Reasons for hope

Israel/Palestine
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Yesterday we posted reflections from Pamela Olson who has been in the West Bank during the UN debate over Palestinian statehood. Here is a follow up post on where she sees hope.

Despite everything I outlined in the post yesterday, there is some amount of hope in three places. One is the dramatic shift in American and global public opinion. Even Thomas Friedman has started lamenting the Israel lobby’s stranglehold on US foreign policy (two years ago he wouldn’t even have dared suggest there was any such thing as an Israel lobby), and other news sources have started asking questions, inviting guests, and boldly making suggestions they’d never made before.

And Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the UN was fantastic. It was like some kind of cartoon alien spouting every tired line of campy hasbara kitsch all in one long string of mendacious, tone-deaf nonsense. It was like he was trying to get all the talking points in at once because somewhere deep down, he understood that this was their eulogy. He didn’t want to leave any of his old friends out of what I predict will be a historic speech—the last major event when anyone dared to say such utter crap on the world stage with a straight face.

The world’s reaction to his cringe-worthily sophomoric bluster spoke for itself (though apparently his popularity in Israel actually rose after it—which just goes to show how mentally isolated Israel is from the rest of the world).

The second place of hope is in the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which already has several victories to its name, and which is clearly terrifying the Israeli establishment. Along with non-violent direct actions like the Gaza flotillas, it’s the ultimate non-violent tactic to burst a dangerous bubble, and it’s just getting started.

The third is mass non-violent resistance by the Palestinians themselves, first Intifada-style. But there are three things suppressing this option. One is the Palestinian Authority, which is paid by Israel and the US to keep the Palestinians from taking matters into their own hands in this manner in any large-scale way. (Hamas is doing the same in Gaza to protect their own monopoly on power.)

The second is that people are still utterly exhausted from the evisceration of their economy by Israel’s occupation policies and the never-ending attacks by settlers and harassment by soldiers. People just want to scratch out a living and send their kids to school. This is enough of a massive burden given the conditions of occupation. To resist in a serious and sustained way means to risk losing every last scrap of what they hold dear.

The third is that the Palestinian people have understood for a long time what Amos Gilad, the head of Israel’s Defense Ministry’s political department, was recently quoted as saying by Wikileaks: “We don’t do Gandhi very well.”

Israelis are terrified of non-violent resistance. It’s not their strong suit. It’s not good for the world to see them bashing in the heads and shooting out the eyes of unarmed men, women, and children on their own land. So there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that if there is a mass non-violent uprising, Israel will do everything in its power to turn it into a military struggle.

This is where Israel is comfortable. This is where they win, especially where it matters most, in American public opinion: When they can point to someone else’s violence to justify their own massively more deadly violence. In this scenario, the framework switches from Palestinian human rights to Israeli security. And once the framework revolves around Israeli security, anything goes.

Most people forget that the second Intifada started as a mass non-violent movement. Israel responded by firing more than one million bullets into crowds of unarmed demonstrators. Six months later, the suicide bombings started. And we all know the rest.

A sustained non-violent movement on a massive scale in Palestine would be no passive Kumbaya sit-in. It would involve serious danger and horrible risk, and it would require many people to die while others would be forced to watch and do nothing but continue to protest peacefully. And it would take only one spark to turn it into another all-out militarized conflict, and all the devastation that brings.
But who knows? No one predicted that the Soviet Union would fall when it did. Apartheid fell, French control of Algeria fell apart, and one way or another this insane occupation, this rotten house of cards, is not long for this earth.

Another Palestinian I talked to, a pilot who used to fly Yasser Arafat around the world, said, “Netanyahu thinks he has everything under control.”

I replied, “So did Hosni Mubarak.”

About Pamela Olson

Pamela Olson is the author of Fast Times in Palestine. She blogs here.

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  1. seafoid
    September 28, 2011, 10:02 am

    The standing ovation at the UN last Friday trumps decades of hasbara. People all over the world care about the sha’ab al filisteeni.

  2. hophmi
    September 28, 2011, 10:06 am

    “Another Palestinian I talked to, a pilot who used to fly Yasser Arafat around the world, said, “Netanyahu thinks he has everything under control.”

    I replied, “So did Hosni Mubarak.””

    Because you’re not capable of telling the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship.

    No one does Ghandi well, particularly the Palestinians.

    • Woody Tanaka
      September 28, 2011, 11:11 am

      “Because you’re not capable of telling the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship.”

      When you don’t get any say in the government that controls your lives (as is the case for most of the Palestinians in Palestine) whether that government is domonated by one man or one ethnicty is a distinction without a difference.

    • Shingo
      September 28, 2011, 4:06 pm

      Because you’re not capable of telling the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship.

      And if it’s one thing Hophmi and the Ziocaine addicts, is a US puppet dictator who has forgotten his place. Otherwise, dictators and dictatorships make Israelis feel warm and fuzzy all over,

    • Real Jew
      September 28, 2011, 8:48 pm

      Guys guys take it easy on Hophmi. He’s upset because his zio bubble filled with zero accountability and international support is about to pop.

  3. tidings
    September 28, 2011, 10:17 am

    “And Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the UN was fantastic.”

    He did the same thing on Charlie Rose. Poor me, said Bibi, it’s really tough being disliked all the time. Poor you, said Charlie, it must be tough.
    And Bibi went on to regurgitate every revolting Hasbaric line. With no other guest there to question anything, he had sympathetic Charlie all to himself.

    Although I read Mondo every day, this is the first time I have posted.

    • Taxi
      September 28, 2011, 11:13 am

      Hellow and welcome. Thanks for bringing in your tidings, tidings.

      I consider it an act of self-love to ignore the mainstream media’s hasbara, including ‘publicly’ funded PBS hasbara too. They ALL say the same thing, word for word EVERY TIME and done so for DECADES.

      The world has moved on, evidently, and the zio politicians and their big-mouthed girlfriend, the media, are stuck in a time-warp-loony-loop.

      I often find that the headline is enough of a read – the content is (yawn) already known.

      Better use your nonrefundable time reading up on ACTUAL history than on contemporary dumb propaganda.

    • john h
      September 28, 2011, 3:11 pm

      “Poor me, said Bibi, it’s really tough being disliked all the time.”

      Good comment, tidings; keep ‘em coming.

      Apt summary by Pamela too:

      “No one predicted that the Soviet Union would fall when it did. Apartheid fell, French control of Algeria fell apart and, one way or another, this insane occupation, this rotten house of cards, is not long for this earth.”

  4. ToivoS
    September 28, 2011, 1:23 pm

    This is a pretty good summary for what needs to be done. In terms of mass resistance inside the WB I suspect that the PA itself will be less likely now to put down “unauthorized” demonstrations. With Abbas’s new stature and hopefully confidence he should be able to more effectively resist Israeli pressure to suppress nonviolent street action. In addition, if PA gains the right to bring cases in the ICC this will provide the Palestinians with even greater international legitimacy. BDS will grow even faster with these new tools.

    Much depends on Abbas right now in order to see this grow. It is so important that he avoid any more momentum draining negotiations and continue to defy US and Israeli demands for unilateral concessions. We should have a better idea in a few weeks if he has the courage to take this path.

    • Pamela Olson
      September 28, 2011, 6:59 pm

      Inshallah khair (hoping for good things)

      • ToivoS
        September 28, 2011, 10:04 pm

        Pamela I want to add one more comment. It appears that you are there in the trenches and could very well have a much better sense for what is happening on the ground. Before, I criticized your first piece for being too cynical. As someone well on the outside, I do believe that what happened at the UN last week could have changed the dynamics in the IP conflict.

        Basically, Abbas has now been empowered to do things differently — his new power allows him reject utterly pointless negotiations, it allows him to insist on not only settlement freezes before renewed negotiations but should allow him to insist on dismantlement of the most egregious settlements like Arial (a little wishful thinking here, but if he seized the moment it would be possible).

        As it appears from this one outsider, Abbas could be a real force for overcoming Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people. He has spent the last decade negotiating from a position of weakness. I do not believe he relished that position. Now that he is in a position to lead from a position of strength it does seem that he should be supported.

        Perhaps Abbas has been totally corrupted by all of the bribe money poured into the PA by the US, EU and Saudis since Oslo started but from my distant seat I do not think so. I think he would prefer to be known as a Palestinian patriot and not a wealthy lackey for Western imperialism.

      • Pamela Olson
        September 29, 2011, 7:28 am

        Inshallah. I don’t know Abbas’ mind, only what I can see from his actions. I am really hoping he can be a force for good for Palestine. I have my doubts, but I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

        I also have my cautious hopes, but those have been dashed so many times, it’s difficult not to be very cautious about them. Being in the trenches can also have the effect of making one too cynical sometimes. I really hope I’m wrong — and I especially hope the PA will stop hindering Palestinian civil society’s brave non-violent resistance to the occupation. The coming year should make a lot of things clear.

        Inshallah khair.

  5. joemowrey
    September 28, 2011, 1:36 pm

    “A sustained non-violent movement on a massive scale in Palestine would be no passive Kumbaya sit-in. It would involve serious danger and horrible risk, and it would require many people to die while others would be forced to watch and do nothing but continue to protest peacefully.”

    A similar statement could be made about the situation here in the U.S. And until we do begin to embrace such a strategy there is little or no hope for us or the Palestinians. Once the Empire (the U.S.) is toppled, oppressed peoples around the globe will begin to rebuild their cultures and nations. Not until.

    • longliveisrael
      September 28, 2011, 7:51 pm

      Ah, Joe, can you give us an example of “Once the Empire (the U.S.) is toppled, oppressed peoples around the globe will begin to rebuild their cultures and nations. Not until.”

      Are Saudis suddenly going to be free? Syrians? Somalis? Cubans?
      Who just helped the Libyans throw off oppression?

      Another deluded Communist.

  6. DICKERSON3870
    September 28, 2011, 9:44 pm

    RE: “…people are still utterly exhausted from the evisceration of their economy by Israel’s occupation policies and the never-ending attacks by settlers and harassment by soldiers. People just want to scratch out a living and send their kids to school.” ~ Pamela Olson

    FROM ALISTAIR COOK, London Review of Books, 03/03/11:

    (excerpts)…It was [Ariel] Sharon who pioneered the philosophy of ‘maintained uncertainty’ that repeatedly extended and then limited the space in which Palestinians could operate by means of an unpredictable combination of changing and selectively enforced regulations, and the dissection of space by settlements, roads Palestinians were not allowed to use and continually shifting borders. All of this was intended to induce in the Palestinians a sense of permanent temporariness
    …It suits Israel to have a ‘state’ without borders so that it can keep negotiating about borders, and count on the resulting uncertainty to maintain acquiescence

    SOURCE – link to lrb.co.uk
    ALSO SEE:
    Learned helplessness - link to en.wikipedia.org
    Attrition warfare – link to en.wikipedia.org

  7. DICKERSON3870
    September 28, 2011, 9:50 pm

    RE: “Most people forget that the second Intifada started as a mass non-violent movement.” ~ Pamela Olson

    MY COMMENT: Fortunately, Uri Avnery never forgets anything. And I do mean anything!

    SEE: The Dogs of War: The Next Intifada, By Uri Avnery, Counterpunch, 9/03/11

    The second (“al-Aqsa”) intifada started after the breakdown of the 2000 Camp David conference and Ariel Sharon’s deliberately provocative “visit” to the Temple Mount. The Palestinians held non-violent mass demonstrations. The army responded with selective killings. A sharpshooter accompanied by an officer would take position in the path of the protest, and the officer would point out selected targets – protesters who looked like “ringleaders”. They were killed.
    This was highly effective. Soon the non-violent demonstrations ceased and were replaced by very violent (“terrorist”) actions. With those the army was back on familiar ground.
    All in all, during the second intifada 4546 Palestinians were killed, of whom 882 were children, as against 1044 Israelis, 716 of them civilians, including 124 children.
    I am afraid that the preparations for the third intifada, which is anticipated to start next month, are proceeding on the same lines…

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to counterpunch.org

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