Sunday, March 11, 2012

I Support Fighting Israel Nonviolently

At least one of my friends has quit the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW), since the group is sharply critical of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians and is now threatening to bomb the Iranian nuclear installations. My friend "D" says the VOW is trying to whip up hatred toward Israel, whereas she herself proceeds by trying to bring Israeli and Palestinian women together and support a dialogue among them. We talked about this by phone yesterday.

After listening quite a while, I said only that I do believe that the effort to bring supplies into Gaza by boat was a constructive, admirable project. D replied that it was done in such a way as to create hatred of Israel. What should be done instead, she said, is to create mutual harmony and friendship among those two communities.

Well, good luck. But today I have replied with the following short note:

Hi, "D":

The commitment not to hate is a spiritually admirable trait. I think it is rarely an effective political method. Contrary to Gandhi's hope, it is very, very rare that nonviolent protest actually changes the hearts and minds of the opponent. What it does do rather often is make the opponent give in because they cannot get their way. Moreover, as Gene Sharp points out constantly, nonviolence is a way of fighting without injuring the opponent. It is, nonetheless, FIGHTING—a non-injurious form of warfare. You don't have to love your opponent to use it. You don't have to be spiritually advanced to use it. Lots of people use nonviolence just because they don't have access to weapons, but it often works for them anyhow. I favor using that approach.

By and large, peaceniks dislike conflict and hope to make it go away somehow. When "conflict resolution" methods have a chance of succeeding, by all means, use them. But in extreme conflicts, they don't work. You can't get your opponent to change his goals, so you  use nonviolent coercive methods instead. I believe the Palestinians should use nonviolent means of pressuring the Israelis. I do not believe there is the slightest chance of winning over Israelis through logical arguments or dialogue.

I have to admire people who stand on the side of justice. Unfortunately,  the Israeli position is unjust, so it is right to oppose them. I don't see much of a middle ground there, but I do believe in using nonviolence.