Does Nonviolent Resistance Work? Part 4c

              

This is the third of three posts comprising Part IV of a series of posts in which Dr. Ian Hansen shares his thoughts on nonviolence.

See also Part 1aPart 1bPart 1cPart 2aPart 2bPart2cPart3aPart3b, Part3c, and Part 4a.

  The violence of those lost to rage helps to justify excesses of state-inflicted oppression and atrocity on the rest of the frightened population (from above).  It also helps to justify excesses of subnationally-inflicted oppression and atrocity on that same population (from below) in the form of terrorism, guerilla warfare and/or revolutionary violence. These acts of oppression and atrocity from above and below shock and discombobulate, and often drive the majority even further into hopelessly compliant resignation to whatever violent force eventually reigns victorious.


If, however, the popular majority of a nation or people begins to continually and effectively coordinate acts of nonviolent resistance to violent oppressors (from above and below) then those who profit from violence and oppression are in danger of a decline in their portfolio. 

 When true revolutionaries achieve this mass mobilization of nonviolent resistance, the desperate atrocities of the violently rebelling minority should become a less credible justification for state oppression and atrocity against the majority.  And the ruthless atrocities of the violently dominating state should become a less credible justification for subnational violence also. 

Those who can both resist the oppression and violence of others and maintain nonviolent discipline for themselves will come to look more legitimate than subnational guerillas, violent revolutionaries and terrorists.  They will also look more legitimate than the terrorists of another kind who often find themselves making decisions on behalf of powerful states and empires.

When this change in perception occurs among a critical mass of people, the nonviolent revolution should be more likely to realize its goals.  This may be for better or for worse, but usually (on average) it should achieve better things that what a more exclusively violent revolution might have achieved.  And a nonviolent revolution that can maintain its nonviolent discipline to the end should also achieve better things on average than just taking it lying down.

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Does Nonviolent Resistance Work? Part 4b: The Curious Case of Palestinian Nonviolence

This is the seond of three posts comprising Part IV of a series of posts in which Dr. Ian Hansen shares his thoughts on nonviolence.

See also Part 1aPart 1bPart 1cPart 2aPart 2bPart2cPart3aPart3b, Part3c, and Part 4a.

January 10, 2009 protest against Israel invasion of Gaza at Lafayette Park, between White House and U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's temporary hotel residence. Photo by Carolmooredc.  In the public domain.

January 10, 2009 protest against Israel invasion of Gaza at Lafayette Park, between White House and U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s temporary hotel residence.
Photo by Carolmooredc. In the public domain.

Consider the task I gave you in my last post: imagining the IDF using nonviolence to secure the rights and safety of Jews and Palestinians alike.   Would such an unorthodox deployment change the implicit definition of what it means to serve in the IDF?  Would it advance Israeli interests in the West Bank more than imprisoning refuseniks, bulldozing Palestinian homes, setting up economy-crushing checkpoints and roadblocks everywhere, uprooting olive trees, building gigantic colonial settlements, torturing detainees, shelling villages, etc.?

I would like to think that this is a rhetorical question expecting and deserving a unanimous yes, but the answer is probably “It depends.”

It depends specifically on which kind of “Israeli interests” are under discussion.  I think this nonviolent strategy would better protect the interests of most ordinary Israelis who are increasingly tasting the ashes with which the occupation has filled their mouths;  it might be less desirable for the bottom line of many Israeli corporations, like the ones that encouraged the 2006 bombardment of Gaza.  There is a disjoint between what is good for the people of nation (or would-be nation) and what is good for the war profiteers, terrorism profiteers, and apocalyptic ideologues who often rule over existing nations and those who dream of violent beginnings for new nations.

My perception is that it suits the morally disconnected rulers of almost any oppressor state (or insurgent violent movement) to inspire a combination of fear and rage in their target populations.  Oppressors love to instill fear because those who fear the oppressor’s violence more than the numb hell that results from neglecting the call of conscience are easier to control.  Oppressors love to inspire rage because rage makes people do stupid, ill-considered things, making the avatars of rage easier to defeat in the long run.

Ian Hansen, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at York College, City University of New York. His research focuses in part on how witness for human rights and peace can transcend explicit political ideology. He is also on the Steering Committee for Psychologists for Social Responsibility.

 

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Does Nonviolent Resistance Work? Part 4a: The Curious Case of Palestinian Nonviolence

This is the first of three posts comprising Part IV of a series of posts in which Dr. Ian Hansen shares his thoughts on nonviolence.

See also Part 1aPart 1bPart 1cPart 2aPart 2bPart2cPart3aPart3b and Part3c.

The majority of Palestinians these days prefer nonviolent strategies to violent ones, even if they hold ideologically to the right to use violence in self-defense.  If those undertaking nonviolent direct action in the name of Palestinian resistance could get more camera crews and U.S. distributors for the films made from their work, I think the Palestinians would probably be making a lot more progress than they are. The de facto American media blackout on almost all acts of Palestinian nonviolent resistance likely diminishes the effectiveness of the tactic.  Still the alternative—violent attacks on soldiers and civilians—is likely to be countereffective rather than just ineffective: worse than useless.

Talk of the uselessness of violence annoys revolutionaries schooled in violence-advocating ideologies, especially when they regularly see abusive governments and empires making good use of violence to serve their own interests.  If I say violence is useless for the Palestinians, would I also say it is useless for the Israelis?  Might Israeli goals be better achieved by nonviolence too, or does even asking that question make it seem absurdly rhetorical and thus expose how massively naïve and even system-justifying the nonviolent vision is?

I don’t think the question is rhetorical, though many would say Israelis could not achieve their goals nonviolently. I would argue that Israel has as much to gain from nonviolence (and to lose from violence) as Palestinians do. 

What if large deployments of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers (including Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis, Druze, and others) were trained to do their work in the West Bank without material weapons, learning only minimally violent martial arts like Aikido, survival skills, and Arabic language as well as strategies of effective communication, peacemaking, and nonviolent direct action? 

Imagine this diverse troupe of well-trained, unarmed, nonviolent IDF soldiers going into West Bank villages to protect religious minorities (including but not limited to Jews) from attacks by violent religious fanatics.  Imagine them also acting to protect Palestinians from attacks by Israeli settlers and keeping the peace at nonviolent Palestinian protests against the settlements there that are illegal by international law. 

Imagine troops of IDF soldiers being ready to lay down their lives if necessary to do something decent, without taking any “enemy” lives with them.  This might be a first step towards ending the expansion of settlements and eventually dismantling them and fully ending the occupation of the West Bank—something that most ordinary Israelis claim to want as the end point of any peace deal with Palestinians.

Ian Hansen, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at York College, City University of New York. His research focuses in part on how witness for human rights and peace can transcend explicit political ideology. He is also on the Steering Committee for Psychologists for Social Responsibility.

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Unfinished business

Idealized image of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin reading the Declaration of Independence to colonists.

Idealized image of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin reading the Declaration of Independence to colonists. Public domain, work of the United States federal government

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” (From The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription, IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, signed by 56 white men).

Members of those 13 colonies successfully fought King George for independence, but large segments of the population then and now were excluded from the select group considered entitled to “certain unalienable Rights.”

Among the groups excluded from “all men” by the formulators of the Declaration were, of course, all women, plus all native peoples, slaves, freedmen, and others not seen as deserving the same rights as the men in the emerging power structures in the colonies.

There was no inclusive view of human rights in the minds of the authors of the Declaration of Independence—or most others of those times.

A vision of equal rights for all did not gain legal status in the U.S. until the passing of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (1866), which  included an Equal Protection Clause guaranteeing all citizens equal protection under the law. The 15th Amendment (1869) prohibited both the federal and state governments from denying the right to vote for reasons of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” It was not until the 19th Amendment (1920) that women were given the right to vote.

Today, in 2014, women’s suffrage seems pretty secure within the United States—at least for women in the white majority; however, there continue to be efforts to prevent people of color from voting.  And rights are far from being equally distributed.  Lots of work still to be done.

Kathie Malley-Morrison, Professor of Psychology

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