How Mass Nonviolent Resistance Could End Israel's Blockade of Gaza

The following is an excerpt from Norman Finkelstein's latest book, Method and Madness: The Hidden Story of Israel's Assaults on Gaza (OR Books, 2014). Reprinted here with permission.

If diplomacy and judicial redress won’t go anywhere, then the only option left is popular resistance. But what kind of popular resistance? The question is not whether Palestinians have the right to use armed force to end the occupation. Of course, they do. Rather, the point at issue is a practical one: Which tactics and strategy are most likely to yield political gains? However heroic the resistance of the people of Gaza, however inspiring their indomitable will, the fact remains that, after going three bloody rounds with Israel in the past five years, after suffering death and destruction on a heartrending scale, armed resistance has yet to produce substantive improvements in people’s daily lives.

What if the quantum of time, energy, creativity and ingenuity channeled into building the tunnels (a wondrous feat of civil engineering) were instead invested in Gaza’s most precious resource: the people? What if they organized a mass nonviolent demonstration demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza? What if 1.8 million Gazans marched on the Israeli border crossings under the banner, STOP STRANGLING US! END THE ILLEGAL BLOCKADE OF GAZA! What if Gaza’s one million children stood at the head of the march? Yes, children. Wasn’t it the “children’s miracle” in Selma, Alabama, during the Civil Rights Movement that broke the back of segregation, when Black children, positioned in the front lines, fended off police attack dogs and high-velocity fire hoses? (1) What if Palestinians found the inner wherewithal to stay nonviolent even as Israel fired murderously on the crowd? What if the vast reservoir of Palestine’s international supporters simultaneously converged, in the hundreds of thousands, on UN headquarters in New York and Geneva, enveloping and blockading the buildings?

Wouldn’t Ban Ki-moon (or whatever US minion happens to be holding office) be forced to denounce the Israeli bloodbath, just as he did on 3 August when Israel destroyed the UN shelter filled with children? Wouldn’t Washington, isolated on the world stage, then be forced to denounce Israeli atrocities, just as it did on 3 August?

Wouldn’t Israel then be politically cornered, just as Netanyahu was on 3 August when he suspended the ground invasion? Long before Israel killed 2,200 Palestinians, 500 of them children, it’s quite possible, judging by the sequence of events on 3 August, that mass nonviolent resistance can end the blockade if, in one last exertion of will, Palestinians find the strength to sacrifice, and the rest of us flood the streets surrounding the UN, ready to risk arrest and injury.

The best that can be said for armed resistance is that it has been tried many times to break the siege but failed. The worst that can be said for mass nonviolent resistance is that it hasn’t yet been tried. Shouldn’t it at least be given a chance?

(1) Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King years, 1954–1963 (New York: 1988), pp. 756–802.

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