I’m writing this in response to an article in last week’s Haaretz entitled ‘Palestinians’ doomsday weapon, non-violence, fails test’. It’s a better article than the title might lead one to believe and accepts an important underlying premise: that non-violence from the Gaza Strip would be a serious blow to the Israeli government. However, the article does make a couple of significant errors which I hope to correct now:
- The article wrongly suggests that the increased rocket fire out of Gaza last week was in response to the non-violent protest at the border. In fact Israel’s General Yadlin has pointed out that rather it was a direct result of assassinations of several key Hamas military experts
- The theme of the article is that we have no clue what the Israeli military strategy to counter non-violence is, and that they probably don’t even have one
It is this later claim that I wish to discuss, because it is this later claim which misinterprets the entire strategy of non-violence and leads to the article’s false conclusion that non-violence has simply failed of its own accord.
Rather, we know precisely what strategy the Israeli military employs in response to non-violence, because it is the only strategy available to it. Indeed it is the only strategy militaries ever employ in response to non-violence, and we saw it clearly this weekend.
Seeing the path of non-violence to its necessary conclusion is not easy for precisely this reason: that every act of non-violence defiance is met with an act of increasingly disproportionate violence in the hopes of realizing a violent response and vindicating the claim that the posture of non-violence is an insincere one.
Today, Israeli ground forces begin their pullout from the Gaza Strip. The mainstream press treats this as a response to international condemnation for the large civilian death toll. Hamas sees it as vindication of their violent resistance and claims ‘victory’. But both of these are mistaken. Israeli troops are leaving the Gaza strip because they achieved their goal: they provoked a response.
It takes a very special brand of determination to see non-violence through in the face of attacks on soccer-playing children and troops marching through suburbs killing civilians. Yet it is precisely this determination which must follow, if those deaths are not to be in vain.
The people of the Gaza Strip must hold firm in their resolve for non-violence. They must make it clear to the Israeli military that they will not be swayed, nor will they respond violently. They must leave the Israeli government with only two choices: acquiescence or committing genocide. And despite what Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister or anyone else may say, they must remain confident that Israel cannot choose the latter.
This weekend may have been a setback for non-violence, but it is nothing resembling failure. Non-violence remains not just an option for the Palestinians in the face of occupation, but at the end of the day, the only one.