I do not believe in principled non-violence. I am a pragmatist. I think every tactic must be judged by it effect and nothing else. When violence is the most effective option available it use is justifiable. But just as non-violence must be judged by its outcomes so to should violence.
For the last sixty years Palestinians have been unjustifiably subjected to unimaginable horrors. That they are angry is understandable. That their anger has manifested itself in violence is regrettable, but that is also understandable. The right of Palestinians to armed resistance is enshrined in international law and in the minds of many people across the world. The lone surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising has said that that Palestinians are the heirs of his struggle. Nelson Mandela has called them his brothers in arms. In the face of dispossession and occupation by a racist war machine I too recognize the right of an oppressed people to armed struggle. I must ask though, what has violence accomplished for the Palestinian people?
The Palestinians remain dispossessed, they remain occupied, and they are still the victims of oppression and apartheid. Armed resistance has been ongoing for decades and it has provided nothing but pretexts for the Israeli government to appropriate more land and continue its racist policies. For all of its rhetoric Hamas has not even been able to protect its own citizens from the Israeli onslaught in Gaza.
Israel is the regions only nuclear power and it enjoys uncritical support from the world's only superpower. It has the world's fourth most powerful military and the most advanced technology. Palestine is a weak splintered nation. It has no tanks, no air force, no heavy weapons, and no sophisticated spy network. If Palestinians confront Israel militarily they will be crushed every time, but they have the power to chose the field on which their battle for freedom is waged. Wouldn't it make sense for the Palestinians to fight that battle on a plane where they have the greatest advantage? The strength of Palestine does not lie in its military assets, but in the courage of its people and the justice of its cause. This is where Israel must be engaged.
In 1999 a nation with a tenth the population of Palestine and the diaspora with less than three-hundred fighters won its independence from an American backed nation thirty-five times the size of Israel. That nation is East Timor and its road towards independence holds valuable lessons for the Palestinians. Almost immediately after Indonesia's 1975 invasion western solidarity movements emerged and campaigned for an end to Indonesian military need.
However, many western governments such as Australia, Britain, and the U.S actively supported the occupation and continued military cooperation with Indonesia. Then the world was shocked into action by an atrocity so horrible that it could not be ignored. At a funeral for an independence campaigner killed by Indonesian soldiers troops went on a rampage and killed hundreds of people, including a human rights activist from New Zealand, and beat two American journalists. The entire incident was captured on film by an undercover British journalist and smuggled to the outside world where it garnered critical support both internationally and inside Indonesia.
Independence for East Timor would not have been possible without international support. Palestine will also not be able to gain its freedom without support from within Israel and around the world. Violence and terrorism would have alienated support for East Timor internationally and polarized the issue along ethnic lines. The media is biased against the repressed and for the oppressor. It is wrong and it is unfair, but it is the reality with which we must work. Violence by Palestinians will be extensively reported and violence by Israelis will almost always be ignored. The battle for Palestine will not be won or lost in the streets of Gaza, it will be fought in the hearts and minds of foreigners and Israelis. This is something the Palestinian militants seem to be unaware of, but it is something that Israel's leaders are perfectly knowledgeable of. They know that all they have to do is mention Palestinian violence and they will be given a free hand to do whatever they want.
Without extensive foreign and domestic support Israel would not be able to continue its present policies towards the Palestinians. Because of tragedies in the past persecution, both real and perceived. has become an important component of Jewish identity. This is particularly true for Israelis who do not understand the history of the Palestinians, but only think of them as a violent group of rabid antisemites. Violence has only reinforced this ideas. The effect has been that the issue has been polarized for many Israelis along ethnic lines. A unilateral end to Palestinian violence will demonstrate to Israelis that the desires of Palestinians for freedom are not targeted at them. This will remove any last semblance of legitimacy from Israeli military operations and it will give more Israelis the chance to view the conflict in an objective manner and start pressuring their government, both through the normal political channels and joint action with Palestinians, to change its policies. There is already a grassroots network in Israel, but at the moment they are confined to the far left and are too marginalized to have a serious impact.
In the U.S, perhaps the most critical foreign nation, that network is even more marginalized. Criticism of Israel's human rights records is confined to a small number of highly intelligent, highly informed, activists. These people are the critical human infrastructure needed to bring about a change in policies, but by themselves they will be able to change very little. I can't tell you how many people I have spoken with, liberal people, people who I know would support the cause of justice and freedom if they knew that the Palestinian cause is the cause of justice and freedom, who have been so disturbed by the extensively covered Palestinian violence that they are unable to consider that Israel is not without blame.
I know how they think because I used to be one of these people. In 2006 I watched in horror as the "good guys" invaded Lebanon. It was an event so horrific and laden with civilian casualties that it garnered quasi sympathetic coverage even in the U.S. I watched in even greater horror as every politician from every party, people who I thought represented me, came out in droves to declare their full support for Israel's "right to defend its citizens", but said nothing of the citizens of Lebanon and Palestine who were being massacred by American made weapons. This event and my government's response to it was so shockingly outside of my conception of Israel that I realized there must be another to this story, I side that I did not know.
I began researching the Middle East and my government's role in it. At first I was sceptical of the Palestinians. I remember thinking that this war was only the product of a new and inexperienced leader in Israel, not any cynical policy. If only we had a great statesmen, a great man of peace like Sharon back in power, I remember thinking, this would have never happened. But, as I learned more I slowly realized that American support for Israel was entirely unjustifiable.
This is how other Americans will come to realize what has happened to the Palestinians. Israel is more fearful of a single camera than it is of an army of stone throwers. This is why it has been so restrictive of foreign media in Gaza and the West Bank. This is why it has done so much to frustrate the work of Palestinian journalists.
The liberation of Palestine will not take place within the framework of armed struggle. It is time for a third intifada. This intifada must be exclusively nonviolent. In the past the vast work of nonviolent activists have been ignored in the west because it is easier to cover Palestinian violence. The media is biased against Palestine it is true, but there are some things they will not be able to ignore. The media would not be able to ignore the Palestinian refugees if they followed the advice of Gandhi's grandson and walked over the border to their historic homeland in the tens of thousands in complete defiance of the Israeli military and also without any violence. The media would not be able to ignore such an event if it succeeded and they would definitely not be able to ignore it if the Israeli massacred the refugees in full view of foreign cameras. The Palestinians must do such things to shock the west and to shock Israelis into action.
People will die. It is unfortunate, but it is unavoidable. Even more will die, though, if the occupation continues. It is better that their deaths should be used to bring an end to the occupation. Shock, defiance, and sabotage are the only viable tactics at the disposal of the Palestinians. As they win widespread international support boycotts, sanctions, and divestment will become available as well. This is the only practical way for a weak and powerless nation to triumph over one of the world's most powerful governments.
A great thought of a young friend of mine. You can find her thoughts in here : http://1humanity.blogspot.com/
It would bring no harm to always open up our minds and our hearts.