Our commenter Peter K., a.k.a The One-Eyed Man (he actually has binocular vision), asks the following question about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the comment thread to a recent post:

If you are a Palestinian, what do you do?

The “peace process,” such as it is, has gotten them nowhere. In any event, there is a weak Israeli government which is unlikely to alienate the conservatives and make bold moves or conciliations. Violence is the only leverage they have, but this is something we all disapprove of.

What would you do if you were in Palestinian shoes?

It’s obviously a good question. While you can probably imagine what I might say here, I am in a recording studio all day today, and working tomorrow as well, so won’t be able to come back to this for a little while — but I encourage readers, including Peter himself, to comment.

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  1. bob koepp says

    Personally, I think this is a no brainer. Gandhi showed the way. It’s true that Gandhi’s way might not have worked with a Hitler, or with any of a number of megalomaniacal murderers scattered across the pages of history. But if ever there was a situation “made for” shaming one’s oppressors into submission, Palestine is it.

    Posted March 15, 2008 at 2:22 pm | Permalink
  2. the one eyed man says

    I’m not so sure about the Gandhi thing. I am currently reading Indian Summer, an excellent book about the transition from British colonial rule to India and Pakistan. The author makes the case that the uncompromising Gandhi delayed emancipation from British rule by at least ten years, while Nehru and others could have accomplished it in the 1930’s had Gandhi not been a player.

    I think that any discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict has to start with the recognition that if the Arabs laid down their arms, there would be peace in the region, while if the Israelis laid down their arms, they would all be dead. Israel has very legitimate security concerns, which are not going to vanish regardless of what the Palestinians do. The only means to some kind of reasonable outcome is a lengthy period of time with diminishing violence, where the Israelis are able to have some confidence in their security.

    The Palestinians have a weak hand, both because they have no meaningful leverage and because they lack a strong leadership. In the best of all possible worlds, Hamas would disappear and there would be a gradual rapprochement between Israel and a moderate Palestinian leadership, culminating in an independent Palestinian state. The would be a slow, two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back process, but I don’t see any other alternative to a continuation of the status quo.

    Posted March 15, 2008 at 5:26 pm | Permalink
  3. bob koepp says

    Pete – We agree that Israel has legitimate security concerns. And I think many of the security measures employed by Israel are appropriate. This applies particularly to military actions which are usually clearly provoked. However, the impact of the occupation on the lives of ordinary Palestinians cannot fail to be oppressive. It is to these people that I recommend consideration of non-violent non-cooperation. To those who necessitate the occupation, I recommend laying down arms.

    Posted March 16, 2008 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
  4. the one eyed man says

    Well, it’s hard to argue against non-violent resistance — my only question is how effective it would be —

    Posted March 16, 2008 at 3:46 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Peter, this remark of yours sums things up with admirable pith:

    I think that any discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict has to start with the recognition that if the Arabs laid down their arms, there would be peace in the region, while if the Israelis laid down their arms, they would all be dead.

    Clearly what the Palestinians have been doing is not working, and Israel will never lay down its arms. The interests of the Palestinians have been continuously betrayed both from without and within: the other Islamic nations in the region have obvious use for the continued suffering of Palestine, and, rather than offering its people succor or wise counsel, they prefer to fan the flames of resentment, for reasons that are obvious enough.

    The Palestinians must realize that, holding no cards other than the spectacular abjectness of their misery and their inequality against the superior might of Israel — all of which are plainly evident to a watching world — their only choices are either to cool their blood or to continue to see it run in their streets. Their protracted “martyrdom” serves only the ends of the regional players who use them as their pawns. Peace will be met with peace.

    But it is critical that the Israelis must be made aware that the good will of the West, and of America in particular, is imperiled by right-wing settlement-building, a deliberately insulting gesture of ostentatious overlordship, and one that plays perfectly into the hands of Islamic extremists.

    Posted March 16, 2008 at 10:30 pm | Permalink
  6. bob koepp says

    The Palestinians’ “protracted martyrdom” to which Malcolm refers isn’t effective in arousing the sympathy of an observing world — because it’s self-inflicted. Actively seeking martyrdom is, shall we say, unbecoming. Doing it to yourself is just plain stupid. In contrast, standing up with whatever dignity one can muster, and daring the Israelis to act oppressively will generate respect, sympathy and good will. And who knows… the Israelis might actually make a martyr of you!

    Posted March 17, 2008 at 10:34 am | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    Exactly, Bob. Self-inflicted, but egged on and abetted by those all around with a vested interest in strife, not peace.

    Posted March 17, 2008 at 10:38 am | Permalink