One of the most interesting moments during Amer Shurrab’s appearance in New York Thursday night was the exchange above, when an audience member who gave his name as Bob Herbst asked Shurrab if he could respond to charges against Hamas: that it should be engaging in nonviolent resistance rather than shooting rockets and that, per Israel, it is firing from civilian areas.
Shurrab responded in part by defending violent resistance. Here is an excerpt [beginning at 2:10]:
Let’s be clear: It’s not only Hamas, it’s the Palestinian resistance. All Palestinian factions have been involved in this, and they are fighting against Israeli occupation. The right to resist an occupation is guaranteed by international laws and conventions. [Audience members say, That’s right]. If the Mexicans or the Canadians or the Chinese or the Russians invaded the U.S., we’re not going to sit here and watch them kill our kids. We are going to do whatever is necessary to fight back.
And, as for the nonviolent resistance, it’s also– it’s there, but, how can in Gaza– you are locked in the ghetto, you are totally locked out with people shooting at you at will whenever they feel like it. From the sea, from the land, from the air. Almost every day. And you cannot even see them or touch them. How are you going to resist nonviolently against them? Are you going to protest against them? They are not even going to see you. Are you going to go on strike? They don’t care. Especially in Gaza, it’s really hard.
As for the rockets, Shurrab says, they have had chiefly military targets, and Israel responds by “shelling neighborhoods randomly.” Shurrab states that of the three civilian Israeli deaths, one foreign worker was killed, a Bedouin was killed surely in some part because no bomb shelters or warning sirens were provided to his community, and the third civilian was someone bringing food to an Israeli base in solidarity.
The moment was interesting because while the talk’s sponsor, Jewish Voice for Peace, had expressly stated at the start that it supports nonviolent resistance to occupation, Shurrab’s defense of violent resistance plainly struck a chord in the crowd of 100 (most of whom, or of the ones I knew, were Jewish). The exchange demonstrates one of the outcomes of the massacres in the American discourse: Palestinians are in many cases grieving their own relatives’ killings (as Shurrab is), they are frightened and enraged, and so anyone engaged in Palestinian solidarity has to honor those feelings.
Shurrab’s questioner would seem to want to occupy a middle ground, of nonviolence, but the middle ground is disappearing by the second. The staggering violence has produced a which-side-are-you-on moment; it is a crisis in an intractable struggle, like John Brown’s raid in 1859 or the violent Algerian resistance in Algiers 100 years later. Those actors gained support from activists in Boston and Paris respectively.