FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Beyond Violence and Non-Violence

Resistance is not a band of armed men hell-bent on wreaking havoc. It is not a cell of terrorists scheming ways to detonate buildings.

True resistance is a culture.

It is a collective retort to oppression.

Understanding the real nature of resistance, however, is not easy. No newsbyte could be thorough enough to explain why people, as a people, resist. Even if such an arduous task was possible, the news might not want to convey it, as it would directly clash with mainstream interpretations of violence and non-violent resistance. The Afghanistan story must remain committed to the same language: al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Lebanon must be represented in terms of a menacing Iran-backed Hizbullah. Palestine’s Hamas must be forever shown as a militant group sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state. Any attempt at offering an alternative reading is tantamount to sympathizing with terrorists and justifying violence.

The deliberate conflation and misuse of terminology has made it almost impossible to understand, and thus to actually resolve bloody conflicts.

Even those who purport to sympathize with resisting nations often contribute to the confusion. Activists from Western countries tend to follow an academic comprehension of what is happening in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. Thus certain ideas are perpetuated: suicide bombings bad, non-violent resistance good; Hamas rockets bad, slingshots good; armed resistance bad, vigils in front of Red Cross offices good. Many activists will quote Martin Luther King Jr., but not Malcolm X. They will infuse a selective understanding of Gandhi, but never of Guevara. This supposedly ‘strategic’ discourse has robbed many of what could be a precious understanding of resistance – as both concept and culture.

Between the reductionst mainstream understanding of resistance as violent and terrorist and the ‘alternative’ defacing of an inspiring and compelling cultural experience, resistance as a culture is lost. The two overriding definitions offer no more than narrow depictions. Both render those attempting to relay the viewpoint of the resisting culture as almost always on the defensive. Thus we repeatedly hear the same statements: no, we are not terrorists; no, we are not violent, we actually have a rich culture of non-violent resistance; no, Hamas is not affiliated with al-Qaeda; no, Hizbullah is not an Iranian agent. Ironically, Israeli writers, intellectuals and academicians own up to much less than their Palestinian counterparts, although the former tend to defend aggression and the latter defend, or at least try to explain their resistance to aggression. Also ironic is the fact that instead of seeking to understand why people resist, many wish to debate about how to suppress their resistance.

By resistance as a culture, I am referencing Edward Said’s elucidation of “culture (as) a way of fighting against extinction and obliteration.” When cultures resist, they don’t scheme and play politics. Nor do they sadistically brutalize. Their decisions as to whether to engage in armed struggle or to employ non-violent methods, whether to target civilians or not, whether to conspire with foreign elements or not are all purely strategic. They are hardly of direct relevance to the concept or resistance itself. Mixing between the two suggests is manipulative or plain ignorant.

If resistance is “the action of opposing something that you disapprove or disagree with”, then a culture of resistance is what occurs when an entire culture reaches this collective decision to oppose that disagreeable element – often a foreign occupation. The decision is not a calculated one. It is engendered through a long process in which self-awareness, self-assertion, tradition, collective experiences, symbols and many more factors interact in specific ways. This might be new to the wealth of that culture’s past experiences, but it is very much an internal process.

It’s almost like a chemical reaction, but even more complex since it isn’t always easy to separate its elements. Thus it is also not easy to fully comprehend, and, in the case of an invading army, it is not easily suppressed. This is how I tried to explain the first Palestinian uprising of 1987, which I lived in its entirely in Gaza:

“It’s not easy to isolate specific dates and events that spark popular revolutions. Genuine collective rebellion cannot be rationalized though a coherent line of logic that elapses time and space; its rather a culmination of experiences that unite the individual to the collective, their conscious and subconscious, their relationships with their immediate surroundings and with that which is not so immediate, all colliding and exploding into a fury that cannot be suppressed.” (My Father Was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story)

Foreign occupiers tend to fight popular resistance through several means. One includes a varied amount of violence aiming to disorient, destroy and rebuild a nation to any desired image (read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine). Another strategy is to weaken the very components that give a culture its unique identity and inner strengths – and thus defuse the culture’s ability to resist. The former requires firepower, while the latter can be achieved through soft means of control. Many ‘third world’ nations that boast of their sovereignty and independence might in fact be very much occupied, but due to their fragmented and overpowered cultures – through globalization, for example – they are unable to comprehend the extent of their tragedy and dependency. Others, who might effectively be occupied, often possess a culture of resistance that makes it impossible for their occupiers to achieve any of their desired objectives.

In Gaza, Palestine, while the media speaks endlessly of rockets and Israeli security, and debates who is really responsible for holding Palestinians in the strip hostage, no heed is paid to the little children living in tents by the ruins of homes they lost in the latest Israeli onslaught. These kids participate in the same culture of resistance that Gaza has witnessed over the course of six decades. In their notebooks they draw fighters with guns, kids with slingshots, women with flags, as well as menacing Israeli tanks and warplanes, graves dotted with the word ‘martyr’, and destroyed homes. Throughout, the word ‘victory’ is persistently used.

When I was in Iraq, I witnessed a local version of these kids’ drawings. And while I have yet to see Afghani children’s scrapbooks, I can easily imagine their content too.

RAMZY BAROUD is editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). His newbook is, “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).

 

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

More articles by:

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB.

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail