Palestine's ‘allies’ must stop condemning armed resistance

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Palestinian mourners carry the body of 20-year-old Hamas militant, Bashir Abdel Aal during his funeral in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on July 17, 2014, after he was killed by tank shells minutes before a five-hour truce went into effect. (Photo: AFP-Said Khatib)

By: Asa Winstanley

Published Thursday, July 17, 2014

Abby Martin, the anchor for the Breaking the Set program on Russian network Russia Today had a short segment about media bias on Palestine last week. Overall it was good. The spot was popular on social networks, with a copy of it being subtitled into Arabic.

In the segment, she criticized White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest for stating that "we support Israel's right to defend itself against these vicious [Palestinian] attacks." She commented, correctly, that "it's important to not frame this as a cycle of violence that's equal. One is the colonizer-oppressor, one is the colonized oppressed."

Unfortunately, she appended a caveat: "I denounce deadly force on both sides" – a wide reaching statement which seems to call for Palestinians to lay down their arms in the face of Israeli aggression and ultra-violence.

The American rapper Lupe Fiasco has been critical of Israel in the past and has spoken out in favor of Palestinian rights, famously waving the Palestinian flag at one of his concerts. But as this latest Israeli aggression rained down on Gaza, he took to Twitter (where he has 1.2 million followers) to condemn "both sides" for what he termed over-reaction, later clarifying that he was referring to "the Hamas rockets" on the Palestinian side.

Left-wing pundit and columnist Owen Jones responded to the Israeli assault with a fairly popular article criticizing Israel. But he also criticized Palestinians resistance, stating that there is "no defense for Hamas firing rockets into civilian areas" – taking as a given this Israeli propaganda line.

Like most other journalists, Jones is ignoring the fact that in their statements, Hamas and other resistance factions regularly declare military targets. As the brilliant Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook often points out, tight Israeli military restrictions on reporting the landing locations of Resistance rockets makes this all hard to verify.

Far too many of those in the West who regard themselves of Palestine's allies speak in similar terms. Activists and critical journalists will make all the right criticisms of Israel, and speak up in support of Palestinian rights. But far too often they balk at the simple fact that Palestinians have a right in international law to used armed struggle against Israel.

Why should this be so hard?

In objective terms, it is not a controversial position to take. Numerous UN resolutions back up this basic right of occupied peoples in international law, including a General Assembly resolution of November 1974, which "reaffirms the legitimacy of the peoples' struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle" (my emphasis).

Even officials of the normally supine Palestinian Authority (PA) will pay lip service to right to resist. This past weekend, the PA's ambassador in London, Manuel Hassassian told the BBC News channel that the rockets of Hamas and other resistance factions are being launched from Gaza in "self defense" and they should not stop until Israeli aggression against Gaza stops. His remarks stood in contrast to Mahmoud Abbas's criticisms of the rockets.

While it's true that Resistance factions are accountable to the laws of war no less than anybody else, it should not be the role of westerners to call for Palestinians to lay down their arms, even as they are being brutally attacked by Israel.

Whether people in Europe and America like it or not, there is a widespread Palestinian consensus, in Palestine and in the diaspora, in favor of all forms of resistance against Israel, including armed struggle.

With an enemy as brutal as Israel gunning for them, one should not expect anything else of the Palestinian people. It is often taken as a given that because Palestinians are out-gunned by Israel that fighting back is "useless" and that the rockets are "puny" or "pathetic." This blinkered viewpoint, however, ignores the basic dynamic of guerrilla warfare, and the facts of recent regional history.

The Palestinian people know very well that South Lebanon was liberated in 2000 only through the forces of armed struggle: at one point, Hezbollah's military force could have been said to be "puny" and hopeless against Israel. But the Resistance ultimately prevailed.

Israel refers to Palestinians as a whole as "terrorists" – it is a blanket and racist term. They do not care whether the rockets hit military bases or civilian areas: anyone who dares stand up to them is slandered as a "terrorist." When Hamas commandos last week very precisely attacked an Israeli military base that was being used to launch assaults on civilians in Gaza, these brave fighters were still slandered as "terrorists."

There are Palestinian thinkers, writers and leaders who have legitimate questions and criticisms surrounding the efficacy and morality of particular manifestations of armed resistance – but let's leave such questions to them.

Regardless of particular strategic and tactical considerations, the choice of the Palestinians in the struggle against Israel is, and always has been resistance. Nobody is asking white people to take up arms and join the Palestinian factions in Gaza – just respect the right and the choice of the Palestinian people: stop issuing blanket condemnations of armed struggle.

Asa Winstanley is a London-based investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada.


Many of you are stating that not rebelling is the strategically better option for the Palestinians,but I would like to argue against this position.There are several current negative possible outcomes from peaceful attempts at regaining their independence.

Firstly,if Palestinians happen to do well at showing the international community that they are being subjugated to genocide and oppression,why do you believe that will help their situation?Currently,the UN chairman has issued a statement that the injustices being pressed onto Palestine from Israel are against fundamental human rights including,quite literally,living.However,the US continues to support Israel in the matter,and no European countries have made significant progress towards demilitarizing Israel.

Secondly,Palestine has ALREADY lost the majority of their land,a large portion of their population and military force,yet no other nation has provided military assistance.No country has provided any other form of significant support otherwise,either.How much longer should they wait for help?

Finally,if it has been justified by the UN as a legitimate basic national right,don't you think there's reason behind their thought process on that?If the international board that has their expertise on the matter declares it justified,it seems highly credible that it is a justifiable response on the Palestinian side.

In my personal opinion,I would rebel too.Maybe not at first,but at this point it would seem like the only feasible option.If I had lost family members,my home,and my freedom to such a force,I would certainly pick up arms against it.

Of course the death of civilians is wrong. No one's arguing that it's right. The author is stating armed resistance is legitimate under international law. No where did he mention otherwise. The argument about futility is viable, but he's simply stating that armed resistance is an option for the Palestinians, and it's their choice.

The idea that armed resistance is legitimate is not the issue for me.
I question the repeated use of a strategy by Hamas that results in nothing but tragedy and destruction for the people of Gaza. There have been NO gains at all. Hamas and the people who support them are suicidal, deluded, and/or incredibly dumb.

we are sad PALESTINEANS live in REFUGEE CAMPS in
MID EAST countries!
the culprit that started this conflict was BALFOUR..Britains Foreign Mininister inj 1917! He was the culprit who gave EUROPEAN JEWS
a homeland called ISREAL in Greater PALESTINE!
may his descendents be cursed!
the Super powers that are supporters of TERRORIST ISREAL

for all the SUFFERINGS of PALESTINEAN people since 1948,
we in Malaysia hope the OPPRESSED people of Palestine
will go to Heaven in the NEXT WORLD!
We pray the ZIONIST Opressors especially NETANYAHU will
BURN IN HELL forever!

You commentators and writers are all pro-Palestine. Yet you want them to engage in a futile war against a militarily superior enemy for what? So that they can brag that three missiles fell harmlessly in Tel Aviv? That is worth hundreds of deaths and a destroyed nation? This is your collective ego egging on people to die.
What are you having for dinner tonight? Something better than Gazans.
What are you doing tonight? Something better than Gazans.
Oh yeah, you are really pro-Palestine.

Launching rockets on civilian towns in a crime against humanity by the international law.
Suicide bombers who blow themselves up in pizza parlors, buses, coffee shops - are they legitimate too?

Excellent piece. It is the international community who have failed the Palestinians and left them no choice but to opt for armed resistance. Without armed resistance there will be no freedom for the Palestinians. The armed resistance in the West Bank is virtually non-existent yet are they any better off? No - They remain under a brutal occupation, under a puppet leader who is a spokesperson for Israel. Let's not forgot Mandela was also once branded a 'terrorist' for pursuing freedom from apartheid through armed resistance and it was he who said: 'We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.'

Every people maintains a right to self defense. In the case of the Palestinian, they maintain a God given mandate to retake lands that were seized or stolen from them. The means by which they reclaim their stolen land should be decided by them, and include a credible military option.

Thats a fair point 'armed resistance is legitimate, murder of innocents is never legitimate'. However you're missing a point. The miltary capabilities of Hamas vs the military capability of Israel. One has homemade rockets and smuglled weapons. The other has F16 fighter planes, warships, nuclear weapons, tanks etc etc. its like comparing David to Goliath x 1000. There is no equality there and that situation has been aided by the west since the concept of zionism was born. So with that additional military might comes additional moral responsibity. You can hold both to the same concept of humanitarian responsibility but you cannot hold both to the same level. I wish that Hamas would take the moral high ground and not attack civilian population but even if they wanted they do not have that accuracy in their weaponry. What do you expect? The Palestinians to lay back and do nothing? No they fight how they can. You and I would fight too. In a situation where 1000's of your people are killed every year would you even give a damn about moral high ground? What if it was those closest to you who were killed? Think about that a sec. Israel has been shown time and time again to have targeted and hit civilian population yet the world still propogates the line that Hamas targets civilians? Is there no accountability for the Israelis? Or do the Palestinians deserve it? The West being the power that bought Israel into existance and the power that maintains Israel's hegemony in the region needs to face up to its own responsibilty as the only factor that could bring about the end to this violence and a fair peace for all by putting pressure on the agressor that is Israel.

While I quite agree with Asa that commentators who profess to be supportive of Palestinians should not question their right to resist, from the outside, the use of rockets appears to be counter productive. The strategic objective needs to be to marginalise Israel, both politically and economically. From this perspective the use of military weapons hinders the Palestinians from presenting their case as a civil rights issue. While many would argue that it is the right to be a nation within pre 1948 borders that they are fighting for, the reality is that Palestinian resistance is not going to cause the Zionists to give up and leave. Pursuing the civil rights case is therefore the stronger strategy and is where Israel is most vulnerable, at least so long as Western countries purport to value human and civil rights. The end game for the civil rights approach has to be a single state with equal rights for all. This in practice is a far greater threat to the Zionists than any military resistance. The Zionist entity only knows how to function in a state of constant conflict and tension. Without conflict the Jews would have to face their own differences and divisions. Exposing this weakness must be a better strategy than the resistance that expresses anger, frustration and despair, but which only empowers the oppressor.

I am sorry, while Hamas may aim rockets at military installations (not sure they really do), these rockets are fire and forget and have no accuracy or a sense, they are terror weapons against a civilian population.

I agree with Asa. Using armed resistance or not is up to Palestinians, not to the West people -- who have not been suffering that cruel occuppation for more than 66 years. On the other hand, the armed resistance of Palestine acts according to the international law, which, as Asa demonstrated, recognizes the right of opressed people to fight against the opressor with weapons. In front of an opressor like Israel, and before the "no sanctions" policy of the world governments, Palestinians has the moral and vital right of defend theirselves. Until now, Western nations only have recognized this right to Israel, whose Zionist founders and authorities, in fact, have been robbed Palestine from the Palestinians more than a century ago.

I understand the author's emphasis on the right to armed resistance. All is well with that. However it is perfectly reasonable for someone to argue that the methods of armed resistance should not include the murder of innocents and children for example, there is nothing treacherous or hypocritical about that position. Actions as these (murder of children...etc) are not justifiable and are inconsistent with notions of rights, morality, humanity, and international law. Armed resistance is legitimate, murder of innocents is never legitimate. This is a topic i'd like to see discussed more broadly among supporters of the palestinian people ( as opposed to it being merely a matter for intellectuals)

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