How to oppose violence in Israel-Palestine

A wall at Netiv HaAsara facing the Gaza border reads the words “Path to Peace” in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. (credit: Cole Keister / Unsplash)
How blocking non-violent change may strengthen those who support violence.

By Peter Beinart | Beinart Notebook | Apr 4, 2022

These dehumanizing arguments about Palestinians don’t make Israelis safer. They put Israelis in greater danger because, over the long term, preventing violence requires giving people hope that they can non-violently achieve equality and freedom.

It’s 2032. Russia occupies Ukraine. Moscow has fragmented Ukrainians geographically and legally. Some Ukrainians enjoy citizenship but face structural discrimination. Many lack citizenship and live without free movement under military law. Many others have been expelled and cannot return. Suddenly, over the space of a few days, Ukrainians begin murdering Russian civilians. What would we say?

Which, as you may have guessed, is my way of talking about last week’s actual Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians. In the US, the debate about Israel-Palestine is deeply exceptionalized. That’s a fancy way of saying that when we talk about Palestine-Israel we often ignore the principles we apply to other conflicts. So let’s imagine how American politicians and pundits might respond if these horrific acts of violence were occurring not in Hadera and Bnei Brak but in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

The analogy is not perfect, of course. Russia is occupying a sovereign state, something Palestine—despite being recognized as a non-member state by the United Nations—is not. But although Palestine is not a country, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, like Russia’s invasions of Ukraine, still constitutes a clear violation of international law. That’s the view of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, the world’s most prominent human rights groups and even Israel’s own.

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