Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Passive Resistance

Laila el-Haddad looks at yesterday's human chain protest within the context of calls for Palestinian passive resistance against Israel:
"I have noticed that the tide's a changing though. Hamas seems to be making a more concerted effort at such mass mobilization in Gaza, while making it clear that they shall not relinquish their 'legal right to other forms of resistance' (quote from an interview with Khaled Meshal that I will post soon).

"A prime example was the felling of the Rafah wall-initiated by a group of women and children. So to was the effort of dozens of unarmed women of the Islamic movement (including MP Jamila Shanty) to shield and help rescue several fighters under siege in a Beit Lahiya mosque a year and a half ago."

Her post inspires several comments. One is that I think the calls for Palestinian passive resistance are specifically a response to the use of attacks on Israeli civilians, especially within Israel, rather than an opposition to Palestinian militancy as such. If all Hamas, Tanzim, et al did was attack the IDF and border police, I don't think you'd see the same level of criticism.

Beyond that, I'm not sure I buy el-Haddad's take on the history of Palestinian passive resistance. One problem is that she conflates "passive resistance" with "mass mobilization." There were elements of passive resistance during the First Intifada, but there was also a lot of stone-throwing and burning tires. As these were directed at the Israeli presence within the Occupied Territories I have no problems with them, but they're not exactly the Salt March. Similarly the women in the Beit Lahiya siege were actually deploying their passive resistance in support of armed struggle.

The context of resistance to Israel's siege of Gaza is also at least somewhat murky. Frankly, I find the Israeli siege of Gaza indefensible. At the same time, I recognize that the continued Qassam fire on Sderot renders some Israeli response inevitable. I have earlier criticized this Qassam fire as simply fetishized resistance which not only does more harm than good, but frankly doesn't appear to do any good at all. Given that Hamas, too, has to recognize this, we can hope that Meshaal's statements mean that given some sort of cease-fire, and against the background of the attention which has focused on the mass efforts in Gaza, Hamas might start using such tactics as a full alternative to its more problematic armed efforts rather than just an escape hatch when they don't work out.



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