Only One Way Out
By A.D. Freudenheim

20 May 2001

Point one: the continued escalation of violence in the Middle East is morally wrong and strategically wrong-headed. Point two: violence begets violence, unless people are taught to respond otherwise. These are two points that, unfortunately, do not get stated explicitly enough in the context of the current conflict.

The violent actions perpetrated against Palestinians and Israelis, by Palestinians and Israelis, over the last eight months of this new Intifada have achieved nothing. Both sides have gained little, least of all the three things most desired: there have been no increases in territory or sovereignty, no change in political advantage, and no greater sense of personal or national security. Instead, there have been only losses, as measured in loss of life, loss of dignity, and loss of perspective. The reasons for this failure to reach an agreement are clear, but with each escalating action and subsequent reaction, they must be restated: violence, in whatever form, will not offer a solution to the problem.

Tragically, it seems that most Palestinians have failed to figure out that they will not win this conflict by throwing stones, dispatching suicide bombers, or launching mortar attacks. These actions appear only to have stiffened the resolve of Israel as a whole. Moreover, the use of violence by the Palestinians has pushed many of their traditional allies on the left further away, as the chances for reaching peace appear ever more distant. Instead of throwing stones and launching mortars, the Palestinians should try lying down in the paths of the Israeli tanks and bulldozers, while the world's media watches. Following an absolute path of non-violence would create a far more compelling picture of their plight - as it did for Gandhi in India, or for Soviet dissidents, or for students and religious protestors in China - than the image of a stone-thrower ever can.

For the Israelis, the situation is equally tragic, as they too have failed to see that their escalating "responses" to Palestinian violence only have the same effect: a stiffening of resolve. Yet, showing the worst sort of kindergarten-style behavior, Israel's leadership refuses to accept any responsibility for making the situation worse. Israel long ago crossed the line from victim to victimizer, in deploying its modern military against a poorly-armed population of refugees. In doing so, Israel may be inflicting damage, but it is losing the battle on the international front - where the headlines of the world's newspapers depict the clearly overwhelming Israeli attacks in clear and overwhelmingly negative terms. Imagine if, instead of sending war planes to retaliate for a suicide bombing, Israel invited Palestinians to tour the damaged area and talk to the wounded or the families of the dead. If Israel increased its humanity by choosing a peaceful path instead of a violent one, how much more powerful would that message be?

There are those "political realists" on both sides of this conflict who would say that even thinking about peace in this way is a luxury. That is simply a lie. The politicos have had their chance, and the damage inflicted by both sides has produced nothing but more violence. Each side has pushed the possibility of peace - the peace each says it wants - further away. The time has long since come to stop justifying the violence, to stop trying to explain the violence, and to simply demand peace. There is no morally acceptable alternative, and there is no other path that will lead to a successful resolution of the conflict. The guns and the stones must be laid to rest.

Copyright 2001, by A.D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired! Contact A. D. Freudenheim for further information.
This page is part of: The Truth As I See It.