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June 04, 2009

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That's why it's immensely important to say, clearly, that violence is not just wrong, but ineffective.

I agree, but I think in this context it's important to realize why violence against an overwhelmingly more powerful opponent is considered an option - because it draws international media attention to the plight of the Palestinians. It's very important to understand this, because in an environment of general indifference to an oppressed people's plight asking them to engage only in peaceful resistance is a bit like asking them to commit collective suicide. That's why it was so important for Obama to say (sincerely I hope) that the suffering of the Palestinians is intolerable and the United States will work to end it. If true, then it makes peaceful resistance a real alternative because it means that the Palestinians won't not be forgotten whenever things settle down.

And remember there are lots of oppressed populations in the world who don't have a US President offering them support like this and so who don't really have much to lose by violent resistance (Darfur, Burma, Tibet, etc). If we in the West really support non-violence, we should be doing a lot more to recognise the suffering of these people as well and working to end it, thus making peaceful resistance a possibility for them too - it can't just be about telling them not to do bad things.

One reason is probably unfamiliarity with the great examples of successful nonviolence.

Or possibly familiarity with the great examples of unsuccessful nonviolence?

Don't get me wrong, the intifada has been a disaster* for the Palestinians, but there's no particular reason to think nonviolence would have moved them towards statehood.

* Assuming their goal is statehood now, as opposed to "Make a two state solution impossible and encourage Israel to commit crimes against humanity; we may have to sacrifice a few generations to abject misery but eventually the international community will get so pissed at Israel that they force a one state solution in which we get our land back." If they're after Goal Two, as Hamas certainly are, then the violence has been an incredibly effective strategy.

I generally disagree with the left-wing critics of the speech, but this passage does strike me as a bit much coming from the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, i.e., the organization which commands and uses the most extensive means of violence of any on the face of the planet.

S, violence clearly isn't working, so would would be wrong with trying nonviolence? The worst that could happen is that it wouldn't work, either, but you'd have established moral authority.

Jesus Christ, you are as empty and insipid as BO. "Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed." His emphasis on the condemnation of "violent resistance" certainly rings with excessive hypocrisy when HIS military and HIS government solves ALL problems with applications of excessive, unilateral violence. His hypocrisy is only exceeded by the smug sanctimony implicit in his inability to do anything but celebrate the conceit of violent past, present and future. what else would you expect from a victor or bully? Do you truly intend to celebrate and admire Obama for warning the oppressed against fighting back by any means possible, the exact mantra invoked by the U.S Marine Corps, CIA and U.S. special forces?

Jesus Christ, you are as empty and insipid as BO.

Beats empty and a blowhard.

Obama is not his predecessors. Foreclosing any sort of change from a new player is not a viable option either.

I also didn't buy this part of the speech.

I agree that violence isn't working and won't work for the Palestinians given their situation.

And I'm personally deeply committed to nonviolence.

But political violence has frequently worked. The Civil War was a crucial part of the struggle for African American equality. And as historians like Tim Tyson have pointed out, armed resistance to Jim Crow was even a part of the later struggle for civil rights. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa was never wholly nonviolent. And without even addressing the important points that r makes about current U.S. policy, our country was created by means of a violent revolution.

As I said, I personally support nonviolence. But the case for nonviolence cannot be made on the basis of ludicrous claims about the general futility of political violence (although I agree that it is pretty futile for Palestinians today). And the President of the United States is in absolutely no position to preach nonviolence to anyone.

"And the President of the United States is in absolutely no position to preach nonviolence to anyone."

I'm curious what you'd put forward as the best alternative for Obama to engage in, Ben: preaching violence? Keeping his mouth shut? Or what?

People who shoot rockets at sleeping children and blow up old women on busses are heroes in parts of the Arab world. Obama is directly challenging their courage. He is calling them out, and asking: what's so heroic about that? How does that show how powerful you are?

The same thing can be said to those who employ torture. And I dearly wish Obama would call out Cheney, et. al. in the same way.

That's why it's immensely important to say, clearly, that violence is not just wrong, but ineffective.

s/violence/torture/g

My point is that it is indeed important to point that out, but there's a fine line to walk here, because as we've seen with the torture debate in the US, if you focus TOO much on the efficacy or lack thereof, you open the door to too much "well, what if it DOES work" type of counterargument.

"People who shoot rockets at sleeping children and blow up old women on busses are heroes in parts of the Arab world."

Sigh. Same old. Same old. And soldiers who humiliate pregnant arab women at border crossings are heros in some parts of Israel, along with 'settlers' who steal arab land. But we never mention that, do we? Is this because we draw a blinding moral light around the murder of innocents (collateral damage excepted, natch') and thus fail to see total economic and political subjugation and concomitant social humiliation of an entire people as a matter meriting only the merest hint of concern?

I don't get it. I see no morality whatsoever in such a position. Absolutely none.

Violence has been particularly counterproductive for the Palestinians. The West Bank and Gaza would not be occupied save for the military threats that led to the Six-Day War. The border fence would not exist had there been no intifada with its suicide bombs. The checkpoints that make travel into and across Israeli-controlled territory so onerous are a direct response to bombs and weapons being smuggled in innocuous-looking vehicles. The recent devastation in Gaza was a direct response the the missiles launched from there. Moreover, every violent act makes the Israelis who do want a two-state solution less persuasive and increases support for the hard-liners.

bobbyp: Sigh. Same old. Same old. And soldiers who humiliate pregnant arab women at border crossings are heros in some parts of Israel, along with 'settlers' who steal arab land. But we never mention that, do we? Is this because we draw a blinding moral light around the murder of innocents (collateral damage excepted, natch')

Israelis and Americans commit collateral damage when they kill Arab children.

Arabs commit murder of innocents when they kill anyone not in uniform.

As with the pro-life movement, the Israeli/Palestine debate has become warped out of true in the US, so that it's impossible to say "The Israelis have killed thousands of Palestinian children and civilians, and defied international law and UN rulings, in defense of their idea that Israel must be allowed to remain demographically majority-Jewish, whatever the cost in non-Jewish lives. This must stop: no state should be allowed to persecute and murder people because their religion does not support the state."

But that's the real world position. That's what Obama couldn't say.

and thus fail to see total economic and political subjugation and concomitant social humiliation of an entire people as a matter meriting only the merest hint of concern?

Well, they're only Muslims. The US has already killed over a million of them in Iraq.

People who shoot rockets at sleeping children

Why can't they shoot missiles from drones and drop bombs on sleeping children, like civilized people?

I think a lot of the comments here are missing the point. It's all very well to be indignant about the actions of the US and Israeli military, but the question here concerns the effectiveness of violent resistance, particularly in the Palestinian context. Cheap points about "collateral damage" and what have you are hardly constructive contributions to the discussion - unless of course you just want to see more violence in the name of "justice".

Andrew; It's all very well to be indignant about the actions of the US and Israeli military, but the question here concerns the effectiveness of violent resistance, particularly in the Palestinian context.

Because of course the violence of the Israeli military towards Palestinian civilians is absolutely irrelevant to the issue of Palestinian resistance, yes? No matter what evil the Israelis do to the Palestinians, no matter how many children are killed, or homes destroyed, or farms stolen, the only useful recourse for the Palestinians is to ... well, what?

Did you know that in 1989, in order to force the Palestinians to stop their violent resistance to the Israeli occupation (Palestinians had been throwing stones at tanks) Yitzhak Rabin ordered Israeli soldiers to break the arm bones of the Palestians who threw the stones?

The violence and brutality of the Israelis towards the Palestinian resistance is precisely relevant to the violence of the Palestinian resistance. To say that it is futile for Palestinians to use violence towards Israelis is absolutely true - but all peaceful approaches have been violently rejected by the Israeli government.

You can find reference to this in this account of an attempt at peaceful rapprochement between Israelis and Palestinians: Break Bread Not Bones.

Unfortunately, Obama's speech is simply windy nonsense, and shall certainly be seen as such throughout the Middle East.

The U.S. government is in absolutely no position to make meaningful moral judgements on murder or terrorism. Nobody will believe a word an American President says about such things. Sincerely meant or not (and there is no evidence that Obama is sincere here.)

The Palestinians in Israel tried non-violence for twenty-one years and got precisely nowhere. The Palestinians in exile tried violence for the same period and got precisely nowhere. The Israelis crush the Palestinians no matter what they do.

And, of relevance in this particular case, Obama's government could stop the Israelis from crushing the Palestinians, just as every previous U.S. government since 1967 could have done so. But he, like his precessors, chooses not to do so.

If he really does clamp down on the Israelis over the settlements, he will be better than George W Bush on this issue. But don't bet on it.

But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding.

Unfortunately for the Palestinians, the ideals at the center of Israel's founding all involve the Palestinians either not existing, or being forced to leave.

It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Now if only Obama had been brave enough, or principled enough, or, really, anything enough, to direct that message to the Israelis.

Not that this is any special criticism of Obama; like all other American Presidents in the past, he is with this speech sending the special message to the Palestinians that the US will side with the Israelis: that Israeli violence against Palestinians will be ignored by the US, but that the US will take a shocked moral attitude to Palestinian violence against Israelis.

"Better than George W. Bush" was never a very high bar to cross.

I'm curious what you'd put forward as the best alternative for Obama to engage in, Ben: preaching violence? Keeping his mouth shut? Or what?

There are really two other things Obama could have done.

First, Obama could have spoken about the futility of political violence more narrowly in the Palestinian context. Such a discussion would have lacked some of the soaring grandeur of the passage quoted by hilzoy. But it would have had the virtue of being true.

Alternatively, Obama could have made the ethical case for nonviolence while acknowledging the efficacy of violence. This would, of course, have been a trickier thing to do. And absent a sea change in American foreign it might be even more obviously hypocritical, so perhaps the first option is more realistic.

The problem with the approach that Obama took is that it is obviously false. The Black freedom struggle in the U.S. was not entirely non-violent. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa was not entirely non-violent. Israel and the U.S. were both born of wars. As I say above, I am, in fact, in favor of nonviolence, not only in Palestine, but as a general principle. But an honest defense of nonviolence has to acknowledge the efficacy (or at least apparent efficacy) of violence.

Let me correct what I just wrote....

Obama could have spoken about the futility of political violence more narrowly in the Palestinian context.

I meant to write....

Obama could have spoken about the futility of political violence more narrowly in the context of Israel-Palestine.

I agree with those in the thread who say that Israel must also be an object of such a (narrower) critique.

"I think a lot of the comments here are missing the point." Not so.

Did the President solemnly declare "Israelis must abandon violence"?

No, he did not.

This post is just silly. You applaud Obama's comdemnation of Palestinian violence, even calling it 'moral', but he failed to condemn the most violent actor in the region--Israel. Israel delibertelty kills more women and children than the Palestinians ever have, but its 'moral' to ignore Israeli violence and only conmden Palestinian violence?

"People who shoot rockets at sleeping children and blow up old women on busses are heroes in parts of the Arab world."

And Timothy McVeigh is a hero in part of the American world. The difference here is that Israel elects (repeatedly) their terrorists to office, and we give them medals of honor. The amount of innocent blood on Ariel Sharon's hands numbers in the tens of thousand--but you apparently think that firing rockets at Sderot (a formerly Palestinian town) is what really needs condemning in the US.

I don't expect Obama to say things no American president can say. He's a politician, and there's nothing wrong with that. People in the Middle East unwilling to compromise with the US won't like the speech, but that doesn't matter.

Still, even people who are willing to consider compromise will find it ridiculous to be lectured about non-violence bt the commander-in-chief of the world's greatest killing machine. For the most part, Obama seems aware of how he'll sound to his audience, so this passage sticks out.

Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed.

Which is why there is no United States of America, as the present King of France said on his recent visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Isn't the Israeli-Palestinian conflict really much more a problem of ends, not means? a friend of mine once said , " The problem is that the Palestinians want everything, and the Israelis don't want to give up anything".
He has Palestinian friends, and they just don't want the West bank: they want Jaffa and Haifa too. in short, they want the whole of Palestine, from the (Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean ) Sea. You should recall that it was Hamas-the "everything' party- who won the democratic election last time, not Fatah, who would have settled for a two state solution.

On the Israeli side, the Israelis may publicly talk about the two state solution, but secretly they want Hebron and the Jordan River as well.I think that even secular Israelis are sympathetic to the idea that Hebron is just as much a part of the Jewish patrimony as Mecca and Medina for the Arabs.

Faced with that, maybe the best starting point may be is to ask the parties "What do they REALLY want?" and to convince them that they have to settle for part. Then we can talk about means.

Obama's advice to the Palestinians is sound even if the US isn't in the position to give that sort of advice without looking hypocritical.

Resistance through violence only works if the resisting side has significant advantages such as knowledge of terrian, appropriate fighting tactics, and high motivation ( the colonists and the Vietnamese). Otherwise the resistance either has to go on for a very long time (Ireland) or loses.

The Palestinians don't have any advantages except a high birthrate and the opinon of the world which precludes outright genocide against them by the Isrealis. In that context Palestinian violence works against the Palestinains because it gives the Isrealis cover for their behavior without actually winning anything for the Palestinians.

If the Palestinains stuck to MLK and Gandhi-style tactics, the Isrealis woud be shamed into better behavior. It would take a while and Palestinans would be martyred but that's happening anyway. In the end Isreal would either have to pull back and give them room for a viable independent nation or becme the pariah of the planet as South Africa was for a while.

So the advice was good, evewn though it came from the President who OK'ed drone attacks on Pakistan.

wonkie:If the Palestinains stuck to MLK and Gandhi-style tactics, the Isrealis woud be shamed into better behavior.

Both Palestinians and Israels have tried MLK and Gandhi-style tactics against the Israeli government. (As for example: Break Bread, Not Bones; Palestinian Non-violent Resistance; B'Tselem ) Are still trying such tactics: Women in Black.

The Israeli government shows no sign whatsoever of being "shamed" into better behavior: not by its own citizens who oppose its violence with peaceful resistance; not by Palestinians.

Its not like the idea that peaceful resistense has never been tried by the Palestinains. In fact, peaceful resistance is the most common method of resisting Israeli occupation. The resort to violence usually distracts American observers from this fact.

Palestine's most eloquent voice--Edward Said--repeatedly implored the Palestinians to emulate the South African model in order to obtain their freedom. He proposed engagement with Israeli Arabs and abstaining from violence in order to win over "Western" public opinion.

But you don't see funds flying in to Mustafa Barghouti--you see the US sending money to the corrupt PLO.

Let's also not forget what the American official reaction was to a peaceful protestor who was killed trying to stop the violence:

Rachel [Corrie] is the first member of the International Solidarity Movement to be killed. Others have been beaten, deported, tear-gassed, threatened, shot, and fired upon. Partners for Peace has urged the State Department and members of Congress numerous times to condemn such actions. To date, there has been no such action, though Congressman Pete DeFazio (OR) did introduce a resolution calling on both Israelis and Palestinians to protect international human rights observers and aid workers cite
Obama could lay a wreath for Rachel Corrie. Want to bet he won't?

Have you ever heard of Dr Mustafa Barghouthi MP, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative? He's interviewed here.

Wonkie, I can only put four links in each comment. I don't know how long I could go on adding comments each time with 4 links to an example of an Israeli/Palestinian non-violent direct action organisation or movement or event. But it would be a long time.

As it will be a long time before there's a US President who is willing to actively support non-violent direct action by Palestinians and Israelis against the Israeli government. And Obama isn't going to be that President.

I am not completely sure that MLK/Gandhi tactics would really work here (although it would be worth a try now and then). I consider it possible that neither violence nor non-violence will work (i.e. that nothing the Palestinians could do would work).
But there seems to be fear among Israeli hardliners that it could work and that therefore any sign that Palestinians could abstain from violence has to be answered with so much provocations (from humiliation to assassination and bombings) that rage overpowers ratio again (=> new justifications to keep up the 'defensive' violence).

In short - Obama would be more convincing in his call for Palestinians to "abandon violence" if he called out and praised actions or organisations or even individuals who do advocate non-violent resistance: and if that verbal praise were then followed by more active support.

Obama did not choose to do that. Nor to condemn the Israeli violence in the same terms as the Palestinian violence.

Ignorance? Or a none-too-covert signal that, though the party may change, the President of the United States is still, as always, on Israel's side and against the Palestinians?

"The Israeli government shows no sign whatsoever of being "shamed" into better behavior: not by its own citizens who oppose its violence with peaceful resistance; not by Palestinians"

The stae of Alabama didn't react well to the Civil Rights Movement, either.

"As it will be a long time before there's a US President who is willing to actively support non-violent direct action by Palestinians and Israelis against the Israeli government. And Obama isn't going to be that President."

Sadly, you are probably right, although Obama seems better on this than previous Presidents.

I don't think I suggested that there were no nonviolent efforts in Palestine. I said that violence wasn't going to work for them as a tactic. I think that's pretty obvious.

I have to go to work now.

wonkie: I don't think I suggested that there were no nonviolent efforts in Palestine. I said that violence wasn't going to work for them as a tactic. I think that's pretty obvious.

Oh. I figured if you were aware that there were nonviolent efforts in Israel and Palestine against the Israeli occupation, you'd also beaware that nonviolence isn't going to work for them as a tactic, because if you're aware that the Palestinians have been trying non-violent direct action against the Israelis for far longer than either of the intifadas, that's equally obvious.

The problem is not Palestinian unwillingness to try non-violent action: the problem is Israeli eagerness to respond to non-violence with brutality and humiliation, and the American / international community's willingness to ignore Palestinian non-violent action and to condone Israeli violence.

There. Now I've defined the problem, how do you Americans propose to solve your part of it? By praising Obama for continuing to ignore Palestinian non-violent actions and condoning Israeli violence?

Evidently...

The Israeli government shows no sign whatsoever of being "shamed" into better behavior: not by its own citizens who oppose its violence with peaceful resistance; not by Palestinians.

In fairness, they might be more easily shamed if they weren't dealing with rocket attacks at the same time. On the other hand, maybe not.

Hamas has a long term strategy that has a high probability of ultimate success, so there's very little incentive for them to give it up for a much riskier strategy like nonviolence. Unless you consider "the short term suffering of millions of Palestinians" an incentive, and Hamas just consider it a recruiting aid.

Peace at this point directly hurts the interests of both the (incredibly shortsighted) Israeli Right and the angrier half of the Palestinians; it's small wonder no one is doing the things like removing the settlers or halting the rocket attacks that would facilitate it.

But I don't see what you expect Obama to do about this. He can't give a speech about U.S. engagement with the Muslim world and leave the Israel/Palestine issue unmentioned; that would destroy his credibility completely. He can't bitch Israel out for colateral damage without looking like an utter hypocrite given the ongoing drone attacks in Afghanistan. And he certainly can't admit that neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian leadership has the slightest interest in a two-state solution, because then he would have to concede that peace is impossible without picking one side or the other and assisting them with the massive ethnic cleansing required. So empty rhetoric about how the marvels of nonviolence is really the best thing he can say.

According to the BBC at least, it seems to have gone over reasonably well in the Arab world. Obviously a policy change would go over better, but he can't do that without the backing of Congress, and he hasn't got it.

In fairness, they might be more easily shamed if they weren't dealing with rocket attacks at the same time.

In fairness, they've been faced with non-violent direct action at times when they were not dealing with rocket attacks, but were aiming missiles at Palestinians, and they've still shown no signs of shame. So I'm not quite sure where you get your "they might" from.

Hamas has a long term strategy that has a high probability of ultimate success, so there's very little incentive for them to give it up for a much riskier strategy like nonviolence.

But there are other Palestinian groups who are willing to risk non-violent direct action against the Israelis. I linked to some of them.

But I don't see what you expect Obama to do about this.

If he actually supports Palestinian non-violent action, he could actually refer to some of the many Palestinian non-violent actions, rather than making a speech that appears to wipe them out of history.

And he certainly can't admit that neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian leadership has the slightest interest in a two-state solution, because then he would have to concede that peace is impossible without picking one side or the other and assisting them with the massive ethnic cleansing required.

He could always pick the third side - the Israeli/Palestine side that is interested in a peaceful solution, whether two-state or one-side, and support that side, rather than ignoring it completely in an important speech.

So empty rhetoric about how the marvels of nonviolence is really the best thing he can say.

You feel it's better to go with empty rhetoric rather than make reference to actual events - actual people and organisations who support non-violence in Israel/Palestine?

"According to the BBC at least, it seems to have gone over reasonably well in the Arab world"

You should qualify that. BBC English may say that, but BBC Arabic's main article on the speech focus' on Obama's condesdencing suggest that Arabs stop being mean to Israel.

The extent to which the first intifada was a nonviolent resistance is often overlooked. The backbone of that was a general strike, a rent strike, and boycott of Israeli goods. It required and developed large-scale self-organization and self-reliance among the Palestinians. The neighborhood committees were the incubator for a whole generation of leadership. There was indeed violence, but even most of that was in form of stones against tanks.

The lesson that generation of leaders learned, however, was that the Israelis and U.S. wouldn't keep or enforce even the minimal agreements the sellout, corrupted Palestinian official leadership made at Oslo.

Settlement construction if anything exploded in the 1990s, along with the apartheid highways and uprooting of orchards. Always with violent attacks providing a handy excuse, and a cynical dance by the PLO leadership. The leaders who could have made the political case for renewed nonviolent resistance had left after Oslo, seeing that the Palestinian pols had what they really wanted, crumbs of patronage to hand out and control of a repressive security service.

He could always pick the third side - the Israeli/Palestine side that is interested in a peaceful solution, whether two-state or one-side, and support that side, rather than ignoring it completely in an important speech.

Is there really such a side? Jes,the only democratically elected leadership of the Palestinians is Hamas-an organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel and armed struggle against Israel. That's reality-not your mythical Palestinian mass movement dedicated to peace, non violence, and peaceful co existence with Israel. I would get behind such a movement in a heart beat. But it has to exist first. Right now its a gleam in the eye of sincere Western liberals.
On the Israeli side, there is Peace Now. But let's face it, they are a fringe movement and are likely to remain such as long as Hamas and Fatah are the face of the Palestinian opposition.
Has Israel been brutal in its occupation policies toward the Palestinians ? Sure. But you seem to kind of forget that there was such a thing as the second intifada or the decades long Palestinian terror campaign against Israel.You might also want to ask yourself the question of how did Israel manage to come into possession of the West Bank. Didn't a certain declaration of war by Jordan have something to do with it? Guess which Palestinian organization was wholly in favor of that declaration? I'm not trying to be flip here, but military defeat does have its consequences, and if Israel had lost the Six Day war, the jackboot would have been on the other foot- and a likely more brutal jack boot at that point. Thats reality too.

Anyway, I have an appointment to run to just now. Will return later.

"There was indeed violence, but even most of that was in form of stones against tanks."

This isn't too promising -- "even" and "indeed" sort of hurt the case.

Also, there is a question of time and central leadership. Not saying it would work in this case, but Gandi's movement took decades and he was seen as its leader. Such an united and extended effort would be necessary. I'm unsure if we saw this here.

As to Obama, it does help a tad that he was against the war in Iraq. His claim, to the degree it is believed, is that he opposes various types of brunt force. Afghanistan was different in this respect, since we were attacked and the attackers given aid and comfort by that country. So goes the argument.

It is thus a bit unfair to say he can't say violence is a bad idea because the U.S. uses violence all the time. He opposes such violence, thinks it not useful, in many cases. It's like him being mocked for talking about inequality since hey the U.S. practiced that all the time.

Of course, these are just words. Let's see if he backs it up, like providing an equal role for non-violent Palestinians in the process, or truly provides some real pushback to Israel.

As to violence succeeding, it might in some cases, but it is a blunt and inefficient instrument. We didn't go to war to free the slaves and it took much more than violence to provide them some form of equality.

As to him not talking about Israel's wrongs, he spoke of the "the daily humiliations" of Palestinians, how Israel must allow them to "to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work" & compared their situation to slavery.

Where other than on Democracy Now! and the like are we reminded of "daily humiliations" of Palestinians these days?

"Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed."*

*Except in the case of nationalist uprisings in:
Afghanistan
Albania
Angola
Bangladesh
Bolivia
Bosnia
Brazil
Cape Verde
Chile
China
Colombia
...and you get the idea.

The US is in the same position with regard to the Palestinians as it was with Haiti and Vietnam -- our stated ideals of freedom and self-determination are in direct conflict with our capitalist and imperialist rulers' attempts to make everything work to their own benefit.

The only thing we can say for sure is that that the Euro-American colony in the Levant will not survive in its present form. Once the oil is all gone from that region, promoting the State of Israel will no longer be cost-effective.

Joe: "There was indeed violence, but even most of that was in form of stones against tanks."

This isn't too promising -- "even" and "indeed" sort of hurt the case.

The Israeli military responded to the stones against tanks by breaking the arms of the Palestinians who threw the stones: at the orders of Yitzak Rabin, the Israeli Defense Minister at the time.

Yet it's the "stones against tanks" that hurt the Palestinian case, not the broken bones that hurt the Israeli case?

Jesurgislac's response to my post suggests I did not make myself clear when I said the "case" was hurt it was the "case" of the person I quoted, who mentioned it as an example of "nonviolent resistance."

NR that has violence with the further proviso needing to be made that only "most" of the violence was minor (to the degree having children throw stones at armed officials is minor -- we saw where something like that led in Boston, 1770 or so) is NR with an asterisk at best.

Still, your comments suggests that violence hurt both side here. It is not either/or even on that level.

Exactly what success stories for nonviolent resistance to an occupation have happened lately? And we're saying this, the guys who bribed the violent resistance in Iraq to lay low. Violent resistance may not work, especially if you're wildly outgunned, but the moral high ground and $1.60 will buy you a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts in the modern world.

So, Joe, nothing will do but the purest nonviolent resistance?

I object to people who pretend that there has been no serious degree of nonviolent resistance in the Palestinians' response to occupation. My comment was to point out the single largest and most significant example.

If I were to pretend that there was no simultaneous violence whatsoever, I'd rightly be accused of intellectual dishonesty. But its existence -- however scattered, disproportionately weak, and non-central to the intifada -- is apparently enough for you to negate and make meaningless the massive non-violent resistance that was what brought the Israelis to the negotiating table.

Obama is directly challenging their courage. He is calling them out, and asking: what's so heroic about that?

Speaking of challenges to courage...

"The drones (...) are the punch line of popular jokes about American impotence or cowardice: Asked why she's ditching her U.S. boyfriend, a Pakistani woman says, "He shoots his missile from 30,000 ft."

The accusation of cowardice is especially damaging in the tribal areas, where bravery is regarded as an essential quality in an ally."

@Rick- I stand corrected, then. It would be nice if their English language reporting was more reliable.

You feel it's better to go with empty rhetoric rather than make reference to actual events - actual people and organisations who support non-violence in Israel/Palestine?

No, mentioning them would have been better, but the sad fact is that your third side is unelectable in Israel, and probably in Palestine as well. None of the current leaders are on that side, and most of the people voting aren't either. I'm not sure we should criticize Obama too harshly for discussing the crappy policy of the two current governments instead of going off on a tangent about the regrettably ineffectual history of the Palestinian nonviolent protest movement. Isn't it a little condescending to ignore the elected Palestinian government in order to pat a few NGOs on the head, however noble and desirable their actions?

The only thing we can say for sure is that that the Euro-American colony in the Levant will not survive in its present form. Once the oil is all gone from that region, promoting the State of Israel will no longer be cost-effective.

Yes, U.S. support of Israel has improved our relationship with OPEC immensely. That's totally why we're supporting them. Because it's cost effective to pour billions of dollars into the defense budget of a country with no oil reserves that pisses off every oil rich country in the region.

And can we dismiss this "Euro-American colony" nonsense for good? Half the Jews there are Mizrahi who got kicked out of other Middle-Eastern countries. They're no fairer an imposition on the Palestinians than anyone else, but at this point the existence of Israel is as much the Arab world's fault as Hitler's.

And can we dismiss this "Euro-American colony" nonsense for good? Half the Jews there are Mizrahi who got kicked out of other Middle-Eastern countries.

so.

How do you think Empires operate?

Rome found a lot of willing elites and minorities to establish their colonies.

The French and British were brilliant at playing the differing tribes in the Arab, African, and Asian colonies against each other. The Spanish in the Philippines and the Americas. The US did this to many tribes on its drive west, and when meddling in the affairs of Latin America.

It really does help to attempt seeing the world from the colonized view. You don't have to agree with it, but at least understand that it is not an illusion, Colonists and the colonized view their relationships in a very different light.

"It really does help to attempt seeing the world from the colonized view."

But in reality, the U.S. put Israel under an arms embargo in 1948, when Israel was created, sold no arms whatever to Israel until 1962 (some Hawk anti-aircraft missiles), let alone gave any military aid -- although the U.S. made major arms sales to various Arab states in that time, and of course later -- and gave no sigificant military aid to Israel whatever until the 1973 war. The U.S. didn't sell any noticeable amount of arms to Israel, other than those Hawks, until 1965. The U.S. forced Israel (and Britain and France) to withdraw their military forces attacking Egypt in 1956. During the Six Day War, the U.S. again put Israel under an arms embargo.

These are odd ways to encourage a colony. The facts belay a simple storyline.

Certainly, Israel wasn't begun as a U.S. colony. And it isn't one now. That doesn't mean Israel hasn't become a colonial project, and a client state of an imperial U.S.

Beginning with the decision after the 1967 war to create "facts on the ground" in the form of settlements outside the Green Line, Israel itself entered a period of settler colonialism. As U.S. policy turned more and more pro-Israeli in the 1970s (for the U.S.'s own imperial reasons), Israel more and more became the biggest recipient of aid (economic, military, diplomatic, intelligence) among a whole collection of client states.

Or belie, even.

Who carved Israel into/out-of Palestine?

Or belie, even.

Whew, I was losing faith there for a moment.

Who carved Israel into/out-of Palestine?

Not the United States. There really wasn't even such a thing as Palestine until after WW1. If you want to blame anyone for the mess, blame the British. In any case, the creation of Israel out of Palestine was a complex,decades old process, involving the Ottoman Empire, the Zionist movement, the British, the French, Arab nationalist uprisings, the Holocaust, Arab and Jewish terrorism, the UN, and some timely aid from the USSR. It certainly wasn't US policy, which was if anything pro Arab in 1948.

Gary,

I think what you demonstrate is that colonialist have rocky relationships, as patrons. The US, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada all seem to have had unpredictable relationships with their Imperial bureaucracies, eventually negotiating more autonomy. I mean the Anglo-Americans allied themselves with the French Empire and had another war with the British in 1812; however this did not change the fact that they were a colonizing force, in the region. Plus, it didn’t change the “special relationship” the U.S. and Britain share. (I’m more familiar with the British and Spanish Empires and learning more about the Dutch and French)

It certainly wasn't US policy, which was if anything pro Arab in 1948

I'm sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism: I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.

-Harry S Truman

Truman may have had his biases against the Jews ("The Jews, I find are very, very selfish. They care not how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get murdered or mistreated as D[isplaced] P[ersons] as long as the Jews get special treatment," he wrote) but he knew his constituency. The Jewish refugees needed a home but Truman was also opposed to bringing large numbers of the refugees to the US as had been suggested. He was scared what those who were once underdogs might do in a different situation:

I fear very much that the Jews are like all underdogs. When they get on the top, they are just as intolerant and as cruel as the people were to them when they were underneath

And in 1948 it took him all of 11 minutes to recognize the modern state of Israel on the day of its creation. "Pro Arab"?

Wow, lots of people on their high horses on this comment thread. Careful you don't hurt yiselves when you fall off.

Back in 1948, Israel favored the two-state solution and the Arabs did not. Eventually, the Arabs convinced the Israelis that 2-state was not practical.

Now, Israel is dithering and the Palestinian Arabs are split on the issue.

Hamas works pretty effectively against the 2-state solution; by refusing to agree to previous Palestinian agreements, they give notice that if they ever take over a Palestinian State, a bigger and worse war is their plan, treaty or no treaty. This effectively stops Israel from agreeing to a 2-state. Which is probably Hamas' reason.

"Who carved Israel into/out-of Palestine?"

Palestine was created by the League of Nations in the early 1920's as a homeland for the Jews. The old Ottoman empire was being divided up between the Arabs and the Jews and between the French and the British. When the Jewish homeland was created, it was named Israel. The other states created from the Ottoman Empire are called Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. And maybe Kuwait.

Before that, Palestine was the name of a geographical region, like the Sahel or the Yukon, not a country.

And we should be blaming Turkish (Ottoman) Colonialism along with everybody else...

Palestine was created by the League of Nations in the early 1920's as a homeland for the Jews.

Meiosis.

When the Ottoman Empire was being carved up into bits and pieces, the first interests in the consideration of the British and French governments were, unsurprisingly, the British and French colonial interests in the Middle East.

Facilitating the immigration of European and American Jews to Palestine, and allowing them to acquire Palestinian citizenship, was certainly one of the purposes of the Mandate. But it was clearly neither intended nor enforced as a means of allowing immigrant Jews to become a majority of the population and to thereby discriminate legally against the original inhabitants, who were mostly Muslim with tiny minorities of Christians and Jews.

Given that Palestine was a territory within the Ottoman Empire for centuries, there is a strong habit among pro-Israelis for dismissing Palestine as never having existed at all, and an equally strong habit among pro-Palestinians for claiming Palestine as country far older than Israel.

The latter is rather more accurate than the former: Palestine is referred to for centuries before the Zionist movement. But trying to create a modern concept of the nation-state and enforce it on past centuries doesn't really work. Palestine definitely existed: and, at a time when other countries were achieving independence for their own people against colonialization, Palestine was governed by a Mandate that required the original inhabitants to accept a steady influx of white settlers entitled to acquire land.

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