This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
There, Gideon Levy has said it – Palestinians have the right to resist. In fact, it’s their duty.
His beginning is strong:
Imagine you’re the Palestinians. Perhaps residents of East Jerusalem. Forty-seven difficult years are behind you; a big, depressing darkness lies ahead. The Israeli tyranny that dooms your fate declares arrogantly that everything will stay like this forever. Your city will remain under occupation “for ever and ever.” The defense minister, second in importance in the government that subjugates you, says a Palestinian state will never be established.
Imagine you’re Palestinian and your children are in danger. Two days ago, the occupation forces killed another child because “he lit a firebomb.” The words “Death to Arabs” were sprayed near your home. Everywhere you turn, a soldier or Border Police officer may shout at you. Every night, your home may be invaded brutally. You will never be treated like human beings. They’ll destroy, humiliate, intimidate, perhaps even arrest you, possibly without trial.
There are close to 500 administrative detainees, a record number in recent years. If one of your dear ones is arrested, you will have difficulty visiting him. If you succeed, you’ll get half an hour’s conversation through a glass window. If your dear one is an administrative detainee, you will never know when he’ll be released. But these are trivia you grew accustomed to long ago.
Maybe you’ve also grown accustomed to the land theft. At every moment a settler can invade your land, burn your plantation or torch your fields. He will not be brought to trial for this; the soldiers who are supposed to protect you will stand idly by. At any moment, a demolition order or random eviction order may appear. There’s nothing you can do.
Imagine you’re the Palestinians. You can’t leave Gaza and it’s not easy to leave the West Bank, either. The beach, less than an hour’s drive from your West Bank home, is beyond the mountains of darkness. An Israeli can go to Tierra del Fuego, between Argentina and Chile, much more easily than you can go to the beach at Ajami.
There are no dreams, no wishes. Your children have a slim chance of accomplishing anything in life, even if they go to university. All they can look forward to is a life of humiliation and unemployment.
What is a Palestinian to do in such a situation?
There are two possibilities. The first is to accept, give in, give up. The second is to resist. Whom have we respected more in history? Those who passed their days under the occupation and collaborated with it, or those who struggled for their freedom?
Imagine you’re a Palestinian. You have every right to resist. In fact, it’s your civil duty. No argument there. The occupied people’s right to resist occupation is secured in natural justice, in the morals of history and in international law.
The only restrictions are on the means of resistance. The Palestinians have tried almost all of them, for better and worse – negotiations and terror; with a carrot and with a stick; with a stone and with bombs; in demonstrations and in suicide. All in vain. Are they to despair and give up? This has almost never happened in history, so they’ll continue. Sometimes they’ll use legitimate means, sometimes vile ones. It’s their right to resist.
Within the Israeli political spectrum, Levy’s writing is incendiary. Calling for Palestinian resistance is a clarion call to resist his own government. To resist Israeli soldiers. Settlers.
The means are open. Levy doesn’t shut down armed resistance – specifically. But that and other forms of Palestinian resistance have failed. So the means are open. They’re also exhausted and failing.
Resistance without hope of success is operating on diminishing principle. When resistance principles are exhausted, the suffering have to look for other avenues.
Levy doesn’t broach the obvious next question perhaps because he doesn’t believe it’s possible – an uprising within Israel by Jews – to resist their own government.
In concert, perhaps, with an uprising within American Jewish life against the Jewish establishment, AIPAC and the Israeli-oriented edifice, including Jewish Studies academics, university Hillels and Holocaust memorial museums that span the United States?
As Levy points out, Palestinians are resisting. In fact, there are increasing numbers of Jews in Israel and the United States who are resisting. Such resistance has been building over the years. Israel’s invasion of Gaza has stoked resistance anew.
But, all of this is failing too. It isn’t about Palestinians and some Jews working together to resist the occupation – that has been happening at least since the first Palestinian uprising. It’s about being effective with all the forces aligned against this joint resistance.
BDS points in the right direction but we need a combination – and a historical opening. That opening remains elusive.
Resistance is preparation for a historical opening that may or may not come soon. Meanwhile the suffering continues. Palestinians bear an inordinate brunt of what has become a joint resistance.
After Gaza – but there have been so many afters – the necessary reckoning hasn’t occurred. Which doesn’t mean it won’t occur – someday.
That day remains in the future. But for now, at least for Levy and for Jews in Israel and around the world, the issue of Jewish resistance remains.
For Jews, treason is the name of the game. It is our right. It is our duty.