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Author Topic: On The Importance of Non-Violent Resistance
Coyote
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posted 02 April 2004 03:59 PM      Profile for Coyote   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
First, an anecdote.

While I was in Palestine (ISM Olive Harvest Campaign 2002), one particular ISMer (an Irishman if I remember correctly) managed to alienate just about every international activist in the campaign. He took every possible opportunity to explain to the rest of us that the ISM was all well and good, and non-violence was a noble concept, but "what these people really need is guns." I dismissed this out of hand, of course, but it stuck with me and gnawed at me for long enough that I decided to sit myself down and have a good long think about why I was dismissing his argument.

The following is a (possibly rambling: shock of shocks) meditation on that theme.

There is no question that Palestinians have the right to resist the Israeli Occupation. Some might suggest it more than a right; it is an obligation. This includes the right to used armed force against the occupying power. Few seriously deny this: From Algeria to Viet Nam to Afghanistan, we have understood that resistance to colonialism - and the shape that resistance takes - is the sole domain of those who must resist.

If that armed resistance were simply a matter of military targets or collaboration with the occupying power - as it was in Algeria and is today in Iraq (to take two culturally appropriate comparisoms) there would be little to no discussion of the 'legitimacy' of Palestinian militarism: there were (in the case of Algeria) and are (in the case of Iraq) those who would suggest that certain targets are counter-productive, and others who would suggest that the entire military campaign is counterproductive; but none save a few die-hard pacifists question(ed) the legitimate nature of the targets in the context of armed resistance.

This is not the case in Israel/Palestine. One form of armed resistance has, rightly or wrongly, framed the worldwide image of Palestinian resistance: the suicide-bomber. It is a grisly display. One cannot but sit transfixed before the television as images of bloody bus passengers or diners at a pizzeria lie strewn across the street. Most importantly, it takes the discourse of armed resistance to colonial occupation to a whole new level: the citizen of the occupying power as a legitimate target in the struggle for liberation.

I will note here, for the record, my utter abhorrence and opposition to the targetting of Israeli civilians. Period.

I am not a pacifist. I did not join the ISM because I was convinced of a Gandhian redemption implicit in non-violent direct action. But I do think the time has come to realize that the armed resistance has failed Palestine and Palestinians, and the time has come to frame Palestinian resistance firmly within a context of non-violent confrontation with the occupying power.

Palestinian resistance has become, in the eyes of the world, inextricably linked with the morally repugnant suicide bombs. As much as this is a lie - and does a grave injustice to Palestinians who everyday resist through their willingness open shops during military closures, open schools and clinics, document and oppose harrassment at the checkpoints, and not to mention the constant non-violent demonstrations throughout Occupied Palestine - it is also a truism that must be taken into account. And nor, in passing, is the promotion of this image of Palestinian resistance solely a Western construct: the martyrdom operations have taken on a curious mystique in the Palestinian (and Palestinian solidarity) discourse.

What I am suggesting is a radical change of strategy, a change that takes into account the context of the suicide-bombings and places them in their proper context as a liability and a hindrance to the goal of Palestinian liberation. I am suggesting a mass non-violence campaign, Palestinian led and organized, aimed at ending the Occupation and shaming the promoters and organizers of the martyrdom operations at the same time.

It is of no use to suggest that such arrangements as the hudna or other cease-fire options can be enough to stop the deadly cycle of violence. Someone has to start somewhere. We would all prefer, of course, that it be the Israeli government that lived up to its obligations under international law and withdrew, immediately, to pre-1967 borders. This is entirely unlikely. The immoral, illegal, and murderous Occupation is under no danger of being unilaterally ended by the one government that could make it happen in a second.

It is therefore imperative to re-brand the Palestinian resistance. Armed resistance, sullied beyond repair by the suicide-attacks, has not achieved the goal of making the Occupation unsusustainable; they seem rather to have fortified the will of the occupying power. So long as Israel has the ability to parade their civilian dead before the world and sanctify the Occupation with their blood, the struggle for the moral high-ground will be contested. They must no longer be allowed this leverage.

And that, finally, is why our Irish comrade's comments so repulse me. Not because I do not agree with the right to armed resistance; but because in the context of suicide-bombings, armed resistance has reached the level of collaboration.

[ 02 April 2004: Message edited by: Thomas Linner ]


From: O’ for a good life, we just might have to weaken. | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
al-Qa'bong
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posted 02 April 2004 07:23 PM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
I am suggesting a mass non-violence campaign, Palestinian led and organized, aimed at ending the Occupation and shaming the promoters and organizers of the martyrdom operations at the same time.

I have nothing to add.

One caveat, though, is that the IOF is ruthless, and many unarmed Palestinians (and ISM people as well) are going to be killed before things get better.

Can the resistance maintain the strength of will to endure the violence without retaliating in kind?


From: Saskatchistan | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Agent 204
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posted 02 April 2004 07:44 PM      Profile for Agent 204   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
It'd sure be interesting. I hope it can be done. Is there any sign of such a movement in occupied Palestine, though?
From: home of the Guess Who | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
Coyote
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posted 02 April 2004 08:07 PM      Profile for Coyote   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
There are many Palestinian organizations which carry out non-violent actions against the occupation, the ISM being only the most internationally known because of its partnership with, well, internationals.

I will only agree though that right now, sadly, there is very little call for such an explicit and uniformly non-violent movement. Many Palestinians and their supporters respond to such calls with a focus on their right to resistance and the horror of the occupation. I am trying to open up a dialogue which recognizes both that right and that horror and frames non-violent resistance, not as a denial but as an affirmation of those realities.

I don't know what it would take. Barghouti and the Palestinian National Initiative have spoken warmly about non-violence, but the commitment to leading such a movement and to position it as an alternative, not a complement, to the armed resistance is missing.

Short answer, I dunno. But let this be a challenge then to the Rabble faithful: a) Are we supportive of the vision I have set forward and b) how do we go about helping with the building, connecting, and supporting such a movement in Occupied Palestine? Moreover, those in the know, am I missing anything? I may be somewhat informed, and have spent a limited time in the area, but I am by no means an expert.

Another caveat: I think that our discussion has to be framed in terms of our supporting role: Western leftists will not liberate Palestine; but we can help.


From: O’ for a good life, we just might have to weaken. | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
al-Qa'bong
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posted 02 April 2004 08:12 PM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Barghouti and the Palestinian National Initiative have spoken warmly about non-violence...

And Barghouti is in an Israeli prison, facing a kangaroo court. I still think he's the Mandela of the Palestinian resistance, though.


From: Saskatchistan | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Coyote
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posted 02 April 2004 08:16 PM      Profile for Coyote   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Re: Mandela of the Palestinians.

I am assuming this is a positive identification for both. Am I right?


From: O’ for a good life, we just might have to weaken. | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
Coyote
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posted 02 April 2004 08:18 PM      Profile for Coyote   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
One thing I absolutely do think we can do is collectively stop holding our noses and supporting the PA. I think we lose alot of credibility in this. There is a difference between saying that we don't think Arafat should be caged up by Israeli and completely another to continue referring to the PA as some kind of a legitimate organization. The only thing that keeps them from being hounded from (relative) power is, frankly, the occupation.
From: O’ for a good life, we just might have to weaken. | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
al-Qa'bong
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posted 02 April 2004 08:45 PM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Thomas Linner:
Re: Mandela of the Palestinians.

I am assuming this is a positive identification for both. Am I right?


Of course.

Hanan Ashwari left the PA over differences with Arafat and his gang. Are there others like Ashwari and Barghouti, around whom the Palestinaians can rally, or will the impetus come from below?


From: Saskatchistan | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
o
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posted 04 April 2004 04:36 PM      Profile for o     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
This post is the smartest thing I have read so far on Babble..regardless who started or who is right or wrong, the violence will gbet Palestinians nowhere. I know some are hinting that if the resistance ends then israel will strom through the territories, killing everything in sight...well guess what..if Israel wanted to use that type of tactic it could be doing it already. But the problem isn't the regular people, it's the hardcore fundementalists like Hamas who will probably never disarm
From: toronto | Registered: Sep 2003  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
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posted 04 April 2004 09:54 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well, I was thinking it sounded good until o supported it . . .
Actually, though, o has a point in one way; as has been mentioned in other threads, you're never going to get a complete consensus on nonviolence in a situation like that. They didn't in India or South Africa either. Nonviolent resistance was always happening at the same time as violent resistance.

Given that, I really think it's pointless to frame a call for nonviolent resistance as a call to abandon violent resistance. Build a nonviolent resistance movement, sure. And try to gain agreement with violent factions that they will explicitly not place violent resistors in your marches/demonstrations/etc., to deprive the IDF of excuses for opening fire. That again is going to work better if the growing nonviolent faction is not questioning the violent factions' right to exist. If a large nonviolent group has any significant successes, it will grow and perhaps people will increasingly see it as more relevant than violent groups, and the violence level may drop. That's about the best success I can envision.
And while I am against suicide bombing of civilians, and I do support the idea of mass nonviolent resistance if it can be made to work, I personally am *not* against violent resistance per se under the circumstances. Attacking occupying troops is completely legitimate and should be done. If someone occupies Canada, you can bet I'll be trying to come up with ways to kill occupying troops. They want to not get killed, they should become conscientious objectors.

And there's a germ of truth also to what that guy in Mr. Linner's first post said. If the Palestinian resistance had decent weaponry, like some shoulder-launched antitank rockets or some good quality armour-piercing rifle ammunition, then they wouldn't have to stoop to suicide bombing of civilians--they'd be able to take on Israeli troops and do some damage, blow away some Israeli tanks and bulldozers, penetrate Israeli infantry's personal armour. They could hold their heads high as a legitimate insurgency instead of being child-killing terrorists.


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Coyote
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posted 04 April 2004 11:40 PM      Profile for Coyote   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
o:
quote:
the problem isn't the regular people, it's the hardcore fundementalists like Hamas who will probably never disarm
A pretty sweeping sentiment. I don't want to turn this into an argument about Hamas, but I think any of its critics have to keep in mind that part of the reason Hamas is so supported is because it provides for much in terms of 'social welfare', particularly in Gaza. It is not simply a suicide-bombing entity, any moreso than the IDF is simply an occupying power (to the extent that it patrols the Israeli border and provides for security within Israel proper). That said, non-violence will not just magically appear and displace armed resistance. For quite some time, in any reasonable analysis, any broad-based movement with an explicitly non-violent ethos will have to co-exist with militants; the goal is to prove non-violence the more effective and morally sustainable route.

Rufus:

quote:
you're never going to get a complete consensus on nonviolence in a situation like that. They didn't in India or South Africa either. Nonviolent resistance was always happening at the same time as violent resistance.
Two things:

1. As I tried to make clear in my initial post, my problem is not with armed resistance per se. I used the Algerian and now Iraqi cases as examples. No, the problem is the martyrdom operations. They are the image of much of the world, even much of the Arab and Moslem world, of the current intifadah. Even if all these operations were stopped immediately, and the armed resistance concentrated solely in the OTs, the damage has already been done.

2. That said, I do not entirely disagree with you. However, it has to be noted that in both those cases violence was either condemned by the native leadership (India) or stringently restrained by that leadership (South Africa); and neither reached the level of terrorist attacks on civilian targets. Part of the problem in the Palestinian context is the diffuse nature of moral authority over the intifada: no one leader or organization has ownership over what it is and what it would take to end it.

The rest of your post, I think, can best be answered by referring to my two above points. I do not question the right to armed resistance: I am talking about a specific situation where armed resistance has become counter-productive to the ends it is supposed to achieve.

And don't call me Mr. Linner! I looked over my shoulder to see if my father was around when I read that. Though he lives half a continent away.

[ 04 April 2004: Message edited by: Thomas Linner ]


From: O’ for a good life, we just might have to weaken. | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged

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