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Whose violence?

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The stabbings that have recently become a daily reality in Israel/Palestine have been widely framed by the international media as an escalation of violence in the region. Before using such charged terms to describe desperate resistance by an occupied people, however, it would be prudent to examine these acts in their context. That is to say, it would be advisable to understand them against the background of a seemingly endless, efficiently organized, and institutionalized aggression perpetrated by the Israeli state apparatus and unleashed against the entire Palestinian population.

Indeed, stabbing attacks make violence visible, spectacularize it, but, in doing so, do not produce it as though out of nothing, ex nihilo. Rather, they draw the spectators’ attention to the already existing, silent, and relentless violence that drives the “attackers” to the breaking point. Their actions are, after all, suicidal: they know that, most likely, they will be shot dead in the altercation. Their knifes are powerless in the face of guns that await them at every corner, now that Jerusalem’s mayor has called on the Jewish residents of the city to carry registered firearms with them at all times.

Such a technological imbalance is typical of colonial occupation, as already noted by Frantz Fanon in the 1950s and ‘60s. And the same asymmetry affects the numbers of those who succumb to violence on both sides; disproportionately more Palestinians than Israelis die in the altercations. The victims of stabbings are individuated, each with her or his story; the victims of occupation are not only more numerous but also anonymous, unnoticed, subject to the additional violence of namelessness.

It is to be expected that reactive violence would flare up once a dialogue has failed. Hannah Arendt expressed this point well: when speech, or logos, is brushed aside, mute physical aggression takes its place. The absolute unwillingness of the current Israeli government to engage in a meaningful dialogue with its Palestinians neighbors, with the view to urgently ending the occupation and creating a viable Palestinian state, is at the root of the language of force that, alone, is speaking today.

The active violence, to which the current incidents are a response, is the grinding violence of occupation: severe travel restrictions, land grabs through the construction of the West Bank barrier considered illegal by the UN, arbitrary arrests, the destruction of houses be it by bombings or demolition orders… Let us pause and think, instead of automatically reproducing the ideologically inflected jargon of the mass media. Is the “cycle of violence” limited to stabbings and revenge attacks on both sides? Or, is it inscribed in a larger and particularly vicious circle—the suffocating siege of a people denied the basic conditions for living, let alone a chance for their collective self-expression?

Michael Marder

Michael Marder is IKERBASQUE Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU), Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. His most recent monographs include The Philosopher’s Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium (2014), Pyropolitics: When the World Is Ablaze (2015), and Dust (2016). He is now completing a book, co-authored with Luce Irigaray and titled Through Vegetal Being.

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18 Responses

  1. zaid on October 9, 2015, 10:57 am

    It seems that thing are going to escalate.

  2. Xpat on October 9, 2015, 10:59 am

    Silent and faceless. This image of five cowards hiding behind their veils. One brave man. And terrified. In a few seconds another bully with a gun, outside the frame, will approach this unarmed protester. He will shoot him in the right leg above the knee, at point blank range. All the bullies will then go home to tuck then kids in for the night before settling down to watch their day’s work on television.

  3. eljay on October 9, 2015, 12:16 pm

    Hard-core Zio-supremacist terrorists steal, occupy, colonize, oppress, torture and kill. Their “liberal Zionist” co-collectivists – the ones who are happy to “hold their noses” while the goons do the dirty work – advocate, justify, support and/or excuse the (war) crimes.

    Zio-supremacists are truly hateful and immoral people. >:-(

  4. Ossinev on October 9, 2015, 12:21 pm

    Elliott – you nailed it. Another day at the office for those nice dedicated young family men in Zionland.

  5. HarryLaw on October 9, 2015, 12:22 pm

    This cold blooded murder by Israeli troops is even more outrageous than the murder of the young girl at the checkpoint. This girl had her hands up Disgusting war criminals.

    • Teapot on October 9, 2015, 3:00 pm

      This is sickening. Why is the murder of this woman not the Guardian’s headline? It’s a disgusting crime.

      Also, I found this line in the Guardian article:

      “Palestinian anger is largely derived from events at al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City”

      That’s like saying that WW1 started largely because of the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. I’ve really had it with MSM coverage.

  6. Citizen on October 9, 2015, 12:34 pm

    Oh, not to worry, man stream media says its just the usual “cycle of violin,” been going on thousands of years over there.

  7. JLewisDickerson on October 9, 2015, 2:51 pm

    RE: “Is the ‘cycle of violence’ limited to stabbings and revenge attacks on both sides? Or, is it inscribed in a larger and particularly vicious circle—the suffocating siege of a people denied the basic conditions for living, let alone a chance for their collective self-expression?” ~ Michael Marder


    * SEE: “Israeli Occupation for Dummies” | by Yoav Litvin | | Oct. 8, 2015
    LINK –

  8. Mayhem on October 10, 2015, 12:42 am

    The absolute unwillingness of the current Israeli government to engage in a meaningful dialogue with its Palestinians neighbors

    Netanyahu offered immediate talks between Israel and the Palestinians without pre-conditions in his last speech at the UN, despite the fact that the Palestinians are splintered and unable to negotiate. No doubt the author wasn’t listening.

  9. Curatica on October 10, 2015, 9:31 am

    The author expresses–succinctly–the essence of the problem: desperation begets desperate acts. When the Palestinians could not stand living their lives any more, they surrender them to the devil. But woe unto those who throw them into despair, cause they will never be forgiven.

    • Mayhem on October 10, 2015, 6:22 pm

      @Curatica, the old victimhood saga, blaming others for one’s own misfortune.
      For almost a century, the Palestinians have tried various paths to achieve their goals: broad regional wars; local wars; intifadas; riots; peace talks and lobbying the United Nations. So what have they beem aiming to achieve?

      If the primary goal of the Palestinian people was a state, would they care if a small number of Jews lived there? Would they so strongly object to recognizing Israel as a Jewish State? Would they insist on an all-or-nothing strategy of getting everything in negotiations?

      Are Palestinians truly desperate for a state or are they desperate to deny any rights and legitimacy of Jews to live in the land?

      Their desperation has been brought about by THEIR OWN actions:
      1. They launched riots in 1936-9 to stop Jewish immigration and creation of the Jewish state
      2. The Arabs voted no to any partition of the land in 1937
      3. Voted “No” to the 1947 UN Partition plan
      4. Joined a war with five Arab armies to destroy Israel in 1948
      5. Aligned with Arab armies again in 1967 to destroy Israel
      6. Said “No” to recognition of Israel; “No” to peace with Israel; “No” to negotiations with Israel in Khartoum in 1967
      7. “No” to the US President Clinton’s plan to create a Palestinian state in September 2000
      8. Voted for Hamas to 58% of the Palestinian parliament, a group which is rabidly anti-Semitic and calls for the destruction of Israel and a new Palestine to be created over the entire region
      9. Gave no response to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s two-state proposal in 2007 (Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi described “the maximum proposed by Olmert did not approach the minimum acceptable that Abu Mazen needed to reach an agreement.”)
      10. An insistence on setting pre-conditions before peace talks would even commence under US President Obama in 2009
      11. Abbas waited nine months into the ten-month settlement freeze to begin negotiations with the Israelis
      12. Advanced a ridiculous narrative that Jews living in the area makes a Palestinian state “non-viable”
      13. Abbas refused to advance talks with Israeli PM Netanyahu in March 2014, and opted to unilaterally join international forums (contrary to the Oslo Accords) and signed a unity pact with Hamas
      14. Hamas congratulating the the murder of Israeli civilians and the complicity of the PA in riots that been escalating throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem

      • Kris on October 10, 2015, 6:47 pm

        Shorter Mayhem: the Palestinians have always had a choice: Get out or die. Jews want the Palestinian land and resources, and they are going to take them.

        Until the Israeli Jews have stolen everything they want, their advocates are going to bore the rest of the world silly with hasbara talking points.

      • Mayhem on October 11, 2015, 12:03 am

        @Kris, you seem to have bought into the Pallywag narrative hook, line and sinker. Don’t history and the facts make any difference?
        How can the Palestinians have tried by all means possible to avoid an equitable solution for the last century and now be complaining that they are in this current predicament?

      • Kris on October 11, 2015, 11:23 am

        @Mhm, you are right, the Palestinians should accept that the “equitable solution” when home invaders steal everything you have is to accept your role in life as part of the permanent untermenchen.

  10. brent on October 10, 2015, 1:52 pm

    No doubt people can be driven to suicide. It is understandable.

    When a life taken is viewed as symbolic of the whole… it is taken personally…. as an attack on each and every one. This is compounded in the case of a people who has a persecution complex.

    Additionally, its the case that violence is used politically to ratchet up the usurpation. Who can see the suicide bombings of past years as productive?

    I wonder where the wise voices are that could provide vision to the oppressed to enable them to exercise their right to resist more productively. I believe this lack of wise, inspirational voices is a problem for all who seek equality and justice in the holy land.

  11. Ossinev on October 10, 2015, 2:49 pm

    “Netanyahu offered immediate and unconditional talks in his last speech at the UN”
    You really are taking the proverbial. This is probably one of the latest script amendments being circulated at Hasbara Central. So let`s be clear what you are saying is that Nitay offered , in between cold icy stares , talks without insisting on the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, with abandonment of the idea of an undivided Jerusalem,insistence on maintaining military control of the Jordan valley , the demilitarisation of a future Palestinian state etc etc etc ad nauseum . So all these things which have been his absolutes before the UN speech suddenly became things to be negotiated. What a LOB !

    • MHughes976 on October 11, 2015, 12:45 pm

      There have been all sorts of semi-public demands but what we need is a full statement of terms for settlement put fair and square on the table for all to see plus an assurance that all counter proposals would be discussed – that is the meaning of ‘no preconditions’ – the discussions to be confidential but subject to a public statement of ‘the gap between the two sides’ should they break down. So long as that is not done there is no sincerity in the offer to negotiate. If it were done then we would know a lot more about what the real demands of the different parties were and that would be an enormous gain in itself. I know I’ve said this before and recently.

  12. Ian Berman on October 10, 2015, 7:07 pm

    It’s not the resistance, it’s the occupation

    AJ+ Al Jazeera Video

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