Monday, October 31, 2011

Weighing the Price of Resistance By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict there are no secrets. Israel’s occupation of Palestine is unabashed, brutal and unforgiving and the Palestinians’ desire for freedom and independence is so palpable you can almost touch it. There are no secrets, but when we wake up to a body count of 12 in a 24-hour time span, we also realize there must be something we can do to save more Palestinian lives.

The latest spate of violence in the Gaza Strip is horrifying. Twelve Palestinian men, all in the prime of their lives, were killed in Israeli shelling of the Strip, nine in one hit overnight. The next morning, after a fragile truce between the Islamic Jihad and Israel was brokered by Egypt, another Israeli strike killed yet another three men. One Israeli man was also killed in the city of Ashkelon from a Palestinian rocket. There are scores of people, no doubt, in mourning today in Gaza.

The Palestinian struggle has taken on many forms over the years, none of which have yet fulfilled the final goal of liberation. This is not entirely the fault of the Palestinians themselves; the cards are unquestionably stacked against them, what with Israel and its staunch ally the United States. But the internal trappings of the Palestinian struggle and the effectiveness of its forms of resistance is something we Palestinians must measure and weigh on our own.

As usual, Israel has taken advantage of the crude rockets fired from Gaza’s territory as an excuse to fire back with cruel, extremely disproportionate force. Israel makes no apologies for striking at Palestinians, especially when it has a so-called “justification”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on October 30 said at a special cabinet session that Israel's defense policy was based on two principles: "Kill or be killed" and "He who harms you should bear the blood on his head".

We Palestinians know that and we have bore the brunt of these policies for years. Israel’s invasion of Gaza in the winter of 2008 is perhaps the most painful reminder of just how brutal Israel can be, partly because it knows that it can get away with it. So, is it not time for us to find ways of resisting Israel in the most effective way possible without such a high and terrible loss of lives?

The issue in question here are the rockets, obviously. While armed struggle is a legitimate and justified form of resistance for an occupied people, it loses some of its legitimacy in the eyes of many when it does not achieve its goal or it causes such devastating damage to the people who it purports to defend. This is a conundrum we now face. In Gaza, we retain the right to resist, but does this also mean we should fire rockets, which often do not hit any specific targets, knowing all too well that Israel will jump at the chance to use its military might against us?

The change in Palestine’s tactics has nothing to do with its goal of liberation or its right to resist an occupation that is uncompromising at best, terror-driven at worst. The change must be in our goal to preserve as many Palestinian lives as possible in this quest for freedom. We must continue to resist but with the goal of staying alive. And we must live, either in order to resist another day or hopefully, to enjoy the fruit of this resistance: our freedom.

The pain of loss is acutely felt today in Gaza as mothers, fathers, sisters, wives and children mourn the loss of their loved ones, brave men who wanted to pay their dues to their homeland and paid the ultimate price in return. It has become clear to us that Israel will make no apologies for killing us – whether we are men at battle or children playing football in an open field. We are fighting a cruel enemy but we have the advantage of knowing and predicting its cruelty. There are other ways of bringing down the occupation; ways that will keep our men, women and children alive.

Joharah Baker is Director of the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

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