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Where Sullivan gets it wrong: there already is a non-violent Palestinian movement

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John Mearsheimer’s dynamic speech at the Palestine Center in Washington, D.C. continues to make waves on the blogosphere. Andrew Sullivan notes two responses from Jeffrey Goldberg and Noah Pollak.

But I take issue with Sullivan’s critique of Mearsheimer’s speech. Sullivan is an influential writer read by millions, and I appreciate many of his honest and thoughtful writings on Israel/Palestine, which he has continued to publish despite ridiculous assertions that he is an anti-Semite. So, because of Sullivan’s reach, let’s examine where he falters. His analysis has implications for the discourse surrounding Israel/Palestine, and it’s important to get the facts straight.

Sullivan criticizes Mearsheimer for being “sanguine” about a mass, nonviolent Palestinian movement that will bring about the end of apartheid Israel.

Here’s Sullivan:

With the Likudnik right marginalized, and the ambivalent middle increasingly distressed by a more clearly apartheid system, what will happen? Mearsheimer sees a bi-national democracy achieved through Palestinians winning the international argument that a non-Jewish Israel is preferable to an apartheid Israel. He urges non-violence in such a situation.

This is where he loses me. I suspect he is being far too sanguine about the possibilities of a mature, non-violent Palestinian movement that uses its democratic majority for fruitful and non-violent and non-anti-Semitic ends.

He makes a similar point in a follow-up post:

The obvious and serious flaw in Mearsheimer’s argument, as I noted, is the absence of a deep analysis of Palestinian rejection of a two-state solution and the Palestinian support of those forces that seek to end Israel altogether. He does mention it, but, to my mind, in far too cursory a fashion.

I’m curious to find out what news sources Sullivan reads on Israel/Palestine, and where he got the idea that it’s misguided for Mearsheimer to say that Palestinians should “resist mightily for sure, but their strategy should privilege non-violent resistance.”

I think it’s very clear that this is increasingly the strategy that Palestinians are using. The weekly protests in West Bank villages against the separation wall have now spread to Gaza. The growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is Palestinian led and initiated, and has spread to the West. There already is a “mature, non-violent Palestinian movement.” It will continue to grow.

Where are the Palestinians who reject a two-state solution? A recent Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre poll found that 44% of Palestinians still favor the two-state solution, although support for a bi-national state is growing. And support for a bi-national solution does not equal sentiment that is anti-Semitic or people who seek to “end Israel.” It is instead a solution that favors equality for Israelis and Palestinians. 

If we’re speaking of Palestinian politics, Hamas would accept a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, and has been on record saying that multiple times. The Palestine Liberation Organization and Fatah do, as well. Those are the major forces in Palestinian politics, and they don’t add up to “rejection of a two-state solution.”

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