Cross-posted from Asia Times
Ehrlich was not in the least being belittling by raising the question about the "Palestinian Gandhi" but responding to the patronization of others. Right from the onset, he remarked: "Not that I'm in any way playing into the Palestinian Gandhi dialogue, I think it's actually pretty diversionary/racist. But sometimes you have to laugh in order not to cry."
Indeed, the question was and remains condescending, ignorant, patronizing and utterly racist. But the question was also pervasive, including among people who classify themselves as "pro-Palestinian activists."
The Second Palestinian Intifada or uprising (2000-2005) was inaugurated with an extremely violent Israeli response. Israeli leaders at the time meant to send a message to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that they had no patience for any act of collective defiance, as they were convinced that Arafat engineered the Intifada to strengthen his political possession in the "peace talks," which, ultimately proved a farce.
Facing a US-fed Israeli war machine that took hundreds of lives every month and having no faith in their leadership, Palestinians resorted to arms, using suicide bombings as well as other violent methods. The tactic raised much controversy -- due to the death toll among Israeli civilians -- and was quickly used in Israel-Western propaganda to retrospectively explain Israel's military occupation and justify its harsh military tactics.
Those who dared explain Palestinian violence within its proper and larger context, or underscored that many more Palestinian civilians were still being killed by the Israeli army, were shunned by the media and at times were seen as a liability by those who insisted to classify Palestinians within a narrative of victimization.
Many Westerners (from presidents, to philosophers, to journalists, to social media activists) deliberated the matter with much enthusiasm. The fact that few Western countries have truly experienced anti-colonial national liberation struggle in its modern history, thus lack real understanding of the humiliation and anger experienced by colonized nations, seemed to matter little. Some were simply concerned about Israel, and no one else; others, wanted to preserve the image of the Palestinian as an occupied, hapless, eternal victim.
The most obscene presentation of this language was made by then-newly elected US President Barack Obama, who stood at a Cairo university podium on June 4, 2009, to convey to Palestinians a most denigrating, insensitive and highly inaccurate message:
"Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights... This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end."Obama's message painted the Palestinian struggle as an abnormality in an otherwise perfectly peaceful national liberation struggles around the world. The message is of course untrue. More, he either didn't know or wished to ignore Palestinian history where popular, non-violent resistance that goes back to the 1920s and '30s, and arguably, earlier than that. Obama, like many others, failed to appreciate the level of extreme Israeli violence, which employ weapons that Obama had himself supplied Tel Aviv, to subdue Palestinian resistance and maintain a relatively easy military occupation and thriving Jewish settlements built illegally on stolen Palestinian land.
But the decisive point in the discussion was the Second Intifada, which wrought much Israeli violence resulting in the death of thousands. The political implications of the uprising were also quite significant as it divided Palestinians between those who were intimidated by the Israeli tactics into submission (the so-called moderates), and others who seemed unrepentant (the so-called radicals).
For nearly 10 years now, the debate has raged. Some outrightly condemned Palestinian armed resistance, others offered mutual criticism of Israeli and Hamas violence, while another group simply preached about the futility of armed struggle in the face of a country with nuclear weapons capable of blowing up much of the globe at the push of a button.
That debate, although made for an exquisite discussion on online newspapers and social media, hardly registered amongst ordinary Palestinians, especially those in Gaza. While Gaza intellectuals did contend with new ideas of how to build international solidarity to end the Israeli siege, get their message out to the world, and even question the timing of firing rockets into Israel, few probed the principle of armed resistance.
Of course, Palestinians know best, much better than Obama and other preachers elsewhere. They know that collective resistance is not always a tactic determined through social media discussions; that when one's children are pulverized by US-supplied killing technology, there is no time to lie flat and sing "we shall overcome," but to prevent the rest of the tanks from entering into the neighborhood -- be it Shujaiya, Jabalya or Maghazi.
They also know that Israeli violence is a result of a decided political agenda and is not tailored around the nature of Palestinian resistance. But more importantly, history has taught them that when Israelis come to Gaza as invaders, few will stand in Gaza's defense before the Western-financed death machine, but Gaza's own sons and daughters. If Gazans don't defend their cities, no one else will.
Although the disparity of the fight between Israel and Palestinian resistance is as highlighted today as ever before, Palestinian resistance has matured. The fact that they killed dozens of soldiers and only three civilians should be noted, as is Israel's disgraceful targeting of hospitals, schools, UN shelters and even graveyards. Maintaining that level of discipline in the most unequaled fight one can imagine is as close to the very battlefield ethics that the US and Israel often preach, but never, ever respect.
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