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Why Are Palestinians Expected to Do What Americans Would Never Do?

One of the things I don’t understand about the debate over Israel and Hamas is what, exactly, people expect Palestinians to do.  I constantly read that Palestinians need to never use violence, and that non-violence will do the trick.  This may or may not be true, but it’s odd, because folks want Palestinians and Hamas to do something their own governments would never, ever, do.

Let’s put this in context, first.  The truce was not broken by Hamas:

“The escalation towards war could, and should, have been avoided.  It was the State of Israel which broke the truce, in the ‘ticking tunnel’ raid …  two months ago,” the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom wrote in a press release. “Since then, the army went on stoking the fires of escalation with calculated raids and killings, whenever the shooting of missiles on Israel decreased.”

So.  Israel attacks Palestinians.  Hamas responds by counter-attacking.  If a nation bombed the US, would the US counter-attack?

Of course it would.  The question is absurd. 

Imagine America was under blockade, half it’s population were starving as a result, and its children were suffering from malnutrition.  Let’s assume the US offered what Hamas did last week:

Hamas offered a ceasefire in return for basic and achievable compromises. Don’t take my word for it. According to the Israeli press, Yuval Diskin, the current head of the Israeli security services Shin Bet, "told the Israeli cabinet [on the 23rd] that Hamas is interested in continuing the truce, but wants to improve its terms." Diskin explained Hamas was requesting two things: an end to the blockade, and an Israeli ceasefire on the West Bank. The cabinet – high with election-fever, and eager to appear tough – rejected these terms.

If the US offered peace in exchange for breaking a blockade that was starving its citizens and extending the cease fire to part of the country that wasn’t under ceasefire, and the forces starving the country refused, what would the US do?

I guarantee that if a similar situation were to occur to the US, the same commenters telling the Palestinians to turn the other cheek for moral reasons would think the US was justified in retaliating with all its might.

It really reminds me of nothing so much as people watching a bully kicking someone who’s down on the ground, saying "why does he keep fighting?  He should know better than to resist."

There is a pragmatic argument for trying non-violence in Palestine (I’m not convinced it would work, because Israel hasn’t shown a lot of capacity for shame) but the moral argument, unless you are someone who believes that war and violence are never justified under any circumstances, is extraordinarily weak.  Americans and other outside commenters want Palestinians to act in ways that their own governments would never act in comparable circumstances.

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Ian Welsh

Ian Welsh

Ian Welsh was the Managing Editor of FireDogLake and the Agonist. His work has also appeared at Huffington Post, Alternet, and Truthout, as well as the now defunct Blogging of the President (BOPNews). In Canada his work has appeared in and BlogsCanada. He is also a social media strategy consultant and currently lives in Toronto.

His homeblog is at