The authors of the new book Popular Protest in Palestine discuss whether peaceful resistance to Israeli occupation is appropriate in the face of so much violence.
‘In March 2015 the Israeli electorate voted into power the most hard-line coalition in Israel’s history, headed up by Benjamin Netanyahu who had campaigned on the promise that he would prevent the establishment of any Palestinian state. In the national newspaper Haaretz the correspondent Gideon Levy bemoaned the result: ‘If after six years years of sowing fear and anxiety, hatred and despair, this is the nation’s choice, then it is very ill indeed. Netanyahu deserves the Israeli people and they deserve him.’ (Haaretz, 18 March 2015) Another commentator, James Besser, concluded that ‘apartheid is the path Israeli voters have chosen. The inevitable results will include even greater international isolation for the Jewish state, a boost to efforts to apply boycotts and sanctions, diminished support from American Jews and endlessly intensifying cycles of violence.’ (Haaretz, 20 March 2015)
But whilst the Israeli peace-camp anguished over the result, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories the return of Netanyahu to power was met with indifference by significant sections of the population. As Huneida Ghanem of the Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies explained, ‘Nothing is going to come from the Israeli state if the Israelis don’t feel they don’t pay any price for the Israeli occupation.’ (http://tinyurl.com/nshownb, 22 June 2015)
Ghanem’s analysis echoed one of the conclusions we reached in Popular Protest in Palestine: The Uncertain Future of Unarmed Resistance. In 2002, the wave of Palestinian unarmed resistance to occupation grew in response to the Israeli decision to build a Wall between the West Bank and Israel. The subsequent resistance movement failed to exert sufficient leverage on Israeli publics and decision-makers, and the question of Israeli commitment to occupation was left untouched.
We came to this conclusion after conducting numerous interviews with Israeli peace activists struggling to maintain hope for the future of their country. One of our informants expressed herself with brutal frankness:
“The popular resistance is weakening. It breaks my heart. I want to live here, but the worst thing for Israel is peace and quiet. If the occupation continues there is no future for Israel. The weakening of Palestinian popular resistance allows the occupation to continue.
People here in Israel – they just don’t realise, they don’t have to deal with it. It is a different world for Israelis – but it will blow up.
There was the second intifada – nothing came out of that and the buses being blown up. Now the buses are not being blown up and still nothing comes out of it. Israelis are comfortable with the situation … people look the other way … people live with it.”