Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The struggle continues: Israeli genocide and Palestinian resistance in Gaza

Since I'm just a bit swamped at the moment, I'll simply throw a few items in your direction and let you sort them out however you might wish, with perhaps some brief commentary on nonviolent resistance toward the end. We'll first start off with an item on the so-called "Gaza violence" which more properly should be called an Israeli massacre:
Israel was facing widespread international condemnation yesterday for its onslaught in Gaza, as the UN and EU demanded an end to a "disproportionate" response to Palestinian rocket attacks, which were also denounced. Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, rejected the criticism and vowed to press on with the offensive, which has claimed an estimated 100 Palestinian lives in the past five days.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak will meet Monday with legal experts in the military and government to examine whether the Israel Defense Forces can legally target populated areas from which Qassam rockets are being fired at the western Negev.
Following Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai's Friday warning that the Gaza Strip faces "a holocaust" if homemade rocket fire continues, Vilnai's aides rushed to downplay the remarks, claiming the minister did not mean a holocaust exactly.

However, the following day, the Israeli army, through ground forces and helicopters in the sky, killed 61 Palestinians in Gaza, at least ten of them children. Since Wednesday, 26 March, Israeli occupation forces have killed at least 77 Palestinians in Gaza and injured approximately 130, including children who won't live to see their first birthday.


Last Thursday, 28 February, Israeli cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit said that the solution to the rocket fire would be for Israel to "hit everything that moves with weapons and ammunition." Earlier in the month, during a cabinet session Sheetrit stated that "exactly what I think the [Israeli army] should do [is] decide on a neighborhood in Gaza and level it."

Genocidal statements calling for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians are not reserved for those in Gaza, however. The extreme rightist Yisrael Beitenu party leader and former Deputy Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who was born in Moldova and immigrated to Israel at the age of 20, advocates for the "transfer" or ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinian citizens in Israel and has declared that Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset who meet with Palestinian leaders from the West Bank and Gaza should be executed as traitors.
There's some skepticism about the role of nonviolent resistance and its efficacy in Gaza. A blogger over at has a few words on the matter worth consideration:

Rather, we know precisely what strategy the Israeli military employs in response to non-violence, because it is the only strategy available to it. Indeed it is the only strategy militaries ever employ in response to non-violence, and we saw it clearly this weekend.


Seeing the path of non-violence to its necessary conclusion is not easy for precisely this reason: that every act of non-violence defiance is met with an act of increasingly disproportionate violence in the hopes of realizing a violent response and vindicating the claim that the posture of non-violence is an insincere one.

Today, Israeli ground forces begin their pullout from the Gaza Strip. The mainstream press treats this as a response to international condemnation for the large civilian death toll. Hamas sees it as vindication of their violent resistance and claims ‘victory’. But both of these are mistaken. Israeli troops are leaving the Gaza strip because they achieved their goal: they provoked a response.

It takes a very special brand of determination to see non-violence through in the face of attacks on soccer-playing children and troops marching through suburbs killing civilians. Yet it is precisely this determination which must follow, if those deaths are not to be in vain.

Of course, the practice of nonviolent resistance by Palestinian activists is not a brand new phenomenon - it merely receives precious little coverage in the usual corporate controlled media outlets. Nonviolent action has been central to what is called the Third Intifada against the Wall, characterized by the slogan, "yes to peace, no to the wall." Leaders such as Naim Ateek have projected a Gandhi-like presence. In discussing Ateek a few months ago, I said:
What makes someone like Ateek so threatening to the status quo is his steadfast refusal to play the role assigned to him, and in fact vocally exhorts his peers to do likewise. He neither meekly accepts his status as a "defeated" and "inferior" person, nor does he fight the organizational and structural violence perpetrated on him and his peers with violence - although doing so would be understandable given the circumstances. The potential for an organized nonviolent resistance would present the Israeli government and its apologists with a conundrum: violently crack down and risk whatever good will might still be extended to it by the US, or stand down and lose authority. It's damn difficult to frame a resistance movement as "savage" and "terroristic" if its members are refusing to fire a shot. I'm not exactly a doctrinaire pacifist (I do see nonviolence as the preferred route and violent resistance as strictly a last-resort), but see plenty of potential for what Ateek advocates to work. Nonviolent resistance gives its practitioners a moral high ground, in the process placing the practices and policies of their oppressors in sharp relief. One could argue that moral high ground doesn't buy much if you end up six feet under. Indeed, the main reason for shying away from such resistance would be fear of death. However, one could readily counter that oppression kills and that merely accepting oppression will not prevent death, but actually accelerate individual and social death. There is precious little to lose, and so much to be gained.
When dealing with a genocidal regime hellbent on destroying a people or peoples, one might ask if nonviolent resistance could work. I'll keep repeating that nonviolent resistance can and should be part of our arsenal, and that it is relevant wherever there is oppression. Check out the good folks at the Albert Einstein Institute. While you're at it, an acquaintance of mine completed a nice series of diaries back in 2006 that go into various facets of nonviolent resistance (see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), including a rather thorough debunking of the misconceptions that many have with regard to nonviolence (based primarily on the work of Gene Sharp). Naturally, it is worthwhile to check into the work of one of Sharp's protégés, Robert Helvey, while you're at it. I'm fond of referring to the Zapatistas from time to time, largely because their insurgency - although initially fought with guns - has relied primarily on nonviolent action (Subcomandante Marcos has stated from time to time that "our words are our weapons"). The neoliberal mindset that produced such catastrophes as NAFTA have been no less genocidal (especially in terms of social death) than what is going on in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli government. That the Zapatistas have had some success in attaining a level of autonomy - albeit fragile - lends some weight to the notion that one can fight with palabras (i.e. words), fight without so much as firing a rifle or rocket launcher, and still have a positive impact. Hopefully our friends in Gaza have been following the Zapatista movement and gained some ideas that can be tweaked to fit their specific situation. One thing about nonviolent approaches is that its practitioners have to prepare themselves for the long haul - this isn't an immediate gratification approach to fighting for social change. Then again, if one really thinks about it, there really aren't any immediate gratification friendly options available even for those who prefer more violent means. Either way, the bad guys are going to do what they do best - intimidate, coerce, kill. After all, they have a lot to lose.

In solidarity.

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