness, brutality, and blindness to their own history.

The great tragedy for the Palestinians, then, is that nothing has worked for them, and given the state of affairs in Israel today there is little prospect that anything will work in the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, it is not the Palestinians but the Israelis that are largely responsible for their catastrophe--and anyone giving advice to them on how to proceed has little credibility if they fail to acknowledge that.

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