The tile of the Jewish Voice for Peace article “Palestinian non-violent resistance” is an oxymoron. The authors want the readers to think there is a Palestinian non-violent “resistance” movement (exactly what is being “resisted” is never explained). But, in fact, there is no such thing and never has been, at least, not on any significant scale. Instead, historically, the Palestinian Arabs have seen their “cause” in terms of a zero-sum game: Palestinian Arab “rights” can only be truly obtained when the country is ethnically cleansed of its Jewish population. Moreover, to achieve this end, Palestinian Arab leaders have consistently chosen violence, not as the last resort, but as the first and only means for achieving their goals. Palestinian Arabs leaders and organizations, starting with Haj Amin Al Husseini, a virulently anti-Jewish cleric who led the Arabs in Palestine during the 1920s and 1930s, chose mob violence, warfare, and terrorism as their one and only “policy” towards Zionism and Jews, at least until 1993.
This goal, the violent destruction of, at first, Jewish Palestine, then the State of Israel is incompatible with a nonviolent movement. Sitting down at lunch counters may be a persuasive means of ending segregation, but it will not get people to agree to their own murder or expulsion. So there has been no non-violent movement, and no Palestinian Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi, because these have no place in a movement devoted, in effect, to genocide.
Since 1993, the time of the failed Oslo accords, the Palestinians have been divided between the Hamas camp, which continues to pursue the traditional Palestinian goal of total destruction through violent confrontation, and the Fatah camp, which claims to want peace with Israel but refuses to engage in meaningful dialogue with Israelis, while playing its “victim” status to the hilt and focusing its energy on an anti-Israel publicity campaign.
In the meantime, the Israeli people overwhelmingly support an end to what is left of the occupation that started in 1967 and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Recent Israeli governments have tried to bring this result about through numerous attempts at negotiation and cooperation with the Fatah-dominated PA.
But these efforts are greeted with either sullen stonewalling from the PA or continuing terroristic violence against Israeli citizens from Hamas. The fact that some policies of the present and past Israeli governments are questionable does not excuse the fact that, since the Camp David talks of 2000, during which the Palestinians rejected an Israeli offer of a nearly complete withdrawal to its 1967 borders, no Palestinian leader has engaged in serious dialogue with Israeli leaders. There are no Palestinian protest tents outside the Knesset or the prime minister’s office, no peaceful Palestinian marches in either downtown Tel Aviv (or Ramallah, for that matter) or any evidence of mass support on the Arab side for peace and compromise.
The JVP authors focus on a small, local “movement” consisting of protests in one small town, as their example “non-violent resistance,” but even that is not true. Aside from Hen Mazzig’s credible and uncontroverted report published side by side with the JVP piece, there is a history of violent riots that occurred in Bi’lin, such as the one caught on film that occurred on February 18, 2011. So even this little movement can hardly be called “nonviolent.”
The ultimate irony is that, precisely because there is no credible, broad Palestinian non-violent campaign to bring about the end of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, it continues out of necessity. Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza resulted in a Hamas-led enclave on its southwest border that remains committed to Israel’s destruction and continues to act out violently against Israeli civilians. Israel cannot afford to let the same thing happen in West Bank.
I wish I did not feel compelled to write the above. I wish there was a real, Gandhi-style non-violent protest movement. I’d support it. But, then, so would most Israelis, and it would probably be the shortest-lived protest movement in history as its goals could be gained readily. And the soldiers stationed in Bil’in, who would get to go home, would probably be its biggest supporters.
It would be nice if JVP showed a little more intellectual honesty and started urging their Arab comrades to start having serious and respectful dialogue with Israelis instead of engaging in the kind of behavior and vindictive rhetoric described by Mr. Mazzig.