‘The Gaza flotilla has done more for Gaza than 10,000 rockets’

The power that the emerging tactically adaptive resistance movement is acquiring draws largely from the fact that Israel is incapable of expressing itself in any other way than through the language of force.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Hamas and Hezbollah, groups that have long battled Israel with violent tactics, have begun to embrace civil disobedience, protest marches, lawsuits and boycotts — tactics they once dismissed.

For decades, Palestinian statehood aspirations seemed to lurch between negotiations and armed resistance against Israel. But a small cadre of Palestinian activists has long argued that nonviolence, in the tradition of the American civil rights movement, would be far more effective.

Officials from Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, point to the recent Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in which Israeli troops killed nine activists, as evidence there is more to gain by getting Israel to draw international condemnation through its own use of force, rather than by attacking the country.

“When we use violence, we help Israel win international support,” said Aziz Dweik, a leading Hamas lawmaker in the West Bank. “The Gaza flotilla has done more for Gaza than 10,000 rockets.”

Hamas and Hezbollah, the Islamist movement in Lebanon that has been fighting Israel since the early 1980s, haven’t renounced violence and both groups continue to amass arms. Hamas still abides by a charter that calls for Israel’s destruction; Palestinian youths still hurl rocks at Israeli soldiers across the West Bank separation barrier. And the flotilla incident didn’t fall into conventional standards of peaceful protest: While most activists passively resisted Israeli soldiers, some on the boat where protesters were killed attacked commandos as they boarded, according to video footage released by Israel and soldiers’ accounts.

The incident triggered international condemnation and plunged Israel into one of its worst diplomatic crises in years. In response, Israel said it would take some steps to ease its blockade on the Gaza Strip.

After the incident, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on supporters to participate in the next flotilla bound for Gaza. Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, a member of the Hezbollah politburo in Beirut, said it was the first time Mr. Nasrallah had forcefully and publicly embraced such tactics against Israel.

“We saw that this kind of resistance has driven the Israelis into a big plight,” he said. Organizers in Lebanon say they have two ships ready to sail, but no departure date has been set.

A senior Israeli foreign ministry official said Israel recognizes “changes in the tactical thinking of Hamas and other resistance movements.” The official said the groups are no less committed to Israel’s destruction, but have simply concluded they are more likely to defeat Israel by encouraging its international isolation instead of through military force.

“People who are provoking violence are using peaceful protest as a cover,” said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev.

The Palestinian protest movement picked up steam in the past year, spearheaded by activists in the West Bank and a coalition of pro-Palestinian international human-rights groups.

The absence of peace talks for much of the past two years has pushed the Palestinian Authority leadership to embrace the movement as well. Dominated by members of Hamas’s more moderate rival Fatah, they long advocated a negotiated settlement with Israel and dismissed popular protest campaigns.

But in January, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad launched a campaign to boycott products produced in Israeli settlements and to plant trees in areas declared off limits by Israel. In April, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas outlawed settlement products in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas.

Hamas’s turnaround has been more striking, said Mustapha Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian advocate for nonviolent resistance. “When we used to call for protests, and marches, and boycotts and anything called nonviolence, Hamas used these sexist insults against us. They described it as women’s struggle,” Mr. Barghouti said. That changed in 2008, he said, after the first aid ship successfully ran the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

“Hamas has started to appreciate just how effective this can be,” Mr. Barghouti said.

Hamas has started organizing its own peaceful marches into the Israeli-controlled buffer zone along the Gaza border and supported lawsuits against Israeli officials in European courts. Hamas says it has ramped up support for a committee dedicated to sponsoring similar protests in Gaza.

Mr. Dweik, the Hamas lawmaker, recently began turning up at weekly protests against Israel’s West Bank barrier.

Salah Bardawil, a Hamas lawmaker in Gaza City, says Hamas has come to appreciate the importance of international support for its legitimacy as a representative of the Palestinian people and its fight against Israeli occupation, and has adapted its tactics. Hamas hasn’t claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in years and now denounces the tactic as counterproductive. Since an Israeli military incursion into the territory in December 2008-January 2009, it has also halted rocket attacks into Israel.

“Hamas used to believe [international support] was just empty words,” said Mr. Bardawil. “Today it is very interested in international delegations … and in bringing Israeli officials to justice through legal proceedings.”

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12 thoughts on “‘The Gaza flotilla has done more for Gaza than 10,000 rockets’

  1. mary

    I have to disagree here. Hamas is not “abiding by its charter” anymore, and had in fact offered a 50-year truce to Israel in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal to within the pre-1967 borders. Hardly sounds like they’re hellbent on Israel’s destruction.

  2. Steve Kelly

    Hamas hasn’t claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in years and now denounces the tactic as counterproductive

    I was struck by this bit. As far as I know Hamas has not denounced suicide bombing as a tactic. Maybe I’m missing something. Anyone know?

  3. Christopher Hoare

    It would indeed be a remarkable paradigm shift if Hamas and Hezbollah could completely hold to peaceful actions to regain their lost rights and land. It would not happen overnight, and those hostile to their aspirations would seize upon every stumble along the way to denigrate the attempt.

    For the rest of us, it would be a revelation to see such stubborn, prideful people learn and practice the principle ‘that one cannot produce change by following the same old, failed methods’.

  4. Aaron

    Steve: Hamas stopped suicide bombing in 2005 and renounced the tactic in 2006.

    ‘Hamas in call to end suicide bombings’

    The writing in the article is deliberately vague (“Hamas hasn’t claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in years..”), it sounds as though suicide bombing continues in Palestine, when there hasn’t been one since Feb 2008, with attacks tapering off significantly in the mid-2000s


  5. Lysander

    Peaceful resistance works well when there is a threat of real force behind it. I suspect much of Ghandi’s success stemmed from Britain’s understanding that behind Ghandi lay many others quite prepared to take up arms. Behind Martin Luther King stood others more inclined towards active resistance.

    So peaceful resistance should play a part in resistance to Zionist apartheid. But behind it, Hezbollah should keep arming and Iran should keep up it’s peaceful nuclear program. Hamas should not engage in violence, but it should ALWAYS reserve the right to armed resistance.

  6. peterbrown07

    Lysander is absolutely correct.
    It is also worth remembering that whether Palestinians adopt non-violent tactics, as in the weekly Balyn wall protest, or violent resistance; the response from the IOF is exactly the same… brutal and terrorising!
    Maybe if Israel also renounced violence the legitimate forces of Palestinian resistance could do the same!

  7. Nemo

    Peaceful resistance is a tactic, not an abiding inflexible principle. It only works when your opponent has a conscience and moral behaviour. It worked in India because there were not that many British in India and they relied on Sepoys for security. After awhile the Sepoys did not want to continue to harass and kill their own. When Sepoy discipline started to crumble, the Brits realised the game was up. The other factor was the cost of maintaining the empire.
    The Zionist have shown no conscience or morality in stealing land and displacing people. US taxpayers pay for Zionist weapons and wall construction. In the face of overwhelming and unrelenting odds there was not much else the Palestinians could do. Whoever their Gandhi may have been, was jailed or killed a long time ago. It is significant that it is outsiders who can now play the role of peaceful protest to Zionist “diet for the Palestinians.” Lets see how many of those the Zionists kill.

  8. Coldtype

    I’m always amused by calls for Hamas and Hezbollah to “renounce violence” but never a corresponding call for Israel, with its amorphous and ever-expanding borders, to do the same.

  9. scott

    Malcolm X and the Panthers provided the audience to MLK. No one was gonna listen to those radical niggers, that preacher boy seemed at least somewhat civil. It is apparent to me that only when there are real threats does non-violence get an audience.

    Hell, we elected Obama and are still trying to get an audience. We have calls to cut the budget, entitlements and the like, but so little discussion of our war spending. I like Ron Paul’s call to Audit the Fed, but can we please Audit the Pentagon as well?

    In fact, conservatives like to bitch about entitlements, know what, the rich don’t pay into entitlements. No, the poor and working classes pay the vast portion of these benefits. Are income taxes too high? Well, the biggest chunk of discretionary spending is defense related.

    See what I did there? The Conservatives love to differentiate between income taxes and payroll taxes. Well, ok then, let’s admit that the rich don’t pay payroll taxes–the flat rate tax is capped at $100k–such that Bill Gates and someone making $100k will make the same contribution in payroll taxes. So, let’s take payroll taxes and entitlements off the table, or remove the cap.

  10. Frigga Karl

    Hamas and Hezbollah are able of paradigme shift. Now we are waiting for paradigme shift of the political Zionists. They should have understood since longtime that brutal force is not the deal. Zionists can learn a lot from Hamas and Hezbollah in this case, and maybe in others too. Unfortunately Zionists are kept blind by the submission of political leaders in the US and EU. The shame is that most of the political representatives in the western countries are afraid to critizise Israel for its blindness (fortunately with some nice and hopeful exceptions). Are they afraid of being killed? It’s possible… Israel is a killing machine.

  11. Salim

    If you care for the gazan people:
    a. Don’t send expired medication as this only cause trouble.
    b. make sure you deliver through the UN or the Red Cross because otherwise goods are being confiscated by Hamas which just sell them on to raise money and this never goes to the people who needs it.
    c. make sure it’s actually needed. A lot of people just assume everything is needed although many goods are being sold for half price than in egypt/jordan/lebanon because there is so much. So pay attention to what you choose to donate.
    d. don’t listen to Hamas and Abbas because they steal everything they can and never invest the money in us. A lot of us work in the Israeli settlements, when you ban their products you are actually causing our people to lose a lot of their jobs.

    Thank you
    Salim Abdul-Karem (writing from Gaza)

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