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What Would it Take to Get Israel to Stop? What the American Left Has Trouble Saying
“However much he deplored violence, Gandhi did deem it much preferable to inaction in the face of injustice. Should one be incapable of nonviolently resisting an outrage, the only honorable option would be to resist violently, whereas flight would be wholly shameful. For, if there was one thing Gandhi detested more than violence, it was ‘mute submissiveness’ — and what was yet worse, such submissiveness masquerading as nonviolent resistance.” – Norman Finkelstein, 2008
“The question central to the emergence and maintenance of nonviolence as the oppositional foundation of American activism has not been the truly pacifist formulation, ‘How can we forge a revolutionary politics within which we can avoid inflicting violence on others?’ On the contrary, a more accurate guiding question has been, ‘What sort of politics might I engage in which will both allow me to posture as a progressive and allow me to avoid incurring harm to myself?’ Hence, the trappings of pacifism have been subverted to establish a sort of ‘politics of the comfort zone’…” -Ward Churchill, 2007
“Time and again, people struggling not for some token reform but for complete liberation — the reclamation of control over our own lives and the power to negotiate our own relationships with the people and world around us — will find that nonviolence does not work, that we face a self-perpetuating power structure that is immune to appeals to conscience and strong enough to plow over the disobedient and uncooperative. We must reclaim histories of resistance to understand why we have failed in the past and how exactly we achieved the limited successes we did. We must also accept that all social struggles, except those carried out by a completely pacified and thus ineffective people, include a diversity of tactics. Realizing that nonviolence has never actually produced historical victories toward revolutionary goals opens the door to considering other serious faults of nonviolence.” – How Nonviolence Protects the State
Here’s an answer to the question of what it would take for Israel to stop that you won’t hear from most of the American left: violence, Palestinian violence. Don’t agree? Here’s what an Israeli journalist said about it on November 17, 2012:
If history has taught us something, it’s that in those rare occasions when the other party is able to inflict too much pain and discomfort on Israelis – thus making the status quo “less tolerable” – concessions are finally made. This is the way the First Intifada led to Oslo and the second one to the disengagement (much in the way the 1973 war lead to the peace treaty with Egypt). In all these cases, the Palestinians (or Egyptians) paid a heavy price – much heavier than Israel – but they were able to move Israel out of its comfort zone. Israeli leaders often express the desire to “teach the Palestinians a lesson against the use of violence” or “to burn it into their consciousness,” as Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon famously said. But in reality the terrible lesson we have taught them is that in order to get something out of Israel, violence is not enough – one needs a lot of violence. It seems that the world understands that, and after two decades of diplomatic efforts, the latest escalation is met with indifference (which Israelis wrongly interpret as support). 1
- Noam Sheaf, Israeli journalist
The arguments being emphasized now by American leftists about how the number of Israelis killed by Palestinian resistance are so low compared to the thousands of Palestinians killed by Israel are of course true.
But all this talk of the disproportionate impact on Israel is really a way to not deal directly with the truth: Palestinian families have a legal right to resist occupation, including the use of violent resistance. Therefore, Israel has no right to self defense.
“…[A]ccording to international law today, Israel has no rights to or in the Occupied territories of Palestine. According to the same international law, the occupation ought to have ceased one year after its beginning, that is by June 1968. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution requiring Israel to withdraw from all occupied territories, Resolution 242 in November 1967.” 2
- Lynda Burstein Brayer, South African, Israeli trained human rights lawyer.
Catherine Charrett’s piece on Mondoweiss says it perfectly:
Palestinian factions represent a non-state (as we all know way too well Palestine does not have its state yet) and therefore, any form of violence Palestinian movements engage in will be, by de facto, that of a non-state actor. War or violence launched by a non-state actor, is so quickly coupled with militant or terrorist in the Western discourse on legitimate uses of violence. Palestine continues to be forbidden its status and capability as a viable state; how then is Palestine meant to resist its occupation, when Israeli leaders wage their own war on Palestine and simultaneously work so energetically and aggressively to dissallow its status as a state? How are Gazan resistant movements, which do enjoy almost unanimous support from the entire Gaza population, meant to resist in a way which is legitimate to western governments? If these Western narratives were more dedicated to their own professed adherence to human rights then they would not be able to stand in defence of Israel. According to the Geneva Conventions a people under occupation have the legal right to resist their occupation; this Article 1 (4) of Protocol 1 stresses that force may be used to pursue the right of self-determination. States and actors who attempts to suppress the Palestinian right to resist violent occupation is in direct contradiction with the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, which all legally aim to provide support to those fighting colonial regimes. The Western discourse on the legitimate use of violence needs to sensitise and educate its view: Palestinians have the legal right to resist and that is exactly what they are doing. 3
So, not only is Palestinian resistance, including the use of violence, legal, it’s also effective. And given how ineffective the world community is at even recognizing Palestinians as Israel’s target of genocide, much less defending Gaza, any support for Gaza now should include uproarious cheers for every rocket that lands in Israel.
Perhaps this is why, as even the New York Times knows, Gaza is a place “where resistance is an honored part of the culture.”4