PR Advice to the Palestinians

I’ve heard a certain criticism countless times over the years, but after seeing it three times in two days on the same site, I decided to do a little research. From that vast repository of respectable opinion, The Atlantic, here are Jeffrey Goldberg, Andrew Sullivan, and Megan McArdle with the idea du jour:

Jeffrey Goldberg:
“I don’t know yet exactly what happened at sea when a group of Israeli commandos boarded a ship packed with not-exactly-Gandhi-like anti-Israel protesters.”

Andrew Sullivan:
“The violence by the activists is pretty abhorrent. These are not followers of Gandhi or MLK Jr.”

Megan McArdle:
“Very clearly, these guys were not the next incarnation of Gandhi; they were on that mission spoiling for a fight.”

Now, unlike these three worthies, I’m just a rube who majored in booze at Football Tech, so I didn’t know much about this Gandhi fella. I wondered, what exactly would Gandhi have the Palestinians and their supporters do? What would earn them a pat on the head from serious, right-thinking Americans?

Luckily, I didn’t have to look very far to find a possible answer:

As an inspiration and a symbol, Gandhi has no peer in the 20th century; as a practical politician, he was a despair to his colleagues in the Indian national movement. His insistence on non-violence grew more extreme as he aged: during the war, he recommended to the British that they should “invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions.” And in an interview given after the war, he went so far as to say that “the Jews [in Europe] should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.

The things you learn on the intertubes! Well, there you go, Palestinians (and Turks, and Jewish Americans to the left of Jeffrey Goldberg): kill yourselves. When the last one of you is gone, The Atlantic will hold a special symposium on your righteousness.

28 thoughts on “PR Advice to the Palestinians”

  1. Well said Matt. Very well said indeed. Maybe the next time the Free Gaza movement sends aid to Gaza, they could hire BlackwaterXE for security. Heck, BlackwaterXE will gun down just about anybody for a price.
    Seems there wasn't too much negative press when the Seals shot up those Somali pirates. Boarding vessels afloat on international waters seems like piracy. I could be wrong though. Question, is Andrew Sullivan as big a dork in person as he seems in print? Golly, Sullivan sort of missed the violence by the Israelis. Hmmm, is that by design?

    1. In fairness to Sullivan, he's been about as critical of Israel recently as Serious Pundits can be. I just wanted to isolate this recurring "they're no Gandhis" talking point. It's like conceptual wallpaper for any mainstream discussion of Palestinian resistance.

      1. Thanks Matt. I was being maybe a little pissy with the old Sullivan. We've had words before. Go figure. Ummm, "conceptual wallpaper?" That's a good one. Can I use that? With proper credit going to you first of course.

  2. We live in time when the agressor is the victim,the victim is the crminal.up is down ,right is wrong and might makes right.When the opperssed are constantlly told to give up their rights and stop resisting.

    1. That's well said. My mind gets scrambled everytime I see how turned around these things are – trying to keep up with it all, as in pointing it out so others can see it, becomes a fruitless, hopeless endeavor.

  3. Dear Matt,
    I think you were unfair to Sullivan. Read his whole statement. He's clearly saying that the Israelis acted unjustly. Ditto Megan McArdle.

    1. No, I made it very clear that I was isolating a particular theme that I've heard many times before, i.e., that the Palestinians are no Gandhis. (See my response to Protobone above.) The fact that commentators repeat this idea so mindlessly is interesting to me. I linked to all three posts, so readers are encouraged to digest the larger points being made.

    2. You're right, he says that Israelis acted unjustly but he starts the post off with a mighty big qualification about the 'anti-Israeli protestors'. The Israeli commandos boarded their ship in international waters. They had every right to try to get the soldiers off of their boat. It's a little disheartening that no one spells out exactly what happened without reference to the current mainstream narrative. Fuck them! A boat full of people with goods that were termed 'luxury' and thus unacceptable by the Israelis, which is not their right, were bringing their cargo to Gaza. They were unarmed and the commandos blew away 20 of them. It's not a complicated story and every time someone tries to combat every distortion put out by the Israelis and Washington just helps to confuse the matter.

  4. Israelis, Tea Partiers and Right Wingers are quick to pounce on the validity of the Bible to justify their murderous actions be they against blacks, gays, or Palestinians and to champion the right of the Zionists to "take over they God-given land" after 4,000 (?) years. What? so if we go by the bible, (which the Zionists don't 'cause half of them are atheists (no insult intended), they only observe 1/2 of it. The one that deals with killing one's children "because God said so," or incest or infanticide etcetera.

    1. What's more, ancient Israel consisted of 12 tribes, of which Judah was but one (albeit the biggest one). Thus in no sense has Israel been restored, which destroys the biblically illiterate evangelicals' assertion of modern Israel as "God's people."

  5. And the greatest two comandments, we go by them are : love thy neighbor as thyself; NOT MORE THAN THYSELF OR LESS THAN THYSELF. This means you don't steal their land, kill them, beat them, lie afterwards about what you did. BUT you also love yourself, for you are his temple. You do not allow them to beat you shoot you, steal from you or abuse you in any way. So, yes, the peace activists were Gandhian and Christlike. They will someday be remembered as saints. Next commandment: you do not have any other gods before me. I refer to the god of Love, of Life, of nurturing. If you violate all for thesake of Pride, land, power, money and goods like the Zionists Israelis, then you have violated the very book you are trying to hide behind.
    Spanish saying: you cannot hide the sun with your thumb. The Isaelis are a murderous bunch and the state of Israel is illegal and corrupt. As all like states, they will fall. and ours also will fall if we continue to support them with weapons, money and guns.

  6. "There's no Ghandi" meme is merely the fallback line now adopted by most Israel apologists who now find themselves on the defensive.

    The first canard – that the Palestinians are not victims – has failed miserably. So you see, it is now necessary to deride them for not being the 'perfect victims.'

    As for Goldberg: what a curiously obscene specimen. Here is a guy who served in the Israeli military, and yet the mainstream press pay him to write his disingenuous musings at every opportunity. I would like to see some commentators in the Atlantic and NYTimes who served in Hamas, the Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah, etc., just to round things out to be perfectly fair.

    But who am I kidding? American news editors are no Ghandi…

  7. Goldberg, Sullivan, et al never fret about the the absence of Gandhis among the Israelis.

  8. The State of Israel is a fantastic success materially and industrially, but it is a colossal failure morally. It has been built on the four legs of racism, deceit, theft, and murder. As the CIA report this spring pointed out, it will collapse in the foreseeable future. This is because it is unnecessary, and it is inevitable. Sadly, instead of being part of the culutre of life that the Bible
    supports it has chosen to become a serious part of the culutre of death. It will not be missed by any thinking person. It is tragic, but such is the fate of the culture of death.

  9. “Where the choice is between only violence and cowardice, I would advise violence. To take the name of non-violence when there is a sword in your heart is not only hypocritical and dishonest but cowardly … Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defense or for the defense of the defenseless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission.”
    — Mohatma Gandhi

  10. there is no such thing as non-violence the mighty will always use violence against the weak.Will the powerful give up their monopoly on the us of violence?

  11. Israel is a fantastic success materially and industrially about as much as GM, Chrysler, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Successes do not require annual subsidies running into the billions. Israel is an economic failure propped up by an ever increasing burden on American workers, an annual infusion of capital in the form of stolen real estate and the receipts of drug dealing and other criminal activities like money laundering the looting of the former Soviet Union.

  12. What Ghandi said was that if you don't have the courage to defend yourself when attacked, you won't have the courage for non-violence. He wasn't advocating some kind of surrender, some weak passivity.

  13. Consider just one small slaughterhouse of World War One–from February to December 1916 one quarter of a million Germans and Frenchmen died, and three quarters of a million were wounded at Verdun, a very smallpalce, each side under a leadership that told them the other side were demons who must be exterminated.

    Even more pertinent, the few lucky ones died quickly after arriving at the front, but most of them spent weeks and months living worse than rats in the trenches.

    Weren't these bravos slavish cowards to their overlords, as is the message in Kubrick's brilliant Paths of Glory.

    Imagine, on the other hand, each side one day throwing down their arms at the same time and marching forward to a quick,easy suicide at the hands of the enemy, then suddenly finding out that the enemy too had laid down their arms.

    After a party to end all parties the warmongers and arms dealers, the politicians and the patriots, the psychopathic killers that rule by fear of death and terror imposed not only on the "enemy" but on their own people are guillotined at every street corner in a now sane and civilized world.

    But, you will object, guillotining is not Gandhiesque.

    True enough, but no one is perfect, and awakened peasants are the first to admit it.

  14. Why are Palestinians expected to "conduct themselves like Ghandi," while the same demand isn't made of the United States or Israel?

    It's a double standard.

  15. For over sixty years the Palestinians have been told repeatdly by the west to renounce violence when Israel never stopped dealing violentlly towards the Palestinians for the smallest act of violence even if they were not the ones behind the violence.The powerful and strong always maintained execlusive rights over the use violence.

  16. Over and over again, people have asked where is the Palestinian Ghandi? But you have to remember that Ghandi was only possible because the Brits were civilized enough to allow Ghandi to be Ghandi. Would Hitler or Stalin have allowed a Ghandi to mobilize world opinion? I suggest you look for a Palestinian Ghandi among the long lists of the dead or inside Israel's extensive prison system. As soon as Israel sees a potential Ghandi on the horizon he or she is scooped up and never heard from again.

    1. What you say is not true.

      The British were bloodthirsty brutes in India, including helping to starve millions.

      Gandhi well knew that non-violence was only half the the story, and that the British would be extremely violent, as they were, and as they had been in the past across the planet.

      There was both a cultural and psychological element to Gandhi's tactics, that most westerners still do not grasp.

      Also the sheer size of India's population is pertinent, as is the relatively small number of barbaric British military available, including a lot of collaborators.

    2. Ghandi happened to appear when the British Empire in its last breaths.It was at its end .The british could no longer affored to keep India under british control due to huge expense of WWII.

  17. When the boys went on board somebody was going to get a shit-kicking for messing up a decent weekend. That some 'side riders' decided to 'prep' the ship with stun grenades and 'accidentally' killed somebody should have been no surprise. Neither should the abseiling arrival have been deemed to meet 'non-violent reaction' from six hundred infuriated people. That the latter fact was obvious comes in the form of the full clips they carried in their side arms and loaded belts in the chopper gun positions.

    What came next was entirely natural. It's what soldiers are trained to do, shoot somebody.
    Nuff said. Self defense.

  18. Anyway, to turn a phrase from Kinky Friedman, "They ain't makin' Mahatmas like Gandhi anymore."

  19. Too much credit is given to Gandhi for India’s independence. Yes he deserves credit but so do the legion of freedom fighters who sacrificed everything for it. But sadly they have been greatly marginalised/ignored. Bhagat singh was a prominent freedom fighter. The latest indian school books mention him as a terrorist.

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