Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Gaza and the Power of Peaceful Protest

Sometimes a picture tells a story.

About the futility of military power to crush an idea.

Ever since the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has been fixated on military force. To a man with a big hammer, says the proverb, every problem looks like a nail.

But Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Hamas is an idea, a desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians. No idea has ever been defeated by force — not by siege, not by bombardment, not by being flattened with tank treads and not by marine commandos.

About the capacity for self delusion.

The problem is that nobody believes Israeli propaganda as much as Israelis. Pro-Palestinian activists often lament the fluency and mendacity of Israeli spokesmen on the airwaves and the pervasive influence of Israel's supporters abroad. But, in reality, these PR campaigns are Israel's greatest weakness, because they distort Israelis' sense of reality. Defeats and failures are portrayed as victories and successes.

The slaughter of civilians is justified as a military necessity or somehow the fault of the other side. Opponents are demonised as bloodthirsty terrorists. Comforted by such benign accounts of their activities, Israeli leaders are consumed by arrogance because they come to believe they have never made a mistake.

And of course about the larger problem.

The Shadow is not the Palestinians. The Shadow is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, linked with Israeli’s own fears. The worse the Palestinians are treated in the name of those fears, the bigger the Shadow grows, and then the fears grow with them; and the justifications for the treatment multiply.

There are many groups in which Israelis and Palestinians work together on issues of common interest, and these show what a positive future might hold; but until the structural problem is fixed and Palestine has its own “legitimized” state within its internationally recognized borders, the Shadow will remain.

Which is why what I like the most about the Gaza flotilla is that it may point the way to a better future for both Palestinians and Israelis, by showing the power of non-violent protest.

Many of us for decades have been trying to persuade the Palestinians and their supporters to drop the sword and use non-violence as their tactic of struggle. As King showed, any state that prides itself on its moral foundations and purports to be guided by a spiritual creed, when confronted by unarmed legions of protestors will find it counterproductive to use the hammer of armed suppression.

Years of war and violent confrontation produced very little. Rather than driving Israel to agree to a reasonable division of the land of Palestine, it provoked fear among the Israeli population and fear, as it often does, supported a hard-line politics of suppression.

It won't be easy to convince the violent men on both sides to change their ways. Because they depend on the cycle of brutality to keep themselves in power. But the Palestinians now have a new and powerful tactic that many in Israel could support.

Stop the bombs and the rockets. End the nightmare. Lift the Shadow.

Here's to the Gaza flotilla and a new beginning.

Give peace a chance... 

1 comment:

  1. A very lucid column for a native Israeli columnist to write. I hope he doesn't lose his column. Israelis so obviously need more balanced writers and reporters.

    I think more need to read it. Especially those staunch Israeli supporters who refuse to look outside the box. I'm sure that balanced op-eds and columns like his must be few and far between.

    I hope you're right about that flotilla and future flotillas bringing about change; both sides are running out of options.

    Also, I can't stand the double-standard we use to view Israel and very stunt it pulls.

    If there is one criticism I have about certain passengers of this flotilla and hopefully, will be learned in future such endeavours. Parents; leave the children at home where you know they'll be safe. I can only imagine how traumatic this whole thing must have been for that one year old baby who was on board.

    Anybody who even remotely follows current events would know that they were going into a potential war zone and to expect, well, anything really. A parent's number 1 responsibility is to their children & keeping them out of harm's way.

    If they can't find anyone to leave the child with at home, then find a way to participate in the movement without leaving home.

    You oughta hear the garbage they're spewing at CJAD; lies and half truths and their academic on the subject: professor gil troy. You can find him and his ridiculous latest on The Mark.

    Latest they're spewing is that the flotilla was armed to the teeth, including a bomb. And the professor thinks that all those people are taking orders from Hamas. What's worse is that their listeners swallow that kool-aid.

    I'm pissed not only with the right winged slant of talk radio, but also the lies and irresponsible, obviously biased research.