A dialogue with ‘Times’ videographer yields surprise ending

After reading the recent post here about the New York Times coverage of protests by Palestinians, termed a "West Bank Spectacle," I posted a comment to the blog of reporter/videographer Jaron Gilinsky. He responded, and a dialogue quickly developed. Below are excerpts…

jaron said:
“My personal opinion is that the Palestinians should adopt a truly non-violent, truly inventive method of protest, which may or may not help their cause, but at least won’t send mixed signals to the world about who the victims are.”

jaron said:
I truly believe, and im not the only one, that Palestinian violence plays into the hands of Israel in continuing the occupation, and that a truly non-violent struggle is the best way to free the Palestinians.

Finally, you are incorrect in stating that this doesn’t get much coverage in the mainstream media. The NYT, for example, has covered Bilin several times since the protests began in 2004.”

Joseph Glatzer said…
Bi’lin, Ni’lin and the like are non-violent marches to the Wall, where they (along with Israelis and various internationals like American Tristan Anderson) are shot at, tear gassed, and killed. I do commend you for interviewing the Israeli activist.

The International Court of Justice ruled the entire Wall was illegal in a landmark ruling. Even the Israeli Supreme Court deemed the Bi’lin section of the Wall illegal and to be rerouted. The decision has never been implemented. Palestinians are protesting Israel using a giant concrete wall to separate them from their land they used to earn a living from.

jaron said:
I agree that the army is often too aggressive and violent with the protesters. So I want to ask you and others a question. It will require you to put politics aside for a moment, which I know can be difficult. Often the point of these demos is to violate Israeli law or damage infrastructure in some way through civil disobedience.

Without passing judgment on the morality of the laws of the occupation and the morality of its detractors, if you were general of the IDF, what rules of engagement would you adopt to simultaneously protect the protesters and Israeli law?

Assuming rules of engagement are actually followed, are tear gas grenades shot into the air appropriate? Rubber bullets in the legs? Beating people ever so gently with a night stick? What would you do differently?

Joseph Glatzer said…
Jaron: It’s unfortunate you didn’t engage the relevant questions I raised, instead only responding with a narrowly defined question of how I would effectively quell the occupied if I were the occupier.

The premise of your question is actually wrong. The Palestinians aren’t even engaged in "civil disobedience" against unjust laws: they are simply trying to end ISRAEL’s disobedience; in ignoring their own Supreme Court ruling saying the Bi’lin section of the Wall is illegal and must be rerouted.

This isn’t some campaign to "violate Israeli law" or "damage infrastructure". This is a fact, not opinion: Israel is in violation of its own law for over 2 years by ignoring their own ruling.

"Without passing judgment on the morality of Jim Crow laws of the white South and the morality of its detractors, if you were Bull Connor or George Wallace, what rules of engagement would you adopt to simultaneously protect the civil rights marchers and Jim Crow law? Assuming rules of engagement are actually followed, is tear gas shot in the air appropriate? Police dogs biting demonstrators in the legs? Beating people ever so gently with a night stick? What would you do differently?"

How does your question look when it’s juxtaposed into the Civil Rights movement? What I would do differently is end the racist policy, not try to end an effective way of defending it.

jaron said…
The premise of my question is not logically wrong. I simply asked what an appropriate response would be to these protests. It doesn’t logically presuppose anything.

If you mean that it was wrong on a moral level, well, I can’t argue with that. I do sometimes ask ridiculous questions because I think it makes a point about the absurdity of the entire situation. Anyone who knows me is aware that I believe in human rights for all people, and do genuinely hope that Palestinians can one day live in freedom. I simply question how non-violent their tactics truly are. I also find Israel’s response to this non-non-violence to be way too harsh on occasion, which is why I asked the question in the first place.

You wrongly implied that my question tacitly gave a moral standing to the legitimacy of the occupation. That is a false assumption on your part, since my question was posed merely as a hypothetical question based on the hundred year history of mistakes made by both sides which has led to the monumentally shitty situation we find ourselves in today. Essentially, these are just the latest tactics in a fight for freedom.

Joseph Glatzer said…
Your closing comment really says it all doesn’t it?

Posted in Beyondoweiss, Gaza, Israel/Palestine, US Politics | Tagged ,

{ 26 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. MRW says:

    Are we to assume that’s Palestinian freedom he’s referring to in the tagline? And if so, 100 years of this fight is acceptable to him?

  2. kapok says:

    If I were a general in the I”D”F,
    I’d order the Stukas to dive-bomb the Knesset.

  3. David Samel says:

    I have much more sympathy for Glatzer’s position than Gilinsky’s, but there is something Jaron says that I wholeheartedly agree with. “Palestinian violence plays into the hands of Israel in continuing the occupation, and that a truly non-violent struggle is the best way to free the Palestinians.” Israel’s worst nightmare would be to face a non-violent, yet well-publicized campaign to raise the essential moral issues of freedom, equality, dispossession, etc. Palestinians resort to violence out of understandable anger over the far greater violence meted out to them, and the frustration of non-violence being so non-newsworthy that it makes no apparent headway in their worthy struggle. But the people who have the power to affect events — mostly the Israeli and American publc — are overexposed to Palestinian violence and underexposed to Israel’s far more atrocious conduct. While the Goldstone Report marks a significant high-water mark in holding Israel accountable, the pathetic attempts by Palestinians to inflict on the Israeli public a small fraction of the misery they must endure are still blown way out of proportion, and carry the day for 90+% of our government which singlehandedly makes continued Israeli oppression possible. Palestinian violence will never come close to winning any battles with the Israeli military, and provide a public relations windfall for the Israeli government. I know it’s easy for me to say these things from my safe computer desk, and since I experience true rage when I see evidence of Israeli brutality and mendacity, I can only imagine how I would feel as an unwilling subject of Israeli military dictatorship.

    HAIG SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSOn the other hand, I do find quite distasteful Jaron’s attitude of blame both sides.

    • David Samel says:

      Wow – truly embarrassing computer spaz attack.

      • Mooser says:

        “Wow – truly embarrassing computer spaz attack.”

        I’ll say. Why didn’t you just come out and ask where’s the Palestinian Ghandi?
        Most of all, why do you assume that the Palestinians, the people on the spot, don’t know what they’re doing?

        • David Samel says:

          Mooser – I didn’t ask where’s the Palestinian Ghandi for a number of reasons, including that they have no obligation to produce one; Israel has the obligation to make him unnecessary. And why do you assume what I assume? Obviously, there have been plenty of Palestinian Ghandis who agree with me, that non-violence is the best way to go. The Palestinians, and their leadership, are hardly unified on the necessity of throwing stones at well-protected Israeli soldiers, or sending rockets into Sderot, both of which give Israel undeserved PR material that they have used to enormous advantage. Assuming you disagree with my opinion, you haven’t expressed yours very well.

    • MRW says:

      I agree with you, David Samel. What struck me about Jarons’ response was that you dont talk hypotheticals when a group has been seeking justice for 100 years. You take a position. If you have a moral bone in your body.

    • MRW says:

      Hey, Wow – truly embarrassing computer spaz attack.

      I have this program on my computer that not only is a super-autocorrecter, but it is out of control, and changes my words and grammar five lines later. I keep forgetting to turn it off. The typos I’ve seen here, later, in my posts have been mortifying. At least the above is completely obvious. Mine just make me look illiterate, and as if I cant spell or dont understand plurals.

      • Shmuel says:

        MRW: Mine just make me look illiterate, and as if I cant spell or dont understand plurals.

        Or contractions ;-)

        We just have to give each other the benefit of the typo (or evil mutant spellchecker).

        • MRW says:

          Nope, Shmuel. Contractions I’ll cop to. I usually follow Shaw. (GBS) He says, ‘Who needs that apostrophe’? :-)

          But the super-auto-correcter/or will correct them sometimes whether I like it or not. If you ever see Blank fort for Blankfort, you’ll know it’s turned on.

        • Shmuel says:

          So you have strong feelings about contractions, MRW? Why is there never a Freudian around when you need one?

    • syvanen says:

      David. I find myself in agreement with much of what you say and also agree here that non-violence by the Palestinians is politically more effective than is their pathetic military operations. But I would not accuse a group of teenagers throwing rocks at Israeli tanks an act of violence. Last week a group of Palestinians tore down part of a wire fence that is part the wall. Palestinians have also defaced the wall with graffiti. I guess Jaron above would call this violence against Israeli property. I tend to consider these as acts of non-violent civil disobedience. Where is your line between violence and non-violence?

      • David Samel says:

        syv – I would say that non-violence should not be confused with passivity, as deb seems to do in another comment. I have no problem with tearing down walls and fences and writing graffiti, and thoroughly disrespecting Israeli authority to run their lives. I think, though, that I might be calling for more courage than I’d be able to muster.

  4. David Samel says:

    I was going to add that there is of course a difference between violence directed against Israeli civilians and against an occupation army committing unlawful attacks. However, that difference is mostly moral and not tactical. It is immoral to inflict violence on any civilian population, although the hypocrisy of those who defend IDF attacks against civilians but scream about the opposite is intolerable. While slingshots and rocks against the IDF might be defensible in legal/moral terms as resistance to occupation, it still suffers from the same PR problem. The images of these acts make the response of the Israelis in uniform, who have the appearance of a legally constituted authority, appear reasonable. That raises the question, what should Palestinian demonstrators do when they actually protest peacefully, and are met with a violent response, which happens all the time? Just take it? I would counsel them not to fight back, and to try to publicize their plight as much as possible, but recognize that such forbearance is heroic. I repeat: Easy for me to say.

  5. Citizen says:

    Mmmmmm, what would Ghandi or ML King do if transplanted to Palestine now? Would either be effective with their nonviolent tactics?

    Didn’t Britain depend on Indian troops to help fight the Nazis?
    Did Britain think it had a God-given biblical right to Indian land, and/or control of it?
    Did Britain view itself as the world’s eternal victim, always about to be pushed into the ocean?
    Wasn’t Britain demographically mostly Christian?

    How about the USA; did most Americans view Jim Crow as God-ordained?
    Couldn’t ML King point to the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution?
    And wasn’t the US already involved in escalating Vietnam War?
    Wasn’t the USA demographically mostly Christian?

    Now, what about Apartheid S Africa?
    Is this the best model to project whether non-violence is the best Palestinian tactic?
    If so, doesn’t that make the BDS movement the best partner?

    Here’s Mondoweiss about a year ago discussing some of this:
    link to mondoweiss.net

    • Chaos4700 says:

      Mmmmmm, what would Ghandi or ML King do if transplanted to Palestine now? Would either be effective with their nonviolent tactics?

      Before the invention of the internet? That have merely wound up assassinated, by car bomb, execution squad, gunship rocket, etc.

      In contemporary times, they’d simply be labeled “terrorists,” put on the US watch list (Fancy meeting you here, Nelson Mandela!) and locked away in a prison camp for the rest of their lives.

  6. Chaos4700 says:

    I take it Jaron Gilinsky also believes the American Revolution was counter productive and that the colonists should have refrained from even protesting — I mean, by his logic, we provoked the Boston Massacre, it’s our fault.

    Gee, folks, I guess it’s time to burn the Constitution and start paying our stamp taxes to Great Britain. We’re only playing into the hands of the British monarchy, after all.

  7. bob says:

    Joseph Glatzer said…
    Jaron: It’s unfortunate you didn’t engage the relevant questions I raised, instead only responding with a narrowly defined question of how I would effectively quell the occupied if I were the occupier.

    Good job in focusing the point from that attempt to reframe the debate .

  8. Pamela Olson says:

    Nice job, Joseph. Way to beat him at his own mealy-mouthed game. He knows the score, but as Upton Sinclair put it, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” It is doubly difficult to get him to admit he understands.


  9. deb83 says:

    It seems the Palestinians just don’t get it. They have a role to play as the oppressed and they are not doing it right. Israelis get it right as the oppressors, they can be as violent as they want, but the Palestinians keep getting it wrong. Non-violent… passive is their part, can someone please tell them! Geez!

  10. Les says:

    Jaron might have been asked whose hands he thought Israel’s violence against the Palestinians plays into.

  11. Donald says:

    “What would you do differently?”

    Meant to post about this yesterday, but I was too busy. Anyway, it’s fascinating how often this sort of thing comes up. I was once telling a friend how several successive American Presidents from Ford through Clinton assisted Indonesia’s near-genocidal occupation of East Timor with weapons and diplomatic support and his reply was “What would you do differently?” He further pointed out that if the US hadn’t assisted Indonesia (in killing over 100,000 people) then some other country might have helped. A real headscratcher, in his view, and so my simpleminded notion that it’s wrong to give weapons to people who will use them to commit mass murder was way too unsophisticated for him. Though he’d never heard about the situation in East Timor until I told him.

    A lot of people seem to empathize with the supposed dilemmas faced by those who are in power and it’s not an accident. It’s one of the roles of the mainstream press to make us think like this–the NYT is constantly writing about the choices facing US policymakers and the unspoken assumption is that the reader is in their corner sympathizing with the agonizing choices our poor governmental officials have to make.

    So when Jaron asks Joseph what he’d do in the shoes of the Israeli occupying forces, it’s part of a very long tradition of power worship–no doubt entirely unconscious on Jaron’s part.