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...