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Solving your problem with violence is like solving your problem with alcohol, all you get is your problem plus violence

DCblogger's picture

David Swanson has the best take yet on the current situation in Gaza. Since 1948 the Palestinians have chosen violence as a way to solve their problem and since 1948 their situation has gotten worse. Even if you could use the Geneva Convention and an occupied people's right to self defense as a way of rationalizing the use of rocket attacks, it is not working for the Palestinian people. Once again violence has left them worse off then they were before. A sustained campaign of non-violence would have produced a homeland decades ago. From India, to the American South, to Argentina, to the Philippines, to Eastern Europe, non-violence has a solid history of success. From the Middle East, to Kurdestan, to the Balkans, to Northern Ireland, violence has been a complete failure. Even when it succeeds, as in successive communist revolutions, it creates nightmares worse that what preceded it.

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Submitted by lambert on

Non-violence isn't about lack of force; it's about lack of violence. I don't see why it wouldn't work with crazy people.

jo6pac's picture
Submitted by jo6pac on

Even when they're at so-called peace with one another the israeli are still killing only one at a time or cut food, water, and fuel for power. Then close the coast so they can't fish, destroy orchards and housing. The list goes on and does this sound like a group of people that would listen to reason.

Then just maybe if Amerikas govt. would stop feeding it $$$$, arms, and companies pulled out that be more of an incentive for them to stop the killing. I doubt it.

The senate voted 100 to 0 to support israel. That's showing some back bone as it was pointed out on the link. Hell the Amerika govt. is looking to raise 250 million for more iron dome shit. Then last yr when Amerikan govt approved mid-air refueling tankers for israel that made for big changes in the region.

Submitted by lambert on

... it's always A vs. B appealing to C. That is, non-violent A counters violent B by shifting C, more powerful than either A or B, to A's side. But what if there is no C, is the question? (To which the answer is that you split B, but that's neither here nor there.)

But by highlighting the amount of support that C (the US) gives to A (Israel) you've made the case of non-violence by B more compelling. Do you really think that given a sustained non-violent campaign, the vote would be 100 to 0? I don't think so, and South Africa shows why.

Note that I'm an advocate of strategic non-violence. I don't come at it out from the (putatively) Ghandian perspective. If it works, do it.

UPDATE C is the "outside actor" in Nihil Obstet's comment below.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

A sustained campaign of non-violence would have produced a homeland decades ago.

While I believe that violence is wrong most of the time, I also think that things are far more complicated than this statement implies.

Non-violence worked in the American South in the 60s and 70s -- but close to a century of violence preceded the success. Peaceful efforts by blacks for their rights were defeated by state terrorism. It was external (i.e., a federal government not controlled by Southern interests) force that was necessary to enforce every step forward. Without Eisenhower's sending the National Guard to Little Rock, I don't think the Civil Rights movement would have succeeded when it did.

So this is one of the prerequisites for non-violent success -- you must have the support of outside actors who will support you with force if necessary. Alternatively, you can have an overwhelming majority on your side, as in India or South Africa. If you don't have either of these, you're likely to end up more like the Native Americans who ended up on reservations of generally poor land than black South Africans who eliminated their bantustans.

The State of Israel was established with the use of violence. It succeeded because it had the support of outside actors, the same requisite that success through non-violence would have needed. It's of course debatable what success means, but I would note that if the establishment of a government that lasts in the neighborhood of 20 years or more is successful, then lots of Latin American violent revolutions have been successful, and the non-violent revolutions in Middle East countries generally haven't been -- or as you might say, even when they succeed they create nightmares worse than what preceded them. See Turkey, Iran, Egypt.

I think the Palestinians are like Native Americans -- they're living on land that more powerful people want, and the powerful people are going to take it. Peaceful, the Palestinians would have been dispossessed and shipped out long ago.

I don't argue for violence, which should be an absolute last resort, but I also think it's a mistake to assume that the peaceful virtuous will always get justice. Each road has its price.

Submitted by lambert on

... it's clear that for the Palestinians, violence has not worked, as DCBlogger points out. ("It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another." -- FDR) 49 years of failure is a long time.

Second, the "outside actor" in this case is clearly the US (and the more sane portions of Isreali society, admittedly, as with us, in greater evidence in the past than today). It's very hard for me to see how the state of the Palestinian cause in the US could be worse that it is today, and (as I said above) it would probably be better than a 100 to 1 vote against.

The argument that non-violence has never stopped ethnic cleansing is a good one that I haven't heard before (and I wonder how much dehumanization and strategic hate management a la Radio Rwanda have to do with it). However, (1) Otpor was at least able to defeat an ethnic cleanser in Serbia, where ethnic cleansing had taken place, and I'm not sure the cases are comparable. Is Palestine more like Serbia, or more like the American South/South Africa? I would say the latter, in which case, as DBlogger says, non-violence had a good chance of working.

NOTE There's a tendency to emphasize how much violence has been done to the Palestinians. But even granting "an eye for an eye," that's a moral question, not a strategic one.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

"Is Palestine more like Serbia, or more like the American South/South Africa?"

We may be getting to the point where Palestine is getting like the American South -- Israel's history is to take land, create a Jewish majority by settlements and by expelling Arabs either directly or by making life impossible for the occupied. Therefore, it's not going to be like South Africa, which had a large non-white majority, anytime soon.

Counterfactual history is interesting, but we can't really prove anything. What would have happened to the Palestinians if there had been no violent response to Israel? My guess is that Israel would be a relatively pure ethnic state containing the area that rightwing Zionists call "Greater Israel" and also the Gaza strip, which is desirable real estate along the Mediterranean. Hell, in the U.S., public housing which was built in the 30s and 40s beside rivers where the real estate is now too valuable to let poor people live on is being demolished and sold for upscale development. This is done with federal HUD money, known as the HOPE program. I think the Israeli attitude towards a bunch of poor Palestinians on prime seaside territory is probably similar.

Anyway, remember that in the late 1940s, the entire European settled world was really racist. This wasn't new. Zionism started as part of the rise of 19th c. nationalism that envisioned each ethnic group as having its own country. But only for Europeans, of course. Remember Woodrow Wilson's "Self-determination of peoples" which created supposedly ethnically pure nations in eastern Europe, but sent packing Ho Chi Minh and representatives of other non-European colonies wanting independence. The Zionist slogan was "A land without people for a people without land." Note how "people" are defined in this slogan. Same as the idea that European settlers could get lots of land in Rhodesia and Kenya, because the land was empty. After World War II, the world horror at the Holocaust which targeted so many good, respectable middle class Europeans produced enormous support for the Jewish settlements in this land believed to be empty (except for a few ignorant, sly, lazy Arabs).

First world opinion was firmly racist in 1948. America had Jim Crow laws. Apartheid was legally established in South Africa in 1948, which was considered a good, rational thing -- there was a primary school publication distributed in schools across America called The Weekly Reader. That's where I first read about apartheid and learned how to pronounce the word, sometime in the fifties, and the article was about how good this was for all races. So this was so uncontroversial in the 50s that young school children were indoctrinated in it. In this world, dispossession of Palestinians was not going to elicit outside support. What I learned from school, news, novels, media, was that there were a few impoverished residents there, but when Israelis came, they established kibbutz, made the desert bloom, and made everybody happy, except some Arabs in other countries who were irrational haters of modern life.

So, I think that if there hadn't been violent pushback to Israeli dispossession of the Palestinians, the Palestinians would have suffered the fate of the Armenians. Nobody would have paid any attention to them, or if they did get attention, it would have been about the problem of shiftless people who are standing in the way of progress. I do not believe that they would have had a state if they had just been nonviolent. And actually I don't think nonviolence was possible. Where necessary to get another area of land, Israel would have provoked a response or even created one, as the reason why they had to expel these people in self-defense. Only the ongoing violence eventually involved world powers. The perceived need to broker peace was what got the Palestinians the recognition that their rights deserved protection.

That's to now. As racism fell out of moral favor, Israel's policies lost overwhelming foreign support. Their staunch support of South Africa's apartheid government and its racial policies was a big turning point.

So is violence a losing strategy for the Palestinians? From 1946 through the 1970s, I have to say reluctantly that I think it was the only thing that kept they from being driven out. Is it time to change for practical reasons? It's true that if what you're doing doesn't work, you should try something else, but there's danger if the something else is irrevocable. That is, if your diabetes treatment isn't curing you, you should probably still be wary of trying just stopping medication. There is always the danger that nonviolent Palestinians will suffer the way Iraqi children suffered under sanctions. There was no war, but half a million children died of deprivation; that's a problematic solution.

I don't know, so I lean to advocating nonviolence as the way whenever the argument for violence can't be made conclusively. However, I also am troubled by an implication that those people would be just fine if they weren't so unreasonable.

Submitted by lambert on

"However, I also am troubled by an implication that those people would be just fine if they weren't so unreasonable."

It's a strategic issue. There is no such implication. How many times do I have to say this, and in how many ways?

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Actually you have to say it in a lot of ways and very often, because you're running up against the definition of a common psychological phenomenon, blaming the victim:

n. a social and psychological phenomenon wherein the fault in a crime (rape, robbery, assault) is attributed to the victim. The victim is regarded as partly or completely responsible (to blame) for the accident or trauma.

(Emphasis added).

To say that the Palestinians would have their state by now if they had not responded to violence with violence implies that they are partly responsible for their continuing lack of a state and therefore for the ongoing victimization through attacks and attrition. This is especially true since Israel has been almost totally absent from your and DCBlogger's post/comments (Israel did make it into DCBlogger's comment on Lebanon, but otherwise Palestinians seem just to be floating in a contextless sea of their own bad strategy). Just read through and see if this isn't coming across as a discussion of how a battered spouse should act to stop her husband from beating her.

However, this may be my bringing the wrong context to the discussion. If so, I'm sorry, and I will accept that I inferring what you do not imply.

A reading recommendation (educational and it's fun!!!) Kevin Dutton The Wisdom of Psychopaths. What I found most disturbing was the modeling of different responses to conflict, in which Tit for Tat won hands down, producing the best results for the society. I'd like to believe that returning goodness for injury would work best, so I was not happy (and you can see the relevance to the violence/nonviolence practicality issue), I'm also not sure it's practical because you have to be able not to hold grudges or gratitude, but to respond to the latest tit with the appropriate tat. I'm just too good at holding grudges.

Submitted by lambert on

... it would literally be impossible to look back on history and see if any "losing" side made a mistake.

For example, after 1789, the French aristocracy lost a good deal of power, and many of them were executed -- for the sake of the argument, let's put being guillotined under the heading of "being a victim." Are we really to file finding turning points, or presenting counterfactuals that would have led to reform instead of revolution, as "blaming the victim"?

Or take Occupy. Being the target of a successfully executed 17-city paramilitary crackdown certainly would, I would say, qualify them for victimhood. Are we really never to look at history and suggest alternative strategies, because that would be blaming the victim?

Or take the Egyptian activists who did so much in Tahrir Square to overthrow Mubarak. Many of them are now in jail and some have been killed and their movement was scattered. Surely, again, that qualifies them as victims. In retrospect, it seems clear that while they had the tools to overthrow the old power, they didn't have the tools to take power, the old power having been overthrown. As a result, one goes on to consider, Egypt is as badly off, if not worse, than before. Are we really to avoid considering such lessons -- right or wrong -- because that goes in the bucket of "blaming the victim"?

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

If we limit possibilities to two courses of action, find that the loser has violated some principle of the course we don't like and suffered for it, and then declare that therefore the other course would have brought success, I don't know that we've carried out any useful analysis. We've merely constructed a tale that we feel proves we're right. That's why I think there's a need for context. "Victim" means something more than just "loser".

Some things that constitute the context:

  • Who is more powerful and is the more powerful party using that power to deny the weaker party the rights it demands for itself? The battering husband generally has physical and economic strength that he uses to deny his wife personal autonomy. The French aristocracy had power and used it arbitrarily to create suffering for the great mass of French people. They can be blamed for their actions. When power changes whether through the intervention of a police force or a revolution, then we deal with that situation. The battering husband is not a victim when he goes to jail. However, if the police treat him brutally, he is not responsible for their brutality. Similarly, the French aristocracy are to be blamed for their actions while in power; the revolutionaries are responsible for their treatment of captured aristocrats.
  • What are the alternative possible courses of action? And there's going to be a lot of disagreement on what's possible. Can people suffering real brutalization organize peaceful mass actions? The peaceful mass actions might be effective, but to argue that they should do so if it's impossible, yes, that's blaming the victim. Is a strategy of getting world support possible for a racially denigrated people in a racist world?
  • And you just can't leave out morality, because that's at the heart of the issue. If morality isn't an issue, ethnic cleansing is fine. Political oppression is fine. They work for the people doing it. "Blaming the victim" is about assigning moral culpability to the loser because of her weakness, and is therefore a justification of force by the powerful.

On Occupy and Tahrir Square -- I'm not sure both those are altogether losers. It seems to me that they both accomplished things, and may turn out to be valuable stages in a long, perhaps endless battle against various oppressions. Again, "blaming the victim" is not just about a weak group losing. It's declaring that a different course of action which was possible for the weaker party to carry out would have solved the weaker party's problem. And their failure to carry it out justifies their continuing victimization.

I guess I just don't see that "victim" and "loser" are interchangeable terms, or that "blame" which is primarily a moral term is the same as "identify mistakes" which is primarily an analytic term. I probably get more bogged down in specifics than wider thinkers.

Submitted by lambert on

Suggesting an alternative strategy isn't "blaming the victim." It just isn't.

As far as "loser," you'll note that I gave, in each case, the reason for filing the class or cohort or movement discussed under "victim."

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

At some point we seem really to have started completely misunderstanding each other, and I don't know where the divergence is. Just to clarify one thing that it sounds as though I've miscommunicated, the application of the phrase:

I do not regard discussions of the causes of the French revolution including the role of the aristocracy as blaming the victim.

I do not regard discussions of whether there were ways that Occupy could have made its encamplments more effective as blaming the victim.

I do not regard discussions of the Tahrir Square protestors as blaming the victim.

I do not regard discussions of missed Palestinian opportunities as blaming the victim.

I do regard statements that if the Palestinians had maintained non-violence they would have a state by now as too close to blaming the victim for my comfort. I have tried and failed to explain why.


DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I can readily understand why Palestinians slide into violence given the provocation, but good has it done them? What has all this voilence produced? Only more suffering.

Let us take Eastern Europe for example. from the 1950's thru 1989 a small group of human rights activists, especially labor activists, agitated for change. Their weapons were essays passed from person to person, and the occassiona petition. On very rare occassions they were able to maintain strikes, most famously in Poland in the summer of 1980. It took them 44 years, but they pushed the Soviet tanks out of their country by the sheer force of moral persuasion. It is true that Radio Liberty and the BBC also played an important role in giving people access to unbiased news, but the real work was done by ordinary citizens. Had the Palestinians took a similar course they would be free by now.

This is not a question of blaming the victim, even less that we should play Imperial Russia to Israel's Serbia. It is simply observering that violence is not working and will never work.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

I'm sorry for not being clear. Nonviolence is a noble moral belief and generally better than violence, but it doesn't always work, for any definition of work. It's worked awfully well for the Israelis if your definition of work is the establishment and expansion of an ethnically pure state.

I don't know of any case of what is euphemistically called ethnic cleansing being stopped by nonviolence. Not in early 20th c. Armenia, not in early mid 20th c. eastern Europe, not in Rwanda. Today the country threatened by cultural overwhelming is Tibet -- it's not very clear what's really going on there, but it seems that the Chinese government is creating large settlements of Han to make Tibet an integral part of China. The Dalai Lama has suggested that for years. He has been largely responsible for non-violence among the Tibetans. There is time there -- the Chinese do not appear to be actually killing or even starving large numbers of people, so non-violence has time to work. However, I would guess that Tibet as a country of cultural/ethnic autonomy is toast, regardless of whether the people act violently or non-violently. Their best hope is that altitude sickness defeats the Chinese settlement plans. That's a situation where I'd say "yeah, all violence would bring is just pointless violence."

On Eastern Europe -- the Russians were never trying to kill or drive out the populations of theIr political dependencies, and that is a different situation from attempts to depopulate a land of its inhabitants in order to seize it for yourself.

As I say, nonviolence is sufficiently admirable that accurate claims about it should suffice. It is not true that violence always fails nor that nonviolence always succeeds.

Submitted by lambert on

I responded (mistakenly) to the ethnic cleansing argument above.

Again, I advocate non-violence for strategic reasons, not moral ones. DCBlogger's doing the same thing when she points out that violence has not worked for the Palestinian. (One could also argue that nothing could have worked for the Palestians, given the givens). So the "noble" and "admirable" is off topic (except in the trivial sense that it's a good idea to avoid causing death or injury).

As far as " It is not true that violence always fails nor that nonviolence always succeeds," that's not a claim any sensible non-violence advocate would make. There is no "always" in human history; there are no laws. But there are odds, percentages, and proposing that non-violence would have worked for the Palestinians, if sustained, is certainly a tenable position.

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

...the Israelis used violence and terrorism from the very beginning. Swanson is an idiot writing this shallow piece of denial.

Submitted by lambert on

You're arguing that violence has to be met with violence? That's exactly what DCBlogger is disputing. You don't get to throw out the label "shallow" if you don't make any effort to engage the thesis.

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

...Palestinians are the instigators and started this insanity. They didn't:
Menachem Begin was the commander of the terrorist group that blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, killing 96 people. He was Israeli Prime Minister in the '70s and '80s. He once described a massacre as "a splendid act of conquest".
Even Ghandi knew violence had it's place, its justification.
I'm not preaching violence. As long as Israel acts with impunity (which it will continue to do) ending violence is a pipe dream...

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I never suggested any such thing. I said that from the beginning the Palestinians responded to their problem with violence. Israel is making a war of attrition, they want to wipe out the Palestinians, but they can't do it outright, so they are making a war of attrition. So non-violence would have a chance to work and had they chosen that path from the get-go they would have a country by now. Until very recently Israel had international sympathy. That did not begin to change until the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. More and more Israel is losing international support. Israel is a land poor in natural resources, it is peculiarly dependent upon trade. Non-violence could most certainly work.

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

"Since 1948 the Palestinians have chosen violence as a way to solve their problem and since 1948 their situation has gotten worse."

I agree 100% with nihil obstet.

Submitted by lambert on

If you are attributing this thesis -- "Palestinians are the instigators and started this insanity" -- to DCBlogger, that's not right. Let's break DCBlogger's statement down:

"[1] Since 1948 the Palestinians have chosen violence as a way to solve their problem and [2] since 1948 their situation has gotten worse."

[2] is unquestionably true. If you believe that the Palestian people have agency, then the bad outcomes can only be a consequence of the choice of violence "to solve their problems" at [1].

Note that most definitely does not say that the Palestigans are the instigators, because it does not say that the Palestinians created their problems. It's their response to problems created for them by others that is at issue.

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

...this video posted by jo6pac;
To partly understand, you all must watch this. Watch it to the end.
Part of an extended interview with writer Yossi Gurvitz . Transcribed & translated from Hebrew to English by Dena Shunra.
Again, watch it to the end.

There is a lot of understanding packed in this, that is, if one really wants to know the depth of the problem.

Submitted by lambert on

First, they're more time-consuming and inefficient than text. Second, it's not easy to quote from them without making a partial transcript, which is time-consuming. Third, to really discuss them, to have any worthwhile back-and-forth, there should really be a complete transcript so its clear to all readers what's being discussed.

That said, I listened to it, and I'm not sure what it adds. To summarize, ancient Israel was a slave society, tribalism is a big problem then and now, the "old testamant" is highly unreliable considered as a source, and some Jewish philosphers (IIRC Maimonides) have views that would be unnacceptable today, and its hard to see why they would have been acceptable at any time.

I see nothing unique in any of this, and I don't see how its relevant to DCBlogger's thesis. So, I feel like I spent wasted 12 minutes when I would have wasted thirty seconds with a text.

The Confederacy and apartheid South Africa had ideologies and religious rationalizations every bit as repellent as, say, Meir Kahane.

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

Apparently we hear differently. What I heard is that there is a historic sense of god given entitlement and utter contempt for all that is not Jewish. Only Jews have privilege and the right to meet out justice.
I think it's obvious by their own hand and action what their true policies are in fact.
Because the leaders think in this way there can be no solution until the Palestinians are relegated to slave status or eliminated altogether.
I also know for a fact that not all Jews think like this or embrace these views.
The violence vs peace meme has no relevance under today's realities IMO.