Non-Violent Resistance in Palestine


The search for the kind of Palestinian non-violent resistance movement that would almost certainly be more effective than all the rockets in the world at forcing Israel to seriously contemplate a just resolution of the Palestinian issue is a bit of a staple of left-wing Jewish thought. But Gershom Gorenberg executes the genre with uncommon verve and affecting power. And perhaps most notably of all, he does it in The Weekly Standard where one isn’t accustomed to reading such things:

But even if patronizing, the question remains valid: Sainthood can work. Britain abandoned India; Montgomery’s buses were desegregated.

As an Israeli, to imagine Nasser a-Din al-Masri is disturbing for another reason: This is a fantasy of a political savior who comes from the adversary’s side because one’s own has no answers. Israeli politics has become a junkyard of broken ideologies. The outgoing government of Ehud Olmert succeeded neither in negotiating peace nor in bringing quiet to the Gazan border with military force. Meanwhile, settlement construction continued, deepening Israel’s entanglement in the West Bank. In February’s election, a majority of Israelis voted for parties that offered no expectation of an end to the conflict. We have failed to manufacture hope. Let the Palestinians do it.

I would emphasize that it’s not just that sainthood can work. Given the right circumstances, non-violent resistance is harder to commit oneself too—it requires enormous self-discipline—but it’s likely to be more effective. It’s not as if the civil rights leaders of the 1950s and 60s were just doing white America a favor by eschewing violence; they were taking a harder road to stick to precisely because it worked better. If southern blacks had launched a campaign of terrorist violence against their white neighbors, presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy would have wound up mobilizing the national guard to protect Jim Crow’s perpetrators rather than its victims.

Which isn’t to say there’s no non-violent protest in Palestine—there’s quite a lot. But the leading faces of Palestinian resistance in the eyes of Israelis and the West are Hamas and Hezbollah and their indiscriminate violence. That, in turn, does wonders to help maintain the political and diplomatic viability of unjust Israeli policies.