Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Nonviolence in Palestine

A friend forwarded me this article questioning the emphasis that at least some commentators put on the need for the Palestinian resistance to embrace nonviolence, and distinguishing between at least two different agendas that different advocates of this position can hold.

For some reason the title of the article, "Overstating the benefits of Palestinian nonviolence" had me expecting something much more critical of nonviolence than I found it to be. Though not quite in these words, it criticizes the tendency of privileged North Americans (and others) to treat nonviolence as an exercise in abstract purity by pointing out that the famous nonviolent change in the past has often been very mixed with violence. An important corollary that isn't mentioned is the important role of nonviolence in many instances of radical change that have a historical reputation of being violent. In other words, the question of the roles of violence and nonviolence in social change are more complicated than some people claim. As well, the article points out the way that concern over tactics (i.e. nonviolence over violence) can be a rhetorical device to mask opposition to the goals of the movement in question, and it is often those who use their supposed advocacy of nonviolence in this way that ignore the real complexities of social change and anti-colonial resistance on the ground.

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