Filed under: Israel
Eyal Press has a quick piece in The Nation referencing Gershom Gorenberg’s recent piece in The Weekly Standard on the possibility (or not) of nonviolent Palestinian resistance. Press misses something very important which Gorenberg, to his credit, did not miss: the First Intifada, which was largely composed of teenagers and kids throwing rocks, was as close to nonviolent as can reasonably be expected. It was put down by Israeli military and police repression. And while in the medium term it did lead to the Rabin-era Israel-Palestine peace process, it proved unsustainable.
That was in part because Palestinian organizations with a history of terrorist operations like the PLO and Hamas felt threatened and frozen out by the intifada, but just as importantly because the Israeli right was determined to sabotage any peaceful response to nonviolent resistance in order to legitimate its territorial religious-nationalist ambitions. First Rabin was assassinated by the religious nationalists. Then Netanyahu pressed ahead with West Bank settlements and reneged on security agreements with the PLA in order to deny Arafat the fruits of negotiation, sideline the possibility of a real Palestinian state, and give the advantage to Palestinian terrorist groups so they could destroy the PLA’s political hegemony. By the time Barak came to power it was clear that the Israeli right was so determined to sabotage a peace deal that only a desperate press for a final agreement made during a left-wing administration had a chance, but Arafat judged he couldn’t sell the deal to his people, so that failed, and the whole thing went to hell.
Anyway, the point is that nonviolent resistance has been tried. It hasn’t worked, because the opponent in this case isn’t a British Tory government that would really rather be rid of India provided it can get good terms. It’s an Israeli religious rightist government that wants to take most or all of the West Bank and force its inhabitants into Bantustans from which, the Israelis hope, they will be tempted to emigrate.
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