The Missing Mahatma: Searching for a Palestinian Gandhi

Gershom Gorenberg

If Palestinians adopted a Gandhian nonviolent strategy, could they reshape the entire conflict with Israel and finally realize a two-state solution? If so, why haven’t they done so? Or perhaps they really have at certain times and places, and Israel has broken that form of resistance as well?

Those questions have been asked for years, in variations of tone and wording, by moderate Israelis and Palestinians and by concerned outsiders. A while back, a colleague suggested that I investigate the issue in depth.

The question lead to a intellectual journey. My essay on that journey of exploration has at last appeared.

Here’s the opening:

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Is All Criticism Anti-Israel? A Question for NGO Monitor

Gershom Gorenberg

NGO Monitor, Gerald Steinberg’s group, which tracks human-rights groups for anti-Israel bias, sent me its annual report. I don’t claim the resources to monitor every detail of its monitoring. But a section in the report on B’Tselem helps illuminate an underlying bias in the work of the bias-hunter.

The report quotes B’Tselem Executive Director Jessica Montell as acknowledging

that Israel is held to a higher standard within the international community and “in some ways Israel is discriminated against and disproportionately criticized.” But she also stated, “Israel is a democracy that holds itself to a higher standard. And I think that’s appropriate,” a comment which denies the universality of human rights. [my emphasis]

Does holding Israel to a higher standard in fact defy the universality of human rights? Sometimes, depending on context. Some groups, especially foreign ones, notice only Israeli offenses, because they begin by being offended that Israel exists.

But there are three essential flaws in the NGO Monitor argument against B’Tselem on this point.

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