Needless to say, I don't often find myself tempted to link to The Weekly Standard
on much of anything, let alone the Middle East peace
process. Its editor Bill Kristol is, after all, a proverbial hawk and
neocon, one of the thought (mis-)leaders whose Ahab-like ideological obsessions and
truly abysmal geopolitical prognostications helped drag America over
the cliff after 9/11 into a chasm of dangerous war-mongering and grossly unconstitutional lawlessness.
the current issue has an cover article worth pondering by progressive Israeli Mideast analyst and activist Gershom
Gorenberg entitled "The Missing Mahatma: Searching for a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King in the West Bank".
He reflects on the oft-lamented absence of non-violent resistance from
the Palestinian struggle for independence today (though we must remember that the First Intifada was largely non-violent, a fact that didn't prevent Israeli forces from literally firing a million of rounds of ammunition on Palestinian protesters during its first 6 weeks). American media treatments of this topic–a veritable literary genre in the
case of some benighted pundits–are often terminally myopic and hypocritical, and though Gorenberg is a kindred spirit I inevitably have some issues with his take. Still, his is a sensitive and thoughtful exploration of a difficult and mine field of a topic that deserves to be pondered.
The article begins with an fictional
account set in the near future of a Palestinian imam leading protesters
on a US Civil Right era-style march to pray at Al-Aqsa that ends
violently and in an international PR fiasco that forces the Israeli
government to negotiate with him etc. etc. It then analyzes the
realworld historical factors that make this scenario seem so agonizingly fanciful. An intriguing historical footnote that he explores is the case of
a 1980s Palestinian activist–now an American professor–who practiced non-violent resistance and was summarily
deported by Israel (not to mention marginalized within the PLO before then).
I still need to digest the piece a bit more before I comment further, but in the meantime here are some observations on the problematic political backdrop of most MSM discussions of this as posted in my comment on Gorenberg's post announcing the piece on the South Jerusalem blog.
A sensitive and thought provoking analysis of a complex and important issue.
question is near to my heart as a Muslim who believes in nonviolence,
but I am often struck by how little moral standing so many of those who
pose it to Palestinians have on the matter given how rare a commitment
to nonviolence is.
As much as I hope and pray for a peaceful
resolution to the conflict, I don’t think it’s a big mystery as to why
a Palestinian Gandhi has yet to emerge. In how many other of the
world’s conflicts have we seen such an ethic take root? Gandhi and MLK
were extraordinary leaders whose charisma and vision could change the
rules of the game. Such leaders don’t grow on trees.
Avrum makes a good point that I would extend far beyond the region:
Where are the NON-PALESTINIAN Gandhi’s? Where are the leaders of
American and European countries (which are not wracked by conflict,
poverty and second-class citizenship) who promote nonviolence in
anything other than empty rhetoric?
Are Americans, Britons,
Frenchmen, Israelis, ad infinitum, any more demonstrably committed to
nonviolence than Palestinians? Once you factor in circumstances, I’m
not sure the answer’s a yes.
This doesn’t apply to Mr.
Gorenberg’s piece, but I would argue that much of the MSM talk about
the absence of a “Palestinian Gandhi” is so politically one-sided and
morally inconsistent that it actually undermines the cause for peace in
the Middle East. You don’t promote peace by chiding one side for not
being Gandhian while the other is still actively pursuing its goals
Richard Silverstein at Tikun Olam-תקון עולם and Paul Woodward at War in Context have sharply critiqued aspects of the essay. I think the objections they raise are necessary, even if I would give Gorenberg more benefit of the doubt in terms of the politics of the piece.
It's a difficult subject to write about, especially given all the blinkered baggage the MSM brings to it, so my hope is that he follows it up with a discussion of some of its other dimensions and contradictions.