israeli commandosImagine a resistance to the Israeli occupation that is completely nonviolent. We got a glimpse of that this week with the flotilla to Gaza that was attacked by the Israeli army. It was the intent of the organizers to carry out just such a strategy, but some few people on one of the ships were apparently overcome by passion as the Israeli troops descended on them, and took up iron bars, and whatever else lay to hand. They thereby gave the Israelis precious footage of violence being meted out to Israeli soldiers. The Israeli attack—on the high seas—could thus be packaged as resistance to aggression, rather than state-sponsored piracy.

But suppose there were no violence by the activists, just a refusal to comply with what they held to be an illegal seizure of their ships in support of an illegal blockade and an illegal occupation. The Israeli government and military are manifestly completely unprepared for that.  They know only how to respond to Palestinian violence with disproportionate force. If they were shown beating up and imprisoning unarmed and nonviolent resisters, their international isolation would be complete. Even now the Israeli government has managed to alienate Turkey, its last ally in the Middle East, and has put relations with the United States—its indispensable ally—under grave strain. Facing a truly nonviolent resistance, the government’s position would become untenable.

john-peeler.gifUnfortunately, Palestinians and other Arabs come from a tradition and culture that has been infertile soil for nonviolent resistance. For many, the only acceptable response to injustice is violent revenge. Nonviolence is unmanly. This plays right into the hands of the Israeli occupiers, who can always reply to force with an overwhelmingly disproportionate response.

What they cannot counter, any more than the British in India or the segregationists in Mississippi, is resistance by people who are willing to die, but not to kill.

John Peeler

Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Bucknell University


  1. says

    I suggest people look to sources OTHER THAN the U.S. media if they want the truth about the Israeli attack on the humanitarian ships.The IDF commandos FIRED ON the Turkish ship BEFORE BOARDING IT. To describe people EXERCISING SELF DEFENSE with whatever was at hand (metal poles,litchenkinves, DECK CHAIRS) as being “violent” is ABSURD–whether Israel or “progressive” commentators do it. There is a history of NON-VIOLENT RESISTANCE BY PALESTINIANS–it jsut gets NO REPORTING IN THE U.S.. Check out JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE’S website “The Only Democracy?” for reporting of that non-violent movement and Israel’s violent respopnse to it.

    What we are seeing is an Israeli DISNORMATION CAMPAIGN in the U.S. Ironically, newspapers in Israel have more dissent and facts than what the US media reports.

    Israeli has eyt again violated internaitonal law. The only question is: will there be any accountabliility?

    Finally, for the poser who wrote about whether Israel would be “willing to give up Gaza”: REALITY CHECK: Gaza does NOT “bong” to Israel. Gaza is part of the UN mandate for a Palestinian stae in 1948–a mandate that gave Israel 55% of the land and Palestinain Arabs 45% of the land. As of now,Israel has STOLEN so much Paletinian land that at Palestinians only have 22% of that oringnal land the UN mandated. THAT[s what ‘s gong on: a LAND GRAB BY ISRAEL. NOT some fight for “security”.
    Andy our taxes PAY FOR THIS LAND GRAB to the tune of $3 BILLION to $5 BILLION EVERY YEAR.

  2. Paul McDermott says

    Joe and his “Izzy” pals can spin your heads with the way they take an argument to absurb levels.
    Let me try to sort through this muck.
    So Joe believes that the apartheid wall is no different than the fence that runs along the U.S. Mexican border. And … by the way, the apartheid wall isn’t so bad because 90% of it is a cyclone fence (unlike that nasty Berlin Wall, I guess).
    Let me remind Joe that the apartheid wall does not run along an international border (the 1967 Green Line)but rather through people’s farms and villages in an attempt to grab yet more prize Palestinian land and include those Israeli settlements/towns erected illegally in land taken during another war Israel started. This would be roughly equivalent to the U.S. building the border fence to include clusters of American homes in Baja California.
    Secondly, Joe has taken this bit about “knife-wielding hammies” and anti-Semitic slurs straight out of the hasbara playbook. None of this occurred except for the ship crew defending themselves from Entebbe-style rambos with bars pried off the ship. Those anti-Semitic slurs were ham-handedly put onto the tape of the transmission of the Israeli warnings.
    Thirdly, Israel has no right to hold an embargo on the people of Gaza. On top of the crude invasion of Christmas 2008 this embargo is meant to collectively punish the Gazans, which is illegal under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
    Fourthly, when it suits them the hasbarists will conflate and twist the facts to their purpose. Gazan fights fired missiles at Sderot (an action I don’t condone) because the Zionists refused to lift the embargo which they put in place earlier and were conducting targeted assassinations in Gaza (sort of like shooting fish in a barrel! Great fun, huh, Joe?).
    Lastly, what Joe is talking about when he says the “hammies” are calling for “the destruction of Israel” is nothing more than ending the apartheid, Jewish-only regime and creating in its place a state in which all citizens, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, can live in peace as equals.
    Joe, didn’t you support the destruction of the apartheid state of South Africa, or were you one of those who supported the whites-only state, like your Zionists pals who supplied it with nuclear bomb technology.

  3. says

    Marie’s parting comment is way out of date: Sharon’s government years ago pulled all Israeli settlers out of Gaza. Hamas moved in and duly leveled the greenhouses and other constructions. Paul’s comment refers to apartheid – the solution demanded by Palestinian leaders (or Obamites on their behalf): no Jewish settlements in Palestine. This demand is not matched by Israel, which has always contained many Arab villages and towns. For over 90 percent of its length, the so-called ‘wall’ is cyclone-type fencing, not solid wall at all. So, if you happen to believe in ‘proportionate response’, protests about nasty exclusionary apartheid walls ought first be directed at the far longer and more solid US-Mex wall.

    At any rate, this article, joining the plethora of recent articles about Israel and Gaza, indicates that politically correct progressives are obsessed with a problem – let’s describe it before getting on to the solution below.

    A small country of Izzies dares to defend itself from a religious-fanatic thugocracy of Hammies. That makes Izzies very naughty and unprogressive, because after all Izzies don’t have a right to exist at all unless they are morally superior to everyone else. Among other things, that means that Izzies must not make mistakes, such as killing someone when they threaten, and moreover it requires Izzies (no one else) to presume peace-loving intentions of knife-wielding weapons-material smuggling jihadists who yell at the Izzies to go back to Auschwitz.

    For correct progressive thinking, the Hammies clearly have the moral high ground way over the Izzies, for several good reasons. First of all, the Hammies seek the utter destruction of the Izzies but not vice versa. This is especially meritorious and progressive because the Hammies’ quest is on religious grounds. Second, the Hammies impose on their underlings, the Pals, various features of meritorious feudal and medieval society, including male chauvinism, whereas the Izzies go for human rights, courts, democracy (for more than one election), and like boring or evil western imperialist stuff. Third, the Izzies are real PR tricksters: despite trouble (as well as hatred) from the Hammies, they allow the Pals to receive food and medicines and other humanitarian goods. Fourth and yet worse, the Izzies have toiled, survived and prospered, as if there were any merit either to capitalism or to modern democratic socialism.

    The obvious progressive solution is to help the meritorious Hammies do away with the evil Izzies, so that the poor Pals can live happily ever after under the thugocracy of the Hammies.

    Then we’ll all be free to to take on the bigger challenge. How to do away with a much bigger bunch that’s even more of an evil threat to correct progressives. Namely, the Yankees.

  4. Paul McDermott says

    If you have followed the protests in Bi’lin and in other towns cut off by the apartheid wall, nonviolence has still been met with violence. Organizers of nonviolent resistance have been punished with administrative detention (no habeas corpus), their homes bulldozed, and expelled from their homeland.
    Israelis know only how to respond to passive resistance by brute force, arrogance, and deceitful lies.

  5. marie says

    The Israeli approach of the ship. They should have understood that this creates fear and possible panic with aggression on the ship. For Israeli military has a known history of “fieriness”. I am not impressed by the show of weapons: Primitive, and also a lot of regular tools. etc. Gas masks are not a weapon but a protection device against attacks…
    That the stuff was used against the Israeli-soldiers when the people on the ship felt attacked…? It were no fire-arms like the soldiers had… “Ammunition shot from weapons” against the israeli soldiers, according to Israeli…
    In their show of weapons, I did not see any gun or rifle…

    7 soldiers were injured, but 16 to 20 people from the ship were killed… The claim that the ship was thoroughly checked at the last harbor is very weak, for the Israeli-situation. On what side were the the officials that checked the cargo?
    It would have been better if Israeli soldiers would have co-checked it at the last port the ship left and than peacefully accompanied the ship to the Gaza waters , were the ship than should have been allowed to unload the cargo in the Gaza harbor.

    I understand the fear of Israel. But fear is always a bad guide in making decisions. And it does not seem possible to me that Israel can win by plain force.
    Making the living-circumstances more and more unbearable for the Palestinians in Gaza, will only cause more desperate counter-agression from those Palestinians.

    And aslong as Israel encourage Jewish setlers in Gaza, I can not believe that Israel really is willing to give-up Gaza to the Palestinians.

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