The Missing Mahatma: Further thoughts

Gershom Gorenberg

My article on why there hasn’t been a Palestinian Gandhi has stirred a  wave of commentary. Jim Sleeper at TPM Cafe wrote to me to ask why I’d published it in the Weekly Standard (If you care, my answer is in his post). Svend White, an American Muslim, offered some thoughtful criticism,  commenting here and on his own blog (which I recommend).  And then of course there are the rants.

Svend says,

Fair enough, but kindly direct me to all the non-Palestinian Gandhis out there today…

As much as I hope and pray for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, I don’t think it’s a big mystery as to why a Palestinian Gandhi has yet to emerge. In how many other of the world’s conflicts have we seen such an ethic take root? Gandhi and MLK were extraordinary leaders whose charisma and vision could change the rules of the game.

I agree that leaders who can lead a nonviolent liberation struggle are rare.  Nonetheless, such leaders have existed.  The standard isn’t superhuman. Not only Israelis and outsiders, but some Palestinians have raised the argument that adopting a nonviolent strategy could be successful where other Palestinian strategies have failed.  On a practical level, it’s reasonable to ask why a movement at a political dead end hasn’t looked for  a more successful strategy.  Were I covering a conflict elsewhere, I’d ask the same question. I ask it about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because that’s the one I write about.

Besides that,  I don’t exempt the Israeli side from criticism of the methods it has adopted, and I don’t see any reason to exempt the Palestinian side from tough questions.  As I’ve written before, both parties deserve their far share of blame.

Avrum asked,

Why the palestinian first? how about a Jewish non-violent movement?

And in a tone more furious, Paul Woodward claims that I

chose to lend… support to the Israel apologists who happily massage their consciences by pretending that Palestinian violence is the one insurmountable obstacle to ending the conflict.

Well actually, Paul, I didn’t do that.  I can’t cram all of my writing into every article, but I’m fairly well known for arguing that Israel has created an incredible obstacle to peace in the settlement enterprise. I’ve also argued that Israel has resorted to military means when diplomatic options were available.

On the other hand, uh, yes, Palestinian violence has been a serious obstacle to ending the conflict. (My, how’s that for understatement?) Every rocket from Gaza, every bomb in a cafe confirms for Israelis that they are they victims and that their existence is threatened. All the old nightmares come back to life. Traumatized, scared people make poor peace negotiators, especially when they have the military capability to flail at those hurting them.

A Palestinian nonviolent struggle has the potential to get around this obstacle. When asked to explore why Palestinians have failed to seize the opening, I thought it was a reasonable journalistic assignment. A major obstacle to nonviolence, as I explain in my article, is that  Palestinian identity has an equally strong measure of victimhood. On both sides of the conflict, “righteous victims” have made force into a value.

As for why there hasn’t been a Jewish nonviolent movement: The answer depends on what’s meant by the question.

Within Israel politics, opponents of the occupation could have done and can do much more. The marches and rallies of the peace movement are a ritual, not a tactic. I don’t propose massive civil disobedience in Israel, because it would legitimize the settlers’ stance that law can be ignored. But boycotting all settler products, all settler schools, all school trips in the territories, etc., could have more impact than demonstrations – just for a start.

On the other hand, a state can’t adopt total non-violence. To explain, I have to first note a moral flaw in the radical non-violence stance.

Usually, people think that the most radical example of nonviolent commitment is refusal to defend oneself – as portrayed in Quranic version of the story of Cain and Abel:

“One said, ‘I will surely kill you.’ The other answered, ‘If you stretch out your hand to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against you to slay you. For I fear Allah, the Lord of the worlds.’ ”

However, there’s a more extreme case: Refusal to use force to defend someone else. A person may have the right to sacrifice her/himself rather than legitimate violence. But does someone have the right to remain passive while one person murders another before his eyes? Can the onlooker say, “I won’t legitimize violence by saving the innocent victim?” In my view, that’s much more morally questionable.

A key purpose of the state is to protect the innocent from attack – be it highway robbery, rape,  or an invasion. In an unredeemed world, a non-utopian world, if the state abdicates all use of force, it is likely to release a Hobbesian war of all against all.

The state,  any legitimate state, can’t absolve itself of using force in certain cases. Its aim should be minimal force: A commitment to adjudicate and relieve internal conflicts, to negotiate external ones wherever possible; to develop and use nonlethal force  in maintaining internal order; to make force the absolute last resort in foreign affairs.

To apply that:  I don’t propose that Israel disband its army and police.  I do think that we use our army far too often, for historical and psychological reasons that cause us to misinterpret threats and ignore other solutions.

Were Palestinians to achieve statehood through a nonviolent struggle, their new government would still need to have a capability for violence – or it would abandon the street to crime and violent political extremists. A total nonviolent strategy is more tenable for a substate force with a specific political goal than it is for a state.

Given my questions about absolute nonviolence, how can I propose that Palestinians might use it? Herein is a quandary. I think it might work. I think it could defuse the deep psychological barriers to a solution. Yet such a strategy could work, I suspect, only if its practitioners believed in it as a principle, not just a tactic. I apologize: I have no pat answers to this problem.

Then there are the rants. If you want to find the ones that appeared elsewhere, you may do so yourself. I don’t have the time to spend on screeds by supposed progressives who are offended by dreaming of a better way of getting to a better world, or self-proclaimed advocates of peace who can justify the murderous tactics of one side in the conflict, or for distant observers who claim to know exactly what Israelis think.

I will, however, respond to a couple of comments in my previous post. Raed Kami, who has identified himself elsewhere as a Palestinian living in London, performed his usual act of racist negation of Jews as human beings. On this blog and elsewhere, Kami regularly serves Israeli rightists by uttering parodies of what they would like to believe that Palestinians believe. He’s a good example of the Diaspora syndrome:

Diasporas have a tendency to promote passion over good sense and not just among Jews. The late Edward Said’s fulminations against compromise with Israel represented the Palestinian mirror image of the armchair extremism of some American Jews. A Boston Irish friend once told me, “In my family, we named our dogs after the British royal family” — or rather, that’s the printable version of what he said. His family, at least, did not contribute to Irish terror groups.

Part of this is guilt at work: Some Diaspora activists feel a contradiction between their commitment to the homeland and their comfortable absence from it and compensate by shouting louder. Besides that, distance turns a reality into an abstract cause. A cause is something you defend with unyielding argument…

Yes, Kami’s frothing is offensive. It’s a style that exists. Read my article, and you’ll get a much wider range of Palestinian views.

27 thoughts on “The Missing Mahatma: Further thoughts”

  1. There’s a very simple answer to the question, “Where are all the non-Palestinian Gandhis?” Nonviolent resistance works only against “enlightened,” Western (or Westernized) occupiers or oppressors, and probably only when used by non-Western populations. There are few such situations left in the world. Therefore it’s valid to focus the question on Palestine.

    There’s a story, I assume apocryphal, about the Palestinians deported by Rabin to south Lebanon around 1992. They planned to march, unarmed, towards the Israeli border to confront the IDF soldiers there, who would not fire on peaceful, unarmed marchers. As the marchers approached (the story goes), they saw that the Israelis had placed SLA soldiers there instead of the IDF to guard the border. The marchers stopped and turned back. Like I said, the story’s presumably apocryphal, but the point is real.

  2. The questions raised about defence of a third person are quite profound. I think it can be generalized into a question about the ligitimate and just use of power. Because, what is violence if it is not a catigory of power?

  3. Here, again, we see another example of the Israeli Left’s myopia about the real cause of the “troubles” here. He, as usual, dumps it on “the settlements” and those pesky “settlers”, meaning those built in Judea/Samaria/Gaza. This is a way of transferring the guilt that the “progressives” feel due to the fact that the Arabs endlessly remind us that it is the creation of Israel in 1948 that is called “THE NAQBA” (the catastrophe), and NOT the Israeli conquest of Judea/Samaria/Gaza in 1967. It is the Tel Aviv University sitting on the land that belonged to the Arab village of Sheikh Munis before 1948 that is the problem, not Beit El. It is Gershom’s Yedidya Congregation which is sitting on what was Arab land before 1948 in Jerusalem that is the problem, not Ofra.
    Okay, Gershom, you say it might be possible to boycott “the settlements” and products coming out of their, prohibit visits to Jewish holy places like the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron or even the Western Wall (WHICH IS ALSO AN ILLEGAL SETTLEMENT OCCUPIED IN 1967 and which the Muslim claim is a holy place called Al-Buraq Square where Muhammed supposedly left his miraculous horse during his mythical night visit to Jerusalem).
    Fine. But then, supporters of the Palestinian cause may say “why not go all the way? Boycott Israel entirely until it undoes the Law of Return, allows Palestinian refugees to return, etc, etc”.
    The division you make between “illegal settlements” after 1967 and what the Arabs view as “illegal settlements after 1948 is entirely artificial in their eyes, and they don’t feel any obligation to take the Zionist Left’s guilt feelings off their conciences by making do with only Judea/Samaria when the main Naqba injustice would remain.

    Regarding a potential Palestinian “Gandhi”, there is no possibility of one ever arising. This is due to two reasons : (1) The Arabs view themselves as decedents of a great warrior people who conquered a vast empire in a short period of time. Military virtues are admires among them. Someone who advocated “satyagraha” on the order of Gandhi would be viewed as a weakling.
    (2) Because of the ongoing divisions and mutual distrust of the various groups making up the Arab/Muslim world, which is divided along confessional lines (Shi’ite vs Sunni), ethnic lines (Arabs vs non-Arab Muslims) and tribal/clan lines, whoever this Arab Gandhi would be would automatically be classified as belonging to a particular group, and the other groups who dislike his group would say his actions are tainted by his being “disloyal” to the other groups and he would be accused of being an “Israeli agent” working to weaken “the anti-Zionist resistance”.
    This Israeli Arab woman who organized the Jenin Youth Orchestra who entertained the Holocaust survivors and who was arrested by FATAH people in Jenin and who was subsequently expelled by the Arabs from Palestinian Authority territory was accused of exactly the “crimes” I outlined.

  4. Thanks for addressing my queries about Raed Kami. The question that is still unanswered is why should we believe you more than Mr Kami in terms of what Palestinians believe? Your claim is that if Israel withdrew from the West Bank and E Jerusalem, there would be peace. I believe that such a move would encourage extremists, repeating Tel Hai on a larger scale. If I am wrong, (and I would very much want to be wrong), we get continued stalemate. If you are wrong, we potentially get the destruction of Israel

  5. Nimrod, if you live in Israel, have you considered going out and asking Palestinians, both in Israel and the West Bank, what they believe? IIRC, Gershom and Haim have done some fraternising in the past.

    Even if Raed Kami is a bona-fide London Palestinian (and not a sock puppet of David Horowitz, or simply a troll), and even if he represented any group or faction, would that group not be grounded in the diaspora rather than in Palestine? And why would the dissonances between the two locations be any different than they are for Jews?
    Jeff Halper makes some more points about the relationship between Israel and Jewish diaspora:

    “Whatever threat I represented to the organized Jewish community of Australia had less to do with Israel, I suspect, than with some damage I might to do to the idealized “Leon Uris” image of Israel which you hold onto so dearly. This might seem like a strange thing to say, but I do not believe that you in the Diaspora have internalized the fact that Israel is a foreign country as far from your idealized version as Australia is far from its image as kangaroo-land.
    (…)
    I venture to say, you have a stake in preserving Israel’s idealized image that trumps dealing with the real country. In my view, Israel is being used as the lynchpin of your ethnic identity in Australia; mobilizing around a beleaguered Israel is essential for keeping your kids Jewish. I would go so far as to accuse you of needing an Israel in conflict, which is why you seem so threatened by an Israel at peace, why you deny that peace is even possible, why a peaceful Israel that is neither threatened nor “Jewish” cannot fulfill the role you have cast for it, and thus why you characterize my message as “vile lies.”

    http://antonyloewenstein.com/blog/2009/03/31/an-unhelpful-discourse-on-israel

  6. There are places where the Wall has divided Palestinians from their land, where the wall doubles back on itself around a salient extending into the West Bank and nowhere near Israel proper.

    Suppose a movement started around a Palestinian farmer Abu X. He would announce “I am Abu X and on a certain date, I will be going to directly to my fields as I always did in the past. I will not be armed and I will not be deterred by arms. I wish only to farm without interference”

    His path would take him directly to the base of the Wall. The Wall has a secure zone that allows Israeli patrols so, of course, Abu X would never get anywhere near the wall itself but he would try, and try again, and again. He might be arrested but others would put on his shirt, so to speak, and try again. Israel would have to set up a presence at the spot simply to stop people from approaching the Wall. If the wall were reached, picks would be used on it…a hopeless effort against such thick reinforced concrete but symbolic and something that would leave a mark on the wall…of course that would not be allowed. The whole effort would be simple: Abu X wants to walk to his field. There would be no fighting. Israeli orders to withdraw would be obeyed but the next day, the approach would be re-attempted, day after day, week after week, month after month…

  7. I have met Palestinians, and know that many of them share Raed’s viewpoints. Bringing Halper and Loewesntein into the equation discredits your thesis, as these are anti-Zionists, and some of the Palestinians I have met are much more moderate than Halper and Loewenstein. In fact, Palestinians sometimes suspect these people as being right wing infiltrators, as ridiculous as that sounds. The recent elections in Israel demonstrate that the Israeli populace shares with the diaspora the distrust of the “peace process” which has brought violence to both Israelis and Palestinians.

  8. Clif-The “wall” was built as a consquence of the Palestinian war of terror against Israel. It is always the innocent who suffer because of the crimes of their leaders, in this case, Arafat and his terror gangs. Arafat promised the Palestinians a war against Israel as soon as he arrived in the country. He delivered, but they lost the war, so now they are paying the price for it. If there had been no terror, there wouldn’t be a wall. The Palestinians are responsible. Period.

  9. I stand on the sidelines watching as American whose ancestors arrived in the colonies in1657 as a religious minority who were pacifists and are still pacifists eventhough I served my country in combat. I belong to the ” peace now” movement which is very strong among the United Methodists here in the States and of course my former affiliation the Quakers.Peace is the answer and most people in the world yearn for it but the vocal minority say you can have it only on our terms. The “wingnut” who now serves as Israel’s Foreign Minister exemplfys this self -fulfilling prophesy except he eschews peace. He and Bibi must have convinced General Patraeus to say today, it is very likely that Israel will enact a preemptive strike on Iran. I didn’t think anyone was that stupid but maybe I’m wrong maybe they believe Dick ( I’ve really have been annointed Vice President for Life) that the US will back Israel-DON’T COUNT ON IT

  10. If one wants a Palestinian Gandhi to lead a non-violent resistance movement, I would suggest that slightly less attention be paid to finding ways in which to implant an ethic of nonviolence and more on creating a context in which such a strategy would make sense (and let me say at the outset that at present I’m not too sure on how one goes about doing this).
    Martin Luther King is often held up as an example of someone who succeeeded through a commitment to nonviolence. But think about his context for a moment: he was a Black man in the South organizing in the 1950s. What other options did he have apart from nonviolence? Violence? If he had resorted to violence, well, America’s race problem would have been solved, and very quickly at that, but not on terms that I think anyone reading this would find favorable. Martin Luther King resorted to nonviolence for the simple reason that absolutely no other option was available to him.
    As for Gandhi himself, my understanding is that there were many Indians who were not reluctant to use violence against the British, and the British, though they certainly did not like Gandhi, preferred to deal with him rather than much of the more mainstream Indian nationalist movement. And many Indian nationalists actually blame Gandhi for actually being a delaying factor in the path to Indian independence. Gandhi emerged as a leader of the Indian nationalist movement because, for the British, the other leaders were even less palatable.

  11. Y. Ben-David, you might have a point if the wall had been built on Israeli territory, like the “anti-imperialist protection wall” the GDR built in 1961. You know that’s not the case. To settle a part of one’s own population within supposed “enemy territory” and then to claim they have to be protected by a wall that conveniently encloses some land that doesn’t even belong to those settlements is nothing but an exercise in bad faith.

    And since you often point out that for the Palestinians 1948, not 1967 is the point of contention, I’d agree (though who appointed you as spokesman for them anyway?), but in that case the Palestinians are “responsible” not because of anything they do, but merely because they exist.

  12. There is a Palestianian Mahtma. His name is Mubarak Awad. He was deported by the Israeli government over 20 years ago. The prime minster then was Shamir. The government was hoping for Palestianain violence, because it would be easier to justify the Occupation. Well Shamir got what he wanted, violence and then more.

  13. Lars, I’m not convinced that MLK resorted to nonviolence purely for utilitarian reasons, do you have any evidence for this? Other groups – the Black Panthers, Nation of Islam – did use violence even though by your argument they were strategically no less constricted than King.

    The difference between Britain and Israel is that Britain had to extricate itself out of India – if not, then why negotiate an exit at all. Expelling the Indians was of course never an option.
    Israel on the other hand can’t extricate itself out of, well, itself. Ethnic cleansing of Palestinians has been done before, and the desire to see the rest disappear as well is still alive in some quarters, not least in the new government. For those nonviolence may not present itself as the only, or even as the most convenient option.

  14. I WOULD GREATLY APPRECIATE A RESPONSE FROM MR. GORENBERG.

    Mr. Gorenberg, you did not give enough weight to the currently, presently existing (though on a low-flame) non-violent forms of Palestinian protest, which are hardly allowed any chance to develop by Israel.

    As I commented previously, daily protests against the Wall and land-grabbing have become more violent over the past few years due to the border police’s “dispersal”, and HAMAS ITSELF planned on several occasions to march thousands in Gaza toward its besieged border, and form a “human chain” around the border, but Israel threatened to take lethal action and nothing came of it.

    That is a prime example of how something sounds good in theory, but in reality verges on unfeasible. The fear of Palestinians to be chased away by the stinging tear gas, to be maimed by Magav beatings, to be arrested or shot cannot be waved away by saying that “the standard is not superhuman.”

    The Raj in India was doubtlessly brutal in its tactics- often more than israel – and there are definite similarities as between all colonial situations, but we cannot deduce from one given case how to treat another simply because of several similarities.

    The roadblock regime is a major hindrance on free movement. When Palestinians can’t get from village to village, city to city, without being stopped, checked, questioned, detained, there goes one of the building blocks needed for such a LARGE-SCALE movement to develop.

    When the Shabak threatens even SMALL-SCALE Palestinians who wish to protest land-theft, or organize rallies, when people are black-listed and face consequences that can affect their day-to- day lives in the most fundamental way, when they are beaten and arrested and shot at, there goes another building block, what you patronizingly call “courage.”

    When it difficult to leave the West Bank -let alone Gaza — to receive some western education and know you will be allowed to return to your home (as the case of Awad partially shows), the key need for an educated leadership is dwindled greatly, as it is by dismal economic conditions (far worse in Gaza than the West Bank).

    And finally, you ignored violence against the Raj in India, such as the 19th century rebellion, that eventually lead to gradual British moderation. You ignored violence and sabotage against the Brits before and during Gandhi’s peaceful efforts.
    The ANC in South-Africa was considered a terrorist group, and indeed acts of terror were carried out by blacks against the whites. Only when the apartheid regime began ceasing to consider the ANC and Mandela terrorists could reconciliation rapidly progress.
    And closer to home (this rant is written by an Israeli), you ignore that Algeria was helped freed largely by terrorist bombs and cruel slaughter of thousands of French soldiers and settlers.

    Unlike our own military leaders like Ehud Barak and Ami Ayalon, if I were asked what I would be if I were a Palestinian I would not say I’d like to be a terrorist or fighter. I too believe their violence is self-defeating, vicious and unhelpful — ultimately.

    But so far it has got them Israeli recognition, the Oslo accords, the (foolish) Gaza disengagement — in addition to thousands of dead, right-wing governments and more settlements. A secret survey commissioned by Sharon, revealed a year or two ago on TV, showed that violence, AND PLEASE NOTE THIS – actually made Israelis more willing to make concessions.

    Before the theory, establish the reality in an unbiased, un-patronizing way.

    And if you call this a rant, so be it.

  15. Gershom, in addition to the points raised by alon, I’d like to point out a few more reasons why the discourse on “the palestinian ghandi” somehow rings false:

    1. All the historical examples you cite – Ghandi, mandella, MLK should in fact, be classified as “Black Swan” events. The individuals arose through unique collusion of circumstance and coincidence. A close inspection of the roads travelled reveals so many forks in the road – including many not dependent on the individuals – that were any detail changed in the slightest, events would have likely taken a very different course. Such committed people arise only rarely in history, and though there may be several candidates throughout a given people’s history, if the timing is wrong, the movement fails to catch steam. To bloster my case, I submit the case of Awad as Exhibit I. Your list of qualities desirable in a “Palestinian Ghandi” in combination with required impeccable timing (over which none of us have control) is Exhibit II. Consider the probabilities, if you please.

    2. Both you and your blog mate haim are wedded to the idea that Israeli society is, at its core, sane – if not always sensible. Based on recent events alone, I see reason to challenge this assumption. What was once may no longer be. You may – from the vantage of an ivory tower, surrounded by mostly well meaning, educated, and probably similarly religious people – see possibilities that may be but a mirage, when taking society as a whole. The Ghandi scenario can only work in the context of a fundamentally sane and deeply civilized society. But for the “jewish” society in Israel, civilization itself is receding, as does Judaism itself (hence the parenthesis). It may well be that your own values – Jewish as they are, are universal by choice, serve to protect you from seeing the rapid loss of those very values in your country-people.

    3. Israeli society – far from adopting the post tribal model of America, is becoming more tribal – and much more parochial and insulated, as a result. As gaza showed, the country’s residents have become increasingly immune to the violence they perpetrate. What was shocking once (eg, death of hundreds of children) is no longer so. Remember a time not long ago, when the death of a single child – Mohammad al-dura – captured the agonized attention of so many? there were hundreds of them this time around, many more shockingly wounded – all on display for the world to see. But Israelis – collectively averted their gaze. Tribal conflicts can often be much harsher than racial ones. Let’s not forget that the blacks in america did not aspire to a revolution or regime change. They agitated mostly for acceptance, for the right to assimilate, for the possibility of legitimized intermarriage, for full mingling with the dominant culture. In Israel, tribal and religious boundaries prohibit assimilation of the palestinians. So at best, the final vision is the pathetic one of a totally segregated society. What’s in that to inspire a Ghandi? Even were a Ghandi to happen, chances are the aftermath would be more like the one in India than the one in south africa or the US. Surely, not an appetizing prospect. This consideration alone dooms your Ghandi project. What happened to Awad was not an accident. It’s likely to be the rule. Had he been more charismatic, he’d have probably met with a more violent end sooner.

    I think you should revisit your thesis in light of reality as it is, not as you wish it to be.

    PS I happen to also consider Obama as a black swan event too. Always did. Despite many missteps I still hope that in the end his existence will chart the new course we were all hoping for. What’s the relevance to Ghandi? only rarity, and the importance of timing (IMO).

  16. It’s nice to imagine that readers of the Weekly Standard would be so well informed as to place this particular article in the context of the rest of your work. However, we both know that the context in which a cover story on the WS is read is the content and editorial slant of the magazine. Indeed, the majority of readers of the WS have unfortunately never heard of Gershom Gorenberg.

    The fact that the magazine made your article its cover story says nothing about what they think of your work and everything about the way in which your article dovetailed into the editors’ views on the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    In a recent issue, Elliot Abrams wrote: “It has been true for decades that the most Israel can offer the Palestinians is quite evidently less than any Palestinian politician is prepared to accept.”

    To suggest that the conflict could be resolved if a Palestinian advocate of non-violence was to emerge as a potent political leader is — for readers of the Weekly Standard — to merely reinforce their assumption that the conflict is intractable because the Palestinians make it so.

    And on a personal and more pointed note I would say that any Israeli who thinks at this particular time that they have the luxury to be reflecting on what the Palestinians might do to turns things around, seems to be avoiding confronting the political reality of Israel.

  17. I thoroughly enjoyed the article! …very enlightening historical summary. Despite the many holes the other commenters tried to poke in some of your premises (which are mostly sensible and debatable, although I admit my biases are similar to yours), your thorough presentation of the historical context of non-violence among Palestinians adds much to my understanding of the complexities of the conflict. Thank you, Gershom.

  18. GG: Why do you want to give the Palestinian Arabs better tactics and strategy? They aren’t our friends and they don’t wish to get along with us.

    They must be reasonable people who only want peace and justice, right?

    That’s a crack-pipe dream. It may feel good to be stoned but it isn’t reality. And it doesn’t lead to wise behavior.

    Gandhi and MLK could succeed because they weren’t trying to destroy London or Washington. But the goal of Arab Palestinians has been to destroy Israel. No recognition, no peace, no negotiations. If they change their goals, the Gandhian approach may come up again.

  19. Your excuses as to why an Israeli Ghandi is an impossibility ring a little hollow. It seems like you want a Palestinian Ghandi to redeem, not the violence of Hamas, but your own inability to do the heavy lifting involved in pursuing an effective nonviolent strategy from the other side of the wall.

    Malcolm X rejected non-violence because he didn’t think that the US could recognize the humanity of African Americans. While history proved him wrong, had I met him at the time I don’t think that I could tell someone who’s father was lynched that he should trust in the humanity of White Americans. I certainly am not perverse enough to lecture Palestinians that they should have faith in the Israeli Defense Force’s recognition of their basic humanity.

    And re: the above discussion of King vs X, I wouldn’t necessarily see their tactics as opposed – they supported each other. The fear that Malcolm X and the Black Panthers inspired in White Americans made King’s message of non-violence all the more compelling.

  20. Can you prove that your vision of the Palestinians is more representative than that of Raed Kami? Recently, a Balad MK, Haneen Zuabi, praised the development of Iranian nuclear weapons. Does this give you any concern?

  21. Gershom, I think it is not entirely fair to expound on what type of resistance that would work for the Palestinians as to movements of years and decades past because it simply is either not equivalent or that the differences fair outweigh the similarities. While I could go on and on about this (I have done so on other blogs), it is not accurate to paint past “non-violent” movements as non-violent or even 100% successful. My reading of Gandhi is that he was somewhat on two-minds on what to adopt, and historians and revisionism has been very kind to that period and has lionised Gandhi in the same way that our period demonises Palestinians. (Look at Marwan Barghouti.) What I mean by this is that because India and South Africa are regarded as non-violent movements that proved successful over a stronger foreign occupant, it was by no means totally non-violent. The ANC were responsible for some reprehensible acts and personally, if it weren’t for the Soweto uprisings, we might still have Apartheid intact in Pretoria today. Look at other conflicts and reflect on the ratio of so-called “non-violence” as opposed to violent resistance: Northern Ireland, Algeria, Vietnam, Philippines, it could go on and on… The success of three movements most talked about looms large because it is the three that related so much to white power losing its prestige against the “other”, the ones we have so much personal experience with.

    It also looks short-sighted praying for a saviour with advocates non-violence when there was a twenty year period when Israel was first created and no one even thought a crap about what a Palestinian was. If it weren’t for those horrible acts, we would still have Mier’s thinking here (and some circles still have that after all this time).

    I know I didn’t want to make this long so I will stop with one last shot: Gandhi and Mandela had in their arsenal a total population dominance over the British and the Afrikaaners respectively. The vast numbers played so much on occupier’s minds that they feared for their lives IF the violence actually would spill when more harsh measures would have been undertaken against the natives. This the Palestinians do not have.

  22. Mr. Gorenberg,

    I must say I enjoyed your Weekly Standard piece. I have to admit that when I first saw how long it was, I groaned to myself. “Not another can’t we all get along lament” I thought.

    But, I did enjoy reading of some few Muslims that were committed to a non-violent path in the conflict.

    Unfortunately, while I agree with you that it would be grand that such a Palestinian Gandhi would come forth, I have no expectation that such a person would ever live long enough to make a difference.

    Hamas and Fatah and their Islamist, terrorist supporters could never allow such a person to live. They would have such a person killed as soon as it became obvious that he was being effective. And, being dedicated to non-violence, such a Palestinian Gandhi would also be a sitting duck easily eliminated by what would ostensibly be people on his own side.

    And then, those Muslim killers would blame it on Israel and use his pointless and evil death for their own purposes to further enrage the people and make a mockery of that new Gandhi’s goals.

    I hate to say it, but your dream is an impossible one.

  23. Sorry for arriving late.

    a) that WS article was way too long? they pay you by the word (a la Dickens)?

    b) can you imagine Jews trying to get into the Temple Mount to pray in a similar scenario? they wouldn’t shoot Yehuda Etzion or beat him to a pulp?

    c) these words of Haim: “The government was hoping for Palestianain violence, because it would be easier to justify the Occupation. Well Shamir got what he wanted, violence and then more” are a bit, well, off the wall. So, we want to have our own injured and killed to justify what the Arabs do in any case?

  24. Dear Mr. Gorenberg,
    I’m late to the party (as it were), but wanted to thank you for the Mahatma article and your capacity to consider all sides, from an ethical and learned perspective. I have ignored the whole israeli-palestinian miasma for most of my life because I always felt bungled up, with the rhetoric on both sides incredibly upsetting to me and the feeling, which I usually have with politics, that it’s an intricate chess game and if I look away for an instant the whole game has changed and/or you have no idea what is going on. But I begin to build some understanding, reading you and listening to archived interviews with Terry Gross.

    I do think non-violence would take the Palestinians far (and I want them to have their state, and want the borders to return to pre-1967 levels, for what it’s worth). But I also wish the Israeli military wouldn’t always take the bait, and thus inflame things. Why don’t they leave their rubber bullets and tear gas behind, and keep their distance when the teenagers are throwing stones? Am I missing something here? Perhaps you could write a column on this topic.

    Thank you for all your hard work and good thought.

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