Commentary Magazine


Topic: non-violent protest

Hunger Strikers’ Goal is Not Peace

For decades, foreign cheerleaders for the Palestinians have sought to portray those fighting against Israel as potential disciples of Gandhi as they seek to portray the Jews as stand-ins for the role of colonial oppressor. But there have always been two main problems with this scenario. The first is the fact that most Palestinians view violence against Israelis as not only a legitimate tactic but also something that is integral to their national identity. The second is that even if they were to adopt a policy of non-violence, the Palestinian goal is not their own state living in peace beside Israel but the end of the Jewish state and its replacement by one in which Arabs will rule.

These obstacles to the creation of a movement of Palestinian Gandhis remain. But that didn’t stop the New York Times from going back to a familiar theme today with a feature  by new Israel bureau chief Jodi Rudoren in which a hunger strike by some security prisoners is used as a launching point for a discussion about a possible change in tactics by the Palestinians. Since, as she notes, the peace process is “stalled” and “internal Palestinian politics adrift,” activists hope to use “the hunger strike as a potential catalyst to bring an Arab Spring-style uprising to the West Bank.” But the question Rudoren fails to ask is what do the hunger strikers or their supporters think will come from what they hope will be a new intifada? Do they see it as a path to a Palestinian state or something else? If the goal is a state, then they need not bother with non-violent resistance or violence. What they need to do is to instruct their leaders to negotiate with Israel. Read More

For decades, foreign cheerleaders for the Palestinians have sought to portray those fighting against Israel as potential disciples of Gandhi as they seek to portray the Jews as stand-ins for the role of colonial oppressor. But there have always been two main problems with this scenario. The first is the fact that most Palestinians view violence against Israelis as not only a legitimate tactic but also something that is integral to their national identity. The second is that even if they were to adopt a policy of non-violence, the Palestinian goal is not their own state living in peace beside Israel but the end of the Jewish state and its replacement by one in which Arabs will rule.

These obstacles to the creation of a movement of Palestinian Gandhis remain. But that didn’t stop the New York Times from going back to a familiar theme today with a feature  by new Israel bureau chief Jodi Rudoren in which a hunger strike by some security prisoners is used as a launching point for a discussion about a possible change in tactics by the Palestinians. Since, as she notes, the peace process is “stalled” and “internal Palestinian politics adrift,” activists hope to use “the hunger strike as a potential catalyst to bring an Arab Spring-style uprising to the West Bank.” But the question Rudoren fails to ask is what do the hunger strikers or their supporters think will come from what they hope will be a new intifada? Do they see it as a path to a Palestinian state or something else? If the goal is a state, then they need not bother with non-violent resistance or violence. What they need to do is to instruct their leaders to negotiate with Israel.

The peace process remains “stalled” for one main reason: the Palestinians won’t negotiate unless Israel guarantees in advance that they will give in on every territorial dispute. But even then there is no guarantee or any likelihood that the leadership of the Palestinian Authority as currently constituted, let alone after it consummates its unity deal with Hamas, would be able to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

A new intifada, whether conducted by people throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails or mere demonstrators, is no substitute for a commitment on the part of the Palestinians to live in peace with their Jewish neighbors. With even Israel’s supposedly right-wing government willing to accept a two-state solution, the time is long passed for stunts whose only purpose is to embarrass or intimidate the Israelis.

As it happens, even the supposedly non-violent Palestinians gave away some of the game in Rudoren’s account:

On Thursday in Ramallah, 300 women marched to Al Manara Square, chanting, “Yes for hunger strike, no to submission” and “Down with the olive branch, long live the rifle.”

Is there another way to interpret a chant that calls for an end to peace and the use of “the rifle” but as a call for violent attacks on Israel?

The featured hunger striker, one Thaer Halahleh, is described as a sympathetic character. We are told that he “stopped political activity” soon after his marriage in 2009. But given the Palestinian definition of that term, a more experienced observer than Ms. Rudoren might have concluded that this meant he was a terrorist operative. Because people involved in such activities rarely voluntarily retire, the suspicion of Israeli authorities that he was not innocent is understandable. While the policy of administrative detention which can result in long periods of incarceration without trial may seem contrary to an American sense of justice, it should be pointed out that neither does the usual expression of Palestinian “politics” which is terrorism. As the return to violence on the part of Palestinians released in the Gilad Shalit exchange deal illustrate, the idea that Halahleh, if sent home will not engage in violence, is either naïve or deceitful.

However, the article does accurately portray the difficulties encountered by those seeking to create this new intifada. Their biggest problem is apathy from a Palestinian population that understands this latest plan for confrontation will not improve their lives and won’t lead to self-determination. Despite the obstacles the imperatives of Palestinian political culture of Palestinian society put in the way of peace, perhaps some are starting to recognize that the glorification of those who engage in violence and the identification of communal rights only in juxtaposition to the denial of the same to Jews is a dead-end street.

Read Less

Non-Violent Protests No Substitute for Palestinian Will to Make Peace

On today’s New York Times op-ed page, Palestinian parliamentarian Mustafa Barghouti makes the argument that what his people need to do is to eschew terrorism and to concentrate their efforts on promoting peaceful protests against Israel. Barghouti believes the limited success of a hunger strike by a Palestinian imprisoned by Israel ought to show the way for an escalation of non-violent demonstrations that will embarrass the Jewish state and pave the way for statehood for his people.

This is something supporters of the Palestinians have long wished for because the obsession with violence that has characterized the Arab national movement’s politics has been difficult to defend. Israelis would also cheer an abandonment of terrorism even if it would boost the international standing of the Palestinians. But the notion that a new round of peaceful protests against Israel has anything to do with the promotion of peace or the creation of an independent Palestinian state is pure fiction. That’s because the Palestinians need not resort to terror or to non-violent demonstrations or protests of any kind in order to achieve those goals. All they have to do is have their leaders negotiate with Israel and to be willing to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn. Unfortunately, that is the one thing no Palestinian leader or activist such as Barghouti appears willing to do.

Read More

On today’s New York Times op-ed page, Palestinian parliamentarian Mustafa Barghouti makes the argument that what his people need to do is to eschew terrorism and to concentrate their efforts on promoting peaceful protests against Israel. Barghouti believes the limited success of a hunger strike by a Palestinian imprisoned by Israel ought to show the way for an escalation of non-violent demonstrations that will embarrass the Jewish state and pave the way for statehood for his people.

This is something supporters of the Palestinians have long wished for because the obsession with violence that has characterized the Arab national movement’s politics has been difficult to defend. Israelis would also cheer an abandonment of terrorism even if it would boost the international standing of the Palestinians. But the notion that a new round of peaceful protests against Israel has anything to do with the promotion of peace or the creation of an independent Palestinian state is pure fiction. That’s because the Palestinians need not resort to terror or to non-violent demonstrations or protests of any kind in order to achieve those goals. All they have to do is have their leaders negotiate with Israel and to be willing to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn. Unfortunately, that is the one thing no Palestinian leader or activist such as Barghouti appears willing to do.

What makes Barghouti’s appeal so disingenuous is that it ignores the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly turned down Israel’s offers of peace and statehood. Whereas once it could have been argued that the Jewish state had to be persuaded to contemplate a two-state solution, in the wake of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to accept independence in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza and a share of Jerusalem in 2000, 2001 and 2008, it is impossible to claim the obstacle to statehood is anything other than a Palestinian political culture that cannot accept peace with Israel.

Barghouti’s piece draws comparisons between the situation of the Palestinians and the Arab Spring revolts against autocracies throughout the Middle East. He also cites the philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., as inspirations for the Palestinians and throws in the tactics of Irish Republican Army terrorists for good measure. Yet the only thing Mubarak’s Egypt, Northern Ireland, British-ruled India and the segregation-era American South have in common is that none of these examples are remotely analogous to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

If, as their repeated refusal to contemplate a peace that includes their recognition of Israel’s legitimacy makes clear, the Palestinians’ ultimate goal is the Jewish state’s destruction, the debate about the use of violence or non-violence merely becomes one of which tactic is more useful to obtain that end. That is an interesting discussion, but it is one that has little to do with peace.

Indeed, rather than focus their non-violent protests against an Israel that is willing to compromise on territory (though perhaps not quite so much as the Palestinians may wish) to obtain peace, what Barghouti and other like-minded Palestinians should do is to conduct a civil disobedience program whose purpose will be to persuade PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his new Hamas allies to go back to the negotiating table and sign a peace that will end the conflict.

Considering the nature of a Palestinian political culture that has always glorified violence and treated the murder of Jews as a source of prestige and legitimacy, such a campaign would be an uphill struggle. And given the ruthlessness with which Abbas and Hamas have always stamped out any dissent from their rule, Barghouti’s reluctance to try their patience with a Gandhi-like campaign is understandable. But anyone who thinks non-violent protest against Israel will help bring peace or Palestinian independence is ignoring the reality of the conflict.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.