As a principle, resistance to oppression must be an inalienable right no matter what the type of resistance it may be. Blame for any violent resistance must never be laid on the oppressed but rather on the oppressor because oppression in itself is violent and when one suffers violence then violent resistance becomes justified as self-defense.
This is akin to “fighting fire with fire.” Uncontrolled fire can wreak great devastation, but few would object when a large fire is lit to snuff out what might be a more calamitous fire. Why, then, should people object when a violent resistance brings to an end a violent oppression? Peace can only reign when an oppression has been halted. Certainly, it would not be preferable for the violent oppression to continue in the face of pacifist resistance?
Therefore, as a second principle, a resistance movement must never incur greater limitation in tactics than an oppressor uses. To limit a resistance more than an oppressor would be morally anathema. The logical proof is easily verifiable since the cause of the violence is the morally reprehensible oppression; without oppression there could be no resistance. In the case of an occupation/oppression, an entire population is targeted – both civilian and military. In a morally just intellectual space, a military field should never be supported or tilted in favor of the oppressor. Intellectually, if not morally, the entire population of the oppressor could be considered a legitimate target; this writer would, however, recoil at targeting children, elders, and women.1 Therefore, criticism of the Palestinian resistance for inflicting casualties on Israeli civilians is logically and ethically flawed. The oppressor bears responsibility for all casualties because without the oppression, there would be no need for resistance.
It also follows that an oppressed people must be granted an equivalency in tactics and targets that is beyond moral condemnation, again because there would be no violent resistance were it not for the oppression and violence wreaked upon the resisting people. Ergo, the blame for any violent resistance belongs to the oppressor – not to the resistance.
A major tactic of Palestinian resistance is the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. BDS is a non-violent means of resistance against the occupation and oppression that Palestinians have endured for six decades. Nonetheless, there are people regarded as progressives that oppose the BDS campaign or sections of it, such as boycotts.
Expressing disapproval of a tactic is right of any commentator. However, one must wonder about the motives and morality of equally opposing the violence of a resistance and oppressor while also opposing a non-violent means of resistance. If one is opposed to all violence, then if one opposes a non-violent means of resistance, at the very least, it should be incumbent on such a person to proffer an equally viable alternative means of resistance.
Also, in the case of historical Palestine, since it is the Palestinians (and Bedouins and Druze and human rights supporters) who suffer the indignity and violence of occupation, a principled position would hold that any opposition to tactical resistance be discussed with Palestinians first. Further, it seems only just and right that any alternative and/or supplemental plans for tactical resistance also be passed by the Palestinians. I am unaware whether non-Palestinian progressives who oppose boycotts (Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Robert Fisk, etc.) have followed this etiquette.
Progressives must also be on guard for the language they use to identify the oppressors and resistance. Elementary etiquette would, at first, seem to require that a people be referred to by their self-designation. However, since propaganda and disinformation is a major tactical area for oppressors, people receive reportage of oppressors as defenders, as in the Israel Defense [sic] Forces. Predictably, the controlled media and state propagandizing organs, usually refer to the oppressed who dare to resist as “insurgents” and/or “terrorists.” Yet sometimes progressives also lapse into imperialistic terminology.2
Demonization of resistance movements and resistance leaders is a perpetual tactic of imperialists and their media organs. This extends to nations and leaders of nations that hegemons have designated as enemies.
The US-disseminated demonization campaign is crystal clear in the case of Iran. The United States has obvious designs on the region of the Middle East and beyond. It therefore arrogates certain rights onto itself and denies the same rights to other nations. To assert its right as an equal among nations, Iran has been forced to resist US hegemony.
A steadfast stream of disinformation and propaganda has flowed from US media to demonize Iran and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad is controversial because he broaches topics deemed unmentionable by manipulators of discourse. Consequently, Ahmadinejad is mendaciously and repeatedly depicted as calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.
Iranian elections were targeted for criticism, and a Green Revolution was orchestrated to topple Ahmadinejad. Iranian elections are open to criticism for their lack of adherence to democratic principles, and Iran has a long way to go before becoming authentically democratic, but this same criticism holds equally for the US and every other nation on the planet. Democracy, up to the present time, exists as an ideal and not as a reality. Under capitalism, money determines who holds political power. Consequently, criticizing other states for democratic deficiencies is merely revelatory of ignorance and prejudice.
Iran has been subjected to imperialist oppression orchestrated by the US and compliant western governments to submit its right to uranium enrichment to outside jurisdiction, a right which is granted by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.3
Over a dozen countries are known to enrich uranium; preventing Iran from pursuing this same activity creates a hierarchy among nations – a violation of the United Nations Charter.4
Moreover, the argument that it is not necessary for a nation to enrich its own uranium because it can purchase enriched uranium from other countries already enriching uranium is flawed, and it does not address the inequality among nations argument. It leaves a non-uranium enriching nation at the whim of the commercial market and its potential enemies. The US and its western supporting nations (with the egregious complicity of the UN, contrary to its own peace-promoting charter, since enacting sanctions is often viewed as a declaration of war) have already abundantly demonstrated their alacrity for using international sanctions to achieve hegemonic ends. Why, therefore, would an independent nation leave itself open to losing its access to an energy supply?
The only way Iran can guarantee itself access to enriched uranium is if it enriches its own supply of uranium.
This US-led campaign, purportedly to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability, suffers from the US’s acquiescence to Israel maintaining a nuclear weapons stockpile. This was, however, not a problem when the US backed the nuclear aspirations of the regime of the dictator it installed in Iran. The Shah of Iran is said to have desired nuclear weapons.5 Hypocrisy aside, the US campaign contravenes the UN Charter and NPT, besides positing and attempting to legitimate an inequality among nations. The US rationale points to a scenario where there are supreme nations who may have nuclear technology and/or nuclear weapons, and there are lesser nations in this US-dominated world order who may not have nuclear technology and/or nuclear weapons.
Nuclear Deterrence and Peace
The only time nuclear weapons were used against another nation was by the US, when it only possessed the technology and when its victim nation was virtually defenceless. Since then other nations have acquired nuclear weapons, and a nuclear deterrence factor has been claimed as preventing a nuclear war.
Insofar as nuclear deterrence has significance, then for a peaceful nation such as Iran — which has not initiated a war against another country in centuries, which finds itself unceasingly subject to threats from a warmongering hegemon and the apartheid nuclear-armed Israel, both of which have been at war their entire existence — nuclear weaponization seems to be the only currently viable self-defense option to continue as a peaceful, independent nation among nations. Every nation should be entitled to an equal, inalienable right to self-defense.6
To adhere to the principle of equality among nations, then the solution is clear: either all nations become and remain disarmed of nuclear weapons, or all nations have the right to become nuclear armed.
And why stop there? Why not a fully verifiable dismantling of military industries by all nations and a standing down of all military service personnel? Why not a global peace treaty by all nations and peoples forever renouncing war?
It would be most difficult to oppress peoples without weapons and fighters, and the need for resistance would vanish.
However, the oppressors are still calling the shots in today’s world.
- In Israel, there is also the fact, that most of the population serves in the military of the oppressor at one time or another, and that they may, therefore, be considered military. [↩]
- See Kim Petersen, “Insurgents”: Hermeneutics Are Not a Substitute for Clarity!” Dissident Voice, 3 March 2006. [↩]
- The preamble states “… all Parties to the Treaty are entitled to participate in the fullest possible exchange of scientific information for, and to contribute alone or in co-operation with other States to, the further development of the applications of atomic energy for peaceful purposes…”
Article IV.1 states, “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.” [↩]
- The UN Charter states in the preamble affirms a principle of “the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…” [↩]
- Mohammad Sahimi, “Iran’s Nuclear Program. Part I: Its History,” Payvand’s Iran News …, 2 October 2003. [↩]
- See Kim Petersen, “The Inalienable Right to Self Defense: Balancing the Power,” Dissident Voice, 27 February 2006. [↩]