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I have been studying nonviolence – first as a theory and now as both a historical reference and a way of life – for a little under a year now. Every time I ruminate for long periods of time about it, I begin to think about Palestine. Here is a situation in which nonviolence is really their only choice; they are outnumbered, outgunned, and out supported and when they use any sort of violence they are met with ten times as much. They fire a small rocket over the border that doesn’t even reach its destination and the response is armed tanks shooting at whatever is moving and blockades on their food, oil, and water. When the world starts asking questions, Israel responds by saying that their security is at risk due to the rockets maybe one day reaching something (and the suicide bombers) and most of the world accepts this. However – I kept telling myself – if the Palestinians would organize in some sort of a nonviolent way, Israel would have nothing to say if they responded with violence. A couple of days ago a number of Palestinians formed a human fence along the Palestine-Israel border (they wanted to cover the whole border, but not enough people showed up) and spent the entire time of the protest being peaceful and singing songs. Israel called out their army and military police, but were unable to do anything besides talk shit. They made insane claims, such as “It’s absolutely clear that among them will be people with explosive charges, there will be those among them who will be ready at any moment to blow up the border fence. Suddenly there will be a big hole in the fence somewhere, there will be explosions, injured soldiers, and the mob will stream into our territory. If that happens it will be the end of the state of Israel.” An Israeli MP said this; none of it came true and the Palestinians made a huge point. If they use their press to report on the small success of this mission – and most importantly, the zero casualties – and then plan for another human fence next week, the numbers and the attention will be bigger. Sooner or later this could grow into a movement, eventually Israel will use violence, and in time the world will see the truth. This is asking a lot – practicing nonviolence in the face of such a huge oppressor requires a lot more work and restraint than being violent – but history has proven it is possible and history has proven that it works.

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3 thoughts on “Nonviolence in the Middle East

  1. Non-violence is a slippery slope.

    What is you definition of “violence?” Is damage to private property violence? Blockades, occupations; are these violent?

    I have always been of the frame of mind that it is not healthy to decide that there is one solution for all or even most encountered opposition. A very common example is the protest movement in the US. In some instances I have been a part of demonstrations which were effective when all we did was march around, and other times it was more effective to cause disruption, and yet still other times it was better to actively resist. The point being, that no two incidences are the same and should never be treated as such. Once your enemies are able to figure out the select number of reactions to expect from a given population the easier it becomes to cage them in repression.

  2. I’m not sure what my exact definition of violence is yet. Yes; blockades and occupations are very violent, but that does not mean that the response has to be violent. Back and forth violence never works, there is never a victor; especially when – as I said – one is outnumbered and out gunned.
    Marching is nonviolent, but so are disruptions of sorts. People often get confused between nonviolence and inaction; nonviolence is very active. Even Gandhi said that it is better to be violent than to do nothing at all.

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