Sunday, January 31, 2010

West Bank Spectacle

This is my latest video on the New York Times website. Have a look and let me know your thoughts. Warning: it is a tad violent.

I have always been very interested in the concept of non-violent struggle, and there is one thing that is not mentioned in the video that I think clarifies how the Palestinian popular struggle leaders define non-violence. This is a direct quote from an interview Zaid Murat, who is on the Palestinian Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

He said, "By non-violence we mean that we are using every form of pressure possible to resist the occupation, except for killing. We will not kill. We will not decide to kill."

And so far this has happened. The worst injury inflicted on an Israeli soldier was losing an eye to a rock. But it begs the questions, Is anything short of killing truly a non-violent struggle?


jaron said...

This is a comment from TB posted on my previous post by accident. here it is, along with my response:

Jaron, I just saw your video at NYT, Spectacle in the West Bank.

I looked for your email but can't find it.

I wanted to ask why the Palestinians don't change tactics.

Instead of throwing stones, a violent and completely ineffective way to change anything, they could be explaining their case as clearly as possible to the bank of Israeli and international reporters and photographers who are right there in front of them every week.

The Israeli lobby do Facebook, Twitter and other social media, and the Palestinians in the West bank can do the easier way, describing and explaining it all, calmly, to waiting reporters.

Fair is fair. If the local Palestinians who have been cut off from their farmland by the settlement explain it all for the reporters, why wouldn't many Israelis, as well as foreigners see the injustice of it all?

The violence guarantees a perpetual stalemate.

jaron said...

My feeling is that the violent encounters actually are the way Palestinians get the media out every Friday.

I wonder if there was no violence whether the media would bother to show up.

Sadly, "if it bleeds it leads" is still the mantra of the news business.

My personal opinion is that the Palestinians should adopt a truly non-violent, truly inventive method of protest, which may or may not help their cause, but at least won't send mixed signals to the world about who the victims are.

jaron said...

oh, and TB, do I know you?

tb said...

No, I don't think we know each other, but I used to live in Israel a long long time ago.

Unfortunately it's an area that's guaranteed to have perpetual strife.

Yes, "if it bleeds it leads", but I don't see any attempt at a calm explanation to the media that is needed from the Palestinians. That's done only by outsiders.

I divide the world into those who believe in miracles and those who don't. Those who do are stuck in the world view and intellect of Middle Ages and before. They prefer their beliefs to concrete facts that surround them from birth to death.

If you remove God and miracles from the issue you're down to people and you can try to deal with injustice. If you believe that your people are special, you can turn a blind eye to injustice.

70 years after the Holocaust, any Jew who believes in God and miracles is a fool. That's my belief.

David Alexander said...

I really like how you broke the 4th wall down and recognized what a media spectacle the whole situation is. Reporting from this part of the world in an honest and fair way is an extremely difficult line to walk, and it was encouraging to see such a fair piece on the NY Times.

I have been to the Bi'llin protests myself, and actually just completed a short doc about Israeli "refuseniks" which you can view here:

All the NY times pieces have been great, keep up the good work man.

-David Alexander

jaron said...

Thanks David, checking out your doco now.

John K. said...

Yes, and Israel and the pre-state Zionists were quite non-violent LOL.... Surely Israel and Americans are not at all hypocritical in preaching nonviolence to Palestinians and brown people the world over. OK....

The Stern gang assassinated Lord Moyne, the British administrator for the Middle East and Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, the U.N. mediator in Palestine. It was one of the Zionist groups that _brought_ modern terrorist techniques to the Middle East. And guess what? They worked.

The Palestinian Popular Struggle protests in the Bi'lin area have been going on for months and months with hardly any coverage in the U.S., so the idea that this "spectacle" is getting too much coverage is laughable. As is the notion that non-violent protest, by definition, always wins. Tell that to the families of those killed in Tienamen Square. That didn't work out so well. And Israel quickly expelled Mubarak Awad, the leader of non-violent protests during the 1st intifada.

Maybe Israelis and Americans should stop the patronizing lectures to Palestinians and start actively trying to change their sclerotic government policy (Labor or Likud, doesn't matter) over the occupation.

jaron said...

John K,
you have a lot of interesting points, but you are wrong about a few things.
Firstly, I dont think Israel or the US ever preached non-violence to the Palestinians or any brown people. They preach democracy, et al, through the barrel of gun...
I truly believe, and im not the only one, that Palestinian violence plays into the hands of Israel in continuing the occupation, and that a truly non-violent struggle is the best way to free the Palestinians.

Secondly, I would argue that Yassir Arafat, incidentally, was the person who brought modern terrorist techniques to the Middle East. The Zionists did commit acts of "terror", but they were mostly targeting military infrastructure Yassir didn't make that distinction.

Finally, you are incorrect in stating that this doesn't get much coverage in the mainstream media. The NYT, for example, has covered Bilin several times since the protests began in 2004.

Sam said...

"Firstly, I dont think Israel or the US ever preached non-violence to the Palestinians or any brown people. They preach democracy, et al, through the barrel of gun...
I truly believe, and im not the only one, that Palestinian violence plays into the hands of Israel in continuing the occupation, and that a truly non-violent struggle is the best way to free the Palestinians."

Really, I can't even count the number of times the Palestinians were told by well-meaning Western media commentators that they needed to "find their Ghandi" including at least one distasteful op-ed in the LA Times after Arafat's death when Ariel Sharon was Israel's PM and GW Bush had invaded Iraq. Leaving one to wonder where the Israeli and American Ghandis are?

Joseph Glatzer said...

Jaron: first I should say I appreciate the report and the fact that the struggle in Bi'lin is being covered by the NY Times. However, I have a few problems with some of your comments.

As another commenter stated, the Stern gang assassinated Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, the U.N. mediator in Palestine. As president of the Swedish Red Cross he negotiated the release of 31,000 Jews from Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. He was a hero on par with Oskar Schindler.

He was murdered because he advanced a proposal to divide Mandate Palestine in half along with the unconditional return of all the refugees; as a peace settlement.

His murder was the catalyst for the UN adopting resolution 194, which called for the return of all the refugees. In 1995, then Foreign Minister and current President of Israel, Shimon Peres deeply and unequivocally condemned “the murder of Count Bernadotte”.

Jaron: was Count Bernadotte, who saved the lives of thousands of Jews from concentration camps, a part of the “military infrastructure”? What about the Zionist terrorism of the Lydda Death March? It reminds me an awful lot of the Turkish perpetrated Armenian Genocide and the US imposed Trail of Tears of the Cherokee.

On April 9, 1948 the Irgun and Stern Gang militias murdered 107 villagers of Deir Yassin, including many women and children. One tactic was arbitrarily throwing live grenades into the homes of families.

The British Mandate Palestine Police Force report: “There is, however, no doubt that many sexual atrocities were committed by the attacking Jews. Many young schoolgirls were raped and later slaughtered. Old women were also molested…a young girl was literally torn in two. Many infants were also butchered and killed. I also saw one old woman who gave her age as one hundred and four who had been severely beaten about the head with rifle butts. Women had bracelets torn from their arms and rings from their fingers and parts of some of the women's ears were severed in order to remove earrings."

Was the girl ripped in two a part of the “military infrastructure”? Granted, you said “mostly”. But, 90% of the Palestinian struggle has been non-violent. Would you ever minimize the killing of innocent people, in a story about a suicide bomb which killed Israeli civilians, by saying: “Relax guys, most Palestinian resistance has been non-violent”? Obviously not, because it would be offensive to the memory of those that died, and the grieving families. Why the double standard with Jewish terrorism? There are least 30 massacres from 1948.

Bi’lin, Ni’lin and the like are non-violent marches to the Wall, where they (along with Israelis and various internationals like American Tristan Anderson) are shot at, tear gassed, and killed. I do commend you for interviewing the Israeli activist.

The International Court of Justice ruled the entire Wall was illegal in a landmark ruling. Even the Israeli Supreme Court deemed the Bi’lin section of the Wall illegal and to be rerouted. The decision has never been implemented. Palestinians are protesting Israel using a giant concrete wall to separate them from their land they used to earn a living from.

As an American of Jewish background who has recently visited the occupied territories, and seen with my own eyes how the Wall locks Palestinians in prisons (particularly in Bethlehem), I must support the rights of the victimized, no matter what race or religion they are. That’s what the social justice tradition of Judaism means to me. That’s how I define my Jewish identity.

jaron said...

I appreciate your informed and well argued points. Sure, it is debatable whether or not the Irgun and other pre-state Zionist militias were in fact terrorist organizations. I know that they did in many cases target civilians, such as the well documented Deir Yassin massacre. But is this case and others that you mentioned, the exception or the rule? Were these orders coming from an institutional level, or were they the decision of renegade militiaman? And if it is the exception, should they all be classified as terrorists? That would be an interesting debate.

My point was that I think the modern terrorist tactics we see today were more likely inspired by Arafat's early PLO days than by the Zionist militias/freedom fighters/terrorists.

Joseph Glatzer said...

Thank you for acknowledging my points. However, I don’t think it’s debatable that The Haganah, the Irgun, the Stern Gang; groups which committed at least 30 massacres of innocent civilians in 1 year (1948) are terrorist organizations. Hamas doesn’t commit 30 suicide attacks in a year; in fact they haven’t even killed 30 people in the entire year of 2009. Yet, it is never “debatable” to the world whether they are a terror group or not. I am not defending suicide bombs or any violence; it’s just the double standard that bothers me. Any killing or harming of civilians is wrong.

The massacres and cleansing operations in 1948 were the result of a clear policy outlined in Plan Dalet. It’s also obvious in this quote from David Ben-Gurion, “I support compulsory transfer. I do not see anything immoral in it.”

If Khalid Mishal said, “I support kicking the Jews out of Palestine, I don’t see anything immoral about it,” would anyone in the world question his true motives? Adressing the double standards would be an interesting debate!

I talked to several families in Aida Refugee camp in Bethlehem, as well as in Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip, and I can tell you their stories of the Nakba are consistent. I heard the same thing over and over: their villages heard of massacres like that of Deir Yassin, and it instilled terror among them. They fled with little more than the clothes on their backs, because they were scared to death that they would be the next victims of a Zionist massacre.

This is the very definition of terrorism. The power of terrorism isn’t so much the deaths caused by the original attack. Whether it be 20 dead in a Hamas suicide bombing during the 2nd intifada or the 107 villagers killed in Deir Yassin; as heinous as they are.

The sinister power of terrorism is these attacks, (even if isolated) cause the rest of the civilian population to be paralyzed by fear of the same fate awaiting them at any moment. This was Palestine during the Nakba and many times since; and Jerusalem busses in the 90’s.

There are more massacres in the somewhat recent past; 1982: Sabra and Shatila, 2000: Jenin Camp, 2006: Lebanon (cluster bombs, targeting of Lebanese civilians and their infrastructure), 2009: Gaza (purposely targeting civilians, shooting civilians waving white flags, white phosphorous, using experimental COIN weapons, destroying dozens of mosques, schools, and UN buildings), etc.

I believes the cases above, as well as declassified government documents, Ben Gurion’s and other top officials’ diaries, and human rights reports like the Goldstone Report; show a systematic not isolated incident nature.

More important than the actual violent acts; the official Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories inflict terror on Palestinians on a daily basis. Is it not a violent act to deny the 1.5 million people of the Gaza Strip the ability to drink clean water, have adequate food to eat, and the ability to leave the territory if they so please?

Suicide bombing was pioneered by the Hindu Marxist Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, not Arafat. As far as modern terror tactics, I’m not sure what actions you are referring to, but I would be curious to know.

BTW: I admire your willingness to engage in debate and dialogue with your audience.

Anonymous said...

Jaron, thanks for you film. I'm curious, was this the first time you witnessed these protests?

The following video is footage of an Aug. 11, 2006 demonstration in Bil'in. It appears Israeli forces started shooting rubber bullets and stun grenades at a peaceful demonstation, without warning: Note that the commander, with the megaphone, is not even wearing a helmet, highlighting the lack of threat. The protestors are pursued, beaten, & shot by the troops. An Israeli protestor, clearly posing no threat, was shot in the head by a rubber bullet from ten meters away. The victim, Limor Goldstein, is now brain damaged. Also you can see the demonstators as a theme were protesting the war in Lebanon that was going on at the time. They are carrying dolls to symbolize the victims. Adopting a theme like that, including some very creative ones over the years, is what Bil'iners have done to try to attract media to their demos.

This was a peaceful demo, and it was dispersed with unprovoked violence from the troops. I wonder if Commander Raz, the officer you interviewed, would explain the troops in this had "no choice."

Anonymous said...

Jaron, I'm Ted, I made the previous comment without thinking it would say "anonymous" when I posted.

Re: your comment:

"Firstly, I dont think Israel or the US ever preached non-violence to the Palestinians or any brown people."

Obama did exactly that in his June 4, 2009 speech in Cairo, as quoted in this 06/06/2009 critique from WW4 Report:
Next, however, addressing the Palestinians, Obama conveniently overlooks a far more critical episode in American history:

"Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and 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. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. 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. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered."

Obama had no problem invoking Gettysburg in his inaugural address, but speaking to the Palestinians he suddenly forgets that the Civil War even happened. Slavery was not ended by passive resistance, but a war that cost 600,000 lives on the battlefield and perhaps that number again in civilians. Even Martin Luther King's nonviolence was a moral force that won the federal government, with its armed might, to its side—as in the desegregation of of Arkansas' schools, enforced by army troops. And Nelson Mandela's 1990 deal to peacefully dismantle apartheid came after 30 years of African National Congress guerilla struggle.

We bring this up not as an apologia for suicide bombings or rocket attacks—just to point out the counter-productive absurdity of the leader of the world's most powerful empire preaching nonviolence to the oppressed and stateless. Obama's repudiation of Bush's GWOT legacy would be a lot more plausible if it were really unflinching about inconvenient truths. And would go a lot further towards actually chilling out the Palestinians.

jaron said...

Hi Anonymous

I have been to several demos in Bilin and Naalin as a journalist.
The video you showed is fairly typical of what can go wrong at these events, when a soldier violates the so called "rules of engagement" by shooting a rubber bullet at the head.
I agree that the army is often too aggressive and violent with the protesters. So I want to ask you and others a question. It will require you to put politics aside for a moment, which I know can be difficult. Often the point of these demos is to violate Israeli law or damage infrastructure in some way through civil disobedience. Without passing judgment on the morality of the laws of the occupation and the morality of its detractors, if you were general of the IDF, what rules of engagement would you adopt to simultaneously protect the protesters and Israeli law? Assuming rules of engagement are actually followed, are tear gas grenades shot into the air appropriate? Rubber bullets in the legs? Beating people ever so gently with a night stick? What would you do differently?

jaron said...

i stand corrected. thanks for pointing that out.

tb said...

Just curious, Did any of you guys see Yoav Shamir's movie, Defamation? Also his previous one, Checkpoint?

I cannot conceive of how there will ever be peace in that area.

Joseph Glatzer said...


It seems your last post is a response to mine as well as other comments. It's unfortunate you didn’t engage the relevant questions I raised, instead only responding with a narrowly defined question of how I would effectively quell the occupied if I were the occupier.

The premise of your question is actually wrong. The Palestinians aren't even engaged in "civil disobedience" against unjust laws: they are simply trying to end ISRAEL's disobedience; in ignoring their own Supreme Court ruling saying the Bi'lin section of the Wall is illegal and must be rerouted.

This isn't some campaign to "violate Israeli law" or "damage infrastructure". This is a fact, not opinion: Israel is in violation of its own law for over 2 years by ignoring their own ruling.

Without passing judgment on the morality of Jim Crow laws of the white South and the morality of its detractors, if you were Bull Conner or George Wallace, what rules of engagement would you adopt to simultaneously protect the civil rights marchers and Jim Crow law? Assuming rules of engagement are actually followed, is tear gas shot in the air appropriate? Police dogs biting demonstrators in the legs? Beating people ever so gently with a night stick? What would you do differently?

How does your question look when it’s juxtaposed into the Civil Rights movement? What I would do differently is end the racist policy, not try to end an effective way of defending it.

jaron said...

The premise of my question is not logically wrong. I simply asked what an appropriate response would be to these protests. It doesn't logically presuppose anything.

If you mean that it was wrong on a moral level, well, I can't argue with that. I do sometimes ask ridiculous questions because I think it makes a point about the absurdity of the entire situation. Anyone who knows me is aware that I believe in human rights for all people, and do genuinely hope that Palestinians can one day live in freedom. I simply question how non-violent their tactics truly are. I also find Israel's response to this non-non-violence to be way too harsh on occasion, which is why I asked the question in the first place.

You wrongly implied that my question tacitly gave a moral standing to the legitimacy of the occupation. That is a false assumption on your part, since my question was posed merely as a hypothetical question based on the hundred year history of mistakes made by both sides which has led to the monumentally shitty situation we find ourselves in today.

Furthermore, I don't think any of this is about Israel's Supreme Court ruling, since Palestinians don't even respect the sovereignty of Israeli courts. The proof of this is that the leader of the protests has stated that he will continue protesting until Israel ends the occupation (ie. goes back to 67 borders).

Essentially, these are just the latest tactics in a fight for freedom.

Joseph Glatzer said...

Your response made me think. You're asking what is the appropriate response to protect protesters and Israelis. You said to not pass judgment on the occupation or use morality. So, perhaps what you were trying to tease out is that it is impossible. There's no way to make occupation humane, it's not that IDF or Israel government are uniquely brutal. It's the nature of the beast, of war in general; it's inescapable and it can't be sanitized.

A few rock throwing children against the 4th largest military in the world with helicopters, machine guns, tanks, and tear gas can never be "violence".
Certainly, Palestinians have made mistakes, but let's be honest: the Nakba wasn't their fault, they're not to be blame for being occupied and it's not their fault there are 7 million of them living as refugees. It's just a tragic situation. Yes, some Israeli's get hurt too, but the one-sided balance of power never comes close to shifting even an inch.

I'm sure Native Americans don't recognize the legitimacy of the US Courts, but will they take the rare positive ruling when they get one? Of course.

Your closing comment really says it all doesn't it?

jaron said...

Dear Joseph,
Please do not comment on my blog for your own ulterior PR motives.
I should have guessed that you were a radical left-wing hack. You should at least have the decency of excerpting everything I wrote rather than just take the convenient parts that justify your nonsensical arguments. You also make it seem like this conversation was just between the two of us rather than a conversation with many participants. But I suppose taking things out of context is what you do best...