The Israeli journalist Gideon Levy a few years ago referred to Israel as a “a loud-mouthed bully who shouldn’t be provoked into anger ... Not that the bully’s not right — someone did harm him.” Following the attack on Gaza this past week, Levy added, “Once again, Israel’s violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom…. Hamas brought this on itself and on its people, but this does not excuse Israel’s overreaction.”
One can argue the fine points of the present situation asking questions such as who violated the previous cease-fire first or more often. However, what is ignored in all this is the fundamental fact that Israel has been doing everything it can for years now to make life miserable for the Palestinians. What makes the issue confusing is that Israeli actions are not dramatic.
Preventing impoverished Gaza fisherman from going out to sea, spraying them with contaminated water when they try or holding up exports of Gaza fruits and vegetables until they are spoiled do not make the news. But, they ultimately cause as much economic and societal damage, even death, as the launching of highly inaccurate rockets onto Israeli territory. I personally oppose rocket attacks aimed at civilian targets and would prefer the people of Gaza launch a massive campaign of nonviolent resistance.
But, I wonder, would we act nonviolently if we were the ones seeing our loved ones suffer and even die? And, would we Americans change our military support of Israel if Palestinians resisted nonviolently? The United States supplies the weapons and the funding for the present attacks. It is time the United States demanded that, in exchange for those weapons, Israel allow those living in Gaza and all Palestinians to prosper as an independent people. Until this happens, can we really expect elements of Palestinian society to act other than with whatever forms of violence are possible?