Forward Thinking

Real Non-Violence Doesn't Look Like This

By Jane Eisner

  • Print
  • Share Share
getty images

My husband has long argued that if the Palestinians really wanted a state side-by-side with Israel, all they would have to do is adopt a nationwide, non-violent strategy. Peaceful demonstrations up and down the West Bank, continuously, steadfastly, would prick the world’s consciousness and give Israeli and Palestinian leaders no choice but to negotiate and do what they needed to do to end the occupation and secure Israel’s democratic future.

My husband may be engaging in wishful thinking, but it’s a powerful and attractive idea. The same thought may have occurred to whoever commissioned, edited and published Ben Ehrenreich’s cover story in the Sunday New York Times, lauding the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh and what the Times called its “path of unarmed resistance.”

Just a couple of problems. Ehrenreich is hardly a disinterested observer of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And Nabi Saleh’s protests are hardly non-violent.

We have Chemi Shalev, based in New York for Haaretz, to credit for pointing out Ehrenreich’s recent troubling opinions about Israel. As Shalev wrote in his Sunday column:

“In 2009, Ehrenreich published a direct attack on Zionism in the Los Angeles Times entitled ‘Zionism is the Problem’. In the article, Ehrenreich castigates not only the ‘deplorable conditions in which Palestinians live and die in Gaza and the West Bank’ but ‘the Zionist tenets on which the state was founded’ as well.”

Ehrenreich continues: “Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion… or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism.” He concludes by calling for a secular, pluralistic, democratic government in Israel and Palestine, and the abandonment of the Zionist dream.

Now, I’m not one to outright condemn every writer for what he or she has written before. But Ehrenreich’s politics are so evident and his sympathies so decided that it is difficult not to see his bias running through the long magazine story.

My second criticism illustrates that point. It is not until well into the story that Ehrenreich acknowledges that the “unarmed” resisters routinely throw stones at the Israel security forces. “We see stones as our message,” Bassem Tamimi, the story’s protagonist, is quoted as saying. We’re told that Tamimi got annoyed when asked if stone-throwing counted as violence, arguing that Israel uses greater and more lethal force on a regular basis.

That may be true. But that logic doesn’t excuse the original fault here. Throwing stones — not little pebbles, but at times stones that can damage or even kill — is a violent act. Gandhi didn’t do it. The courageous African Americans who stood at the bridge in Selma didn’t do it. It takes great determination, character and patience to engage in such protest, and I can understand how, after decades of occupation, it may be difficult for the villagers of Nabi Saleh to restrain themselves. But that’s unarmed resistance. Anything else is a misnomer.

The fact that Ehrenreich only glancingly raised this point and just as quickly dismissed it can only be explained by the bias with which he approached the story. Too bad his editors didn’t ask more probing questions.

And it’s too bad that the picture he paints will now be discredited, because we need to be reminded of the costs of occupation and the continued drain on Israeli and Palestinian moral behavior. As the new Israeli government turns inward to confront looming domestic problems, I fear that discussion of how to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians will be cast aside, growing ever more illusive as settlement activity continues unabated.

I only wish the villagers of Nabi Saleh could alter their strategy and one day prove my husband right.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: west bank, palestinian, occupation, new york times, nabi saleh

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.