Nov 9, 2023

When Will We Learn That Violence Doesn't Lead to Security?

By Mohammed Abu-Nimer / wagingnonviolence.org
When Will We Learn That Violence Doesn't Lead to Security?
Damage in Gaza Strip during the October 2023, Wikimedia Commons

For the past month, Israeli bombardment of Gaza has been presented to the world as if it hasn’t already happened repeatedly (five times to be exact) since Gaza was put under brutal siege in 2007. “We will teach them a lesson that they will never forget” is a popular slogan by politicians and army generals. The sad and painful part is that many actually believe such statements on the Israeli, European and American sides.

In this war, the Israeli public is being told again and again by its leaders that they will be more secure if Gaza is fully destroyed by carpet bombing, starved, and left without electricity and communication with the outside world.

Basically, Israelis have drawn the wrong conclusion that the more Palestinians they kill, the more secure they will be in the future. As for Palestinians, they have drawn the wrong conclusion that the more they kill and frighten Israelis — and show the government’s sophisticated military and security isn’t enough to keep people safe — the less likely Israelis will endorse the occupation and apartheid.

It is painful to witness the massive destruction of Palestinian homes and loss of civilian lives in another round of ruthless Israeli state-sponsored violence and revengeful military acts. It is also painful to see Palestinian fighters engaged in killing civilians in the name of resistance.

Yes, we should not forget that there is an occupier and occupied. Yes, it is true that the two sides use different means to fight each other. Yes, they are not equal in their military, economic or political capacities. Palestinians fight for their freedom from the largest open prison in human history. Israelis fight with the most sophisticated technology and have the endorsement of the major superpowers in the world.

The current Israeli government has given the settlers free hand to violate Palestinian rights on a daily basis. Even before the current war began, this had made 2023 “the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the United Nations began keeping track of fatalities in 2005.” In only the past few months, Palestinians have witnessed thousands of Jewish settlers march on Al-Aqsa mosque and humiliate Muslim worshipers and destroy Christian holy sites.

Despite that, this should not cause us to abandon and give up on nonviolent means to resolve the conflict.

What is being done in this round in the name of protecting the Jewish or Muslim and Christian faiths, or in protecting land and borders, will only plant more hatred, dehumanization, fear, insecurity in the hearts of the people on both sides. In the past, such acts have produced false hope for peace and justice.

There is no need to compete in measuring who is more victimized in this round of fighting. There is no need to continue to try to gain supremacy over the other to deter them from resisting or seeking their basic rights and freedom.

We have already seen for the past century that this is not working. After every round, we have more bereaved parents, more traumatized children and more destruction around us.

This is how we have trained the young children and youth in how to repeat the same cycle of violence. But they often do it in a more cruel and desperate way than the older generation.

 

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Those who sit outside and cheer on further military actions or spread a dehumanizing narrative on one side and praise the heroism of the other, are only helping structures of state violence and cultures of militarization. To support Israelis and Palestinians today is to insist on their rights to equally live in peace and freedom and reclaim their lives. Over every round of war in the past hundred years, the level and degree of violence has increased.

We need to stop and ask: Where are we going with this?

Have we not learned the lesson that violence and killing will not lead to peace and security?

Giving people space for freedom to live in dignity and security has been the foundation for peace among humans since they began walking this earth.

Let us teach this lesson to our children by stopping further bombing or killing, and negotiating peace that grants Palestinians their genuine independence, ending the apartheid in the occupied territories, freeing Gazans from their open prison, and allowing both Israelis and Palestinians to live dignified lives.

 


Mohamed Abu-Nimer is the inaugural professor of the new Abdul Azis Said Endowed Chair for Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University. He is the author of many books including “Islam and Nonviolence,” and a global authority on interfaith dialogue. He is a founder of the Salam Institute, and a member of the Nonviolence International Board of Directors. He is Palestinian, born in Israel, and resides in the United States.

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