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Resistance is our duty, too

on 15 Comments

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.

Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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15 Responses

  1. just on October 26, 2014, 1:10 pm

    I read Levy’s column this morning. I am so glad that you chose to profile it here.

    Bless Gideon Levy.

  2. seafoid on October 26, 2014, 2:41 pm

    Palestinians can’t accept. The only option Israel allows them is total surrender. From that pov Zionism is politically and historically naïve.

  3. gracie fr on October 26, 2014, 3:28 pm

    Not much Optimism from Jeff Halper either……

    Israel is in the process of finalizing its Judaization of Jerusalem. There is no more Palestinian East Jerusalem. It’s buried under the weight of settlements and Israeli highways. Israelis are moving in just freely into Palestinian neighborhoods and taking them over. And in a sense, then, what was resistance to try to get a Palestinian state or try to resolve the problem is simply there is no resistance because there’s no political process. And so it’s all declined into just lashing out, you know, the driving of cars and killing people by trains. [incompr.] there’s nothing else to do if you’re a Palestinian but just to lash out or be solemn and stay at home and watch your home being taken or being demolished.

    And on the Israeli side as well, the attack on Gaza this summer, the everyday killing of Palestinians in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, everywhere, is also indicative of the fact that the violence on the Israeli side is disconnected from anything political. In other words, we’re in a stage where Israel says, no more [two-state] solution, it’s over, and you either live with us and submit or you get out or you die. That’s really the Israeli message, so that I think on both sides the violence is increasing, but it’s increasing with no political context whatsoever.

  4. Kay24 on October 26, 2014, 4:22 pm

    It is only natural that people who are occupied, blockaded and suffer collective punishment, will after a while resist those that make them suffer so miserably, preventing them from living like free human beings, and that resistance will eventually become violent.

    Those that resort to this evil, cannot expect their victims to not resist, and cannot act outraged every time their victims take the opportunity to send them a reminder that they protest their treatment. The world must show sympathy for the victims, and not allow the lies, and deception, of the occupier to go on.

  5. casaananda on October 26, 2014, 9:04 pm

    How much does Israel have to be reviled world wide for there to be change forced upon the Israeli government? When does Israel become so despised that it collapses for lack of support, even from America?

  6. RoHa on October 26, 2014, 9:24 pm

    “For Jews, treason is the name of the game. It is our right. It is our duty.”

    How is it treason for American or Australian Jews to resist Israel. It is their support for Israel that has been treason in the past.

  7. Kay24 on October 27, 2014, 1:02 am

    If this does not warrant a huge resistance, then Obama and the US is fooling themselves:

    “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned the U.S. on Sunday against a deterioration of the situation in Jerusalem, saying it was liable to spiral out of control if the Israeli government continued its current policies, particularly the attempts to change the status quo in the Temple Mount.” Haaretz

    How much more can these poor Palestinians take?

  8. Karl Dubhe on October 27, 2014, 1:05 am

    Bien sur que oui.

    I’ve nearly finished Max’s book, to resist is the only option. No matter who you are, or where you are, or whatever the heck else.

    But it’s not treason. Treason is a crime against a lawful authority, I say anywhat, and the Government of Israel is not a ‘lawful’ authority.

    (note; I’ve told people that I’ve been reading the most terrible book I’ve ever read. That’s Goliath. It’s not terrible as in badly written or researched, it’s a terrible story. A horror that Steven King would not have thought credible.)

  9. pabelmont on October 27, 2014, 9:35 am

    One form of resistance open to Americans and others outside The Land is to advance the opinion that, as a remedy for Israeli lawlessness, the illegal settlers must all be removed and the illegal settlements structures (buildings, the wall) must be demolished.

    Sounds extreme, right? Cannot happen, isn’t a-gonna happen, so why call for it? Aren’t these “facts on the ground” facts, permanent, immovable, impervious, immutable?

    But if we call for justice, for the rule of law in international affairs, to say nothing of peace, how can we not call for this remedy? And practically speaking how else can space be made for the Palestinian people within Palestine, whether in a 1SS or a 2SS?

    And, speaking even more practically, how other than by pushing with all our hearts and all our minds and spirit, can we show Israel that it has something to lose (a lot to lose) if it continues to refuse to make a “just and lasting peace” as envisioned by UNSC 242 (1967)?

  10. michelle on October 27, 2014, 12:57 pm

    sure sure fight back ssdd
    when the Palestine people fight/have fought back
    the world has crushed them verbally and physically
    the world needs to fight back
    this is bigger than Palestine freedom
    it’s about world freedom
    when our countries illegally attack/fund the attack
    or just stand by and allow the attack
    of an imprisoned civilian population
    or promote such attacks through lies and false reporting
    even though the truth has been made available to every & all
    the world population as a whole has to realize that
    we are also imprisoned
    we to are occupied & oppressed
    we are under attack
    we must fight for equal justice/for freedom
    for every & all
    G-d Bless

  11. ivri on October 27, 2014, 4:59 pm

    The point is really that Gideon Levy has nothing new to add. He keeps repeating similar ideas and the only sensation about him that he is an Israeli who writes in a major Israeli newspaper. If the very same ideas appear in the Independent or the Financial Times by a British journalist nobody would raise an eyebrow anymore. From Israel`s point of view the fact that this can take place it is a clear demonstration in what it differs from many countries in the world, including ALL of them in the region, and ironically this very fact belies a great deal of his negativism – the fact that Israel can deal with that with no problem (and there are others too writing in Haaretz who are not that far behind him in their views) over many years now must be a sign of strength.

    • just on October 27, 2014, 11:50 pm

      You’re right– he keeps repeating ‘silly’ ideas about justice/injustice and other things.

      He’s got a motherlode of facts that he exposes.

      “From Israel`s point of view the fact that this can take place it is a clear demonstration in what it differs from many countries in the world, including ALL of them in the region, and ironically this very fact belies a great deal of his negativism – the fact that Israel can deal with that with no problem ”

      That’s why he has to have bodyguards, right?

      Your comment is nuts, ivri.

  12. Kay24 on October 28, 2014, 12:49 am

    Well what do you know, Students at Berkley petition to stop Bill Maher from making commencement address. Good job. Having an Islamaphobe to speak at an important event is not a good idea. If one took his ugly words and inserted Judaism instead of Islam, there would be protests organized by Foxman crying antisemitism.

    • just on October 28, 2014, 1:09 am

      Leave it to Berkeley to blaze the trail!


      • michelle on October 28, 2014, 11:00 am

        very cool
        B.M. has lost his way
        pity him and those
        who ‘follow’ him
        G-d Bless

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