First a given: there can be no resistance unless there is something to resist against. There can be no anti-occupation resistance if there is no occupation, and there can be no resistance against oppression if there is no oppression. It is a simple logic that eludes many people. That it eludes many people (and almost all of the corporate media) is demonstrable by noting the outcry whenever a resistance uses violence: Those evil, soulless terrorists harming other people — and they do it without reason. Well, there is a reason, although the corporate media refuses to divulge it. Occupation/oppression is violent, and it gives rise to resistance. There would be no violence were it not for the violence of occupation and oppression. There is no chicken and egg here. It is obvious that the sole target of vehemence should be the occupation/oppression that induces the resistance, for without the occupation/oppression and the violence that perpetuates it, there would be no violent resistance. Ergo, resistance (whether non-violent or violent) seeks to end violence by defeating an occupation/oppression.
Imagine that a serial rapist breaks into a home and a woman is violently attacked. She responds by pulling out a Smith and Wesson from her dresser and shooting the intruder. Is she now a terrorist? Was her violent resistance wrong? Evil? Illegitimate? Or should she have organized a non-violent resistance against her would-be rapist, such as a boycott of any stores that serve the rapist? Are there many people who would even contemplate such questions?
So why does this simple scenario get turned on its head when it comes to Palestinians and the Zionist Jews who serially violate the Palestinian people?
I had addressed that topic recently in my article “Progressivist Principles and Resistance.” Yesterday, Ramzy Baroud, an Arab-American journalist and chronicler of the Palestinian struggle, wrote an article, “The Violence Debate: Teaching the Oppressed How to Fight Oppression,” that suggested further insight into the topic.
However, there was not much debate about violence in his article. It deals at length with non-violent resistance and cursorily, at most, with violent resistance.
As for the subtitle, it begs the question: who will teach the oppressed how to fight oppression?
Baroud mentions an unnamed Bethlehem organization which invites speakers from Europe and the United States to teach non-violent resistance.
However, if one has never experienced oppression first hand, how does one become a qualified teacher on fighting oppression? Further, since Europe and the US staunchly support Zionism in historical Palestine, why are the invitees sought from these lands?
The Bethlehem organization teaches “the perils of violence and the wisdom of non-violence.” The perils are not mentioned and neither is the wisdom of non-violence, although this is presumably non-violence in the face of violence. If I were an oppressor, I would much rather face a non-violent resistance than a violent resistance. The only thing better would be no resistance. So what is so wise about a resistance movement that throws away a tool from its toolbox?
The Bethlehem organization proffers a line of reasoning that implies Palestinians are naturally violent and that they must be taught non-violence. One wonders where Palestinians may have learned their violence having been oppressed by Zionist Jews for many decades.
Baroud writes of a “largely visual volume [that] … highlighted how Palestinians resisted the occupation peacefully, in contrast to the prevalent media depictions linking Palestinian resistance to violence.”
A logical lacuna is evident here: non-violent resistance is being portrayed as violent “resistance,” but I hardly think the corporate media would depict Palestinians as a resistance. The corporate media depicts Palestinians as “terrorists” and “insurgents.” The deduction is that resistance — whether it be violent or non-violent – is reported as being violent. Ergo, insofar as the corporate media shapes or influences public opinion, non-violent resistance has minimal upsides to it. In the corporate media rendering, all resistance is violent.
Baroud tells of another book “glorifying non-violent resistance.” Palestinian fighters were converting to non-violent resistance because they had discovered that “not all Israelis supported the military occupation.”[italics added] This realization led to the conclusion that “an environment that allowed both Israelis and Palestinians to work together would be best for Palestinians seeking other, more effective means of liberation.”
First, is this realistic or fanciful? No rationale was offered for why this would be “more effective [while noting it was claimed to be the most effective] means of liberation.” How do the oppressed Palestinians work with 6 percent of the oppressor population against the other 94 percent? After all, the Jerusalem Post reported that 94 percent of Israeli Jews supported the Operation Cast Lead massacre in Gaza. To the extent that Palestinians are so fundamentally disarmed by their oppressors that violent resistance is futile and counterproductive, then the resort to non-violent resistance is imposed upon them. But resisting violent oppression with violence against the oppressor is legitimate, and it is legitimate because of the oppression. The oppression is what must be targeted; it is the source of all violence — not the resistance. Clearly, without oppression there would be no resistance.
Second, why should the resistance convert to non-violent means? Baroud channels Gandhi and his non-violent resistance — Satyagraha. However, Gandhi’s Satyagraha targets the oppressors for conversion from their violent ways. It is preposterous that the victims of oppression should be targeted to convert to non-violence under conditions of oppressor violence. Should the Jewish resistance to Nazi German violence have been targeted for conversion to non-violence?
Baroud notes a message: “Palestinians are being taught non-violence; Palestinians are responding positively to the teachings of non-violence.”
This raises a question: How should an occupier feel about being met with non-violence? Is the violence of the occupier/oppressor in response to violent resistance? Of course not; to believe that one would have to posit that the Palestinians relinquished their land to pacific Zionist overtures.
Baroud writes that non-violence “ignite[s] a sense of hope.” Hope!? Baroud abysmally channels Obama. Hope is a word, and a word is easily promised. The Palestinians have been promised many words, including Oslo and the latest “peace negotiations.”
In Lebanon, the resistance movement Hezbollah did not rely on hope; Hezbollah violently resisted the Israeli occupation and defeated it.
Baroud states “a Palestinian Gandhi already exists, in numerous West Bank villages bordering the Israeli Apartheid Wall, which peacefully confront carnivorous Israeli bulldozers as they eat up Palestinian land.”
Of what use so far has this non-violent resistance been in ending the occupation/oppression of Palestinians? Moreover, why do some people assume that Satyagraha caused the British to leave the Indian subcontinent? The British empire was overextended, and a continued physical colonization of India was becoming very unprofitable to Britain.
Baroud does take some aim at non-violence. He says, “The problem with the non-violence bandwagon is that it is grossly misrepresentative of the reality on the ground. It also takes the focus away from the violence imparted by the Israeli occupation…”
He says near the end of the article: “Only the unique experience of the Palestinian people and their genuine struggle for freedom could yield what Palestinians as a collective deem appropriate for their own.” This is in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance.
Choosing the most effective form(s) of resistance is important to any resistance movement. External actors have little right to limit the tactics of a legitimate resistance movement. Any violence is provoked by the oppressor/occupier.
One wonders then why Baroud went so into depth on non-violence resistance without exploring or acknowledging the legitimacy of violent resistance, even though he granted that “the violence of the occupier has a tremendous role in creating” a violent resistance. A “role”? Without occupation/oppression, the conditions for a resistance would not exist.
That is a fact that requires no debate.