The Immorality of Palestinian “Resistance;”
A Response To President Obama’s Speech In Cairo
by Rabbi Isaac Jeret
July 16, 2009
There are many, throughout the Jewish world and beyond, who have reacted to different portions of President Obama’s speech delivered in Cairo in early June. Numerous responses have focussed upon the President’s assertion that the State of Israel is a consequence of the Holocaust, omitting the historic connection of the Jewish People to the land of Israel, with many challenging this notion (for good reason) and others more forgiving of the President. While there are many other sections of the President’s speech to which one might respond (and others have responded accordingly), there are two specific paragraphs, communicated in succession, that caught my attention beyond all others. Together, they carry a message that our Biblical tradition cautions us against, and that we, as Jews and as Americans, ought to consider carefully for its implications.
Referring to the Palestinian Arab’s pursuit of a Palestinian State, and the efforts of Arabs and other Muslims to assist them in their pursuit, the President communicated the following:
“Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding.
This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia, to Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed, that's how it is surrendered.”
The moral-equivalence assumed by the President to exist between the Palestinian Arab’s pursuit of a Palestinian State, on the one hand, and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa, on the other hand, serves, in actuality, to undermine his condemnation of Palestinian Arab violence against Israeli civilians that he deplores (above) for its lack of morality. For President Obama, Palestinian violence against innocent Israelis is immoral because of whom it targets, although the “resistance,” if unarmed, is a cause of moral virtue; Terrorism against Israeli civilians is morally unjustified only in that it is directed at those who are innocent, but the cause that it aims to further is a worthy one. Finally, President Obama presents terrorism against civilians as absolutely immoral; it appears from his quote that one could never justify "armed resistance” against civilians.
Interestingly, Iran’s tyrannical leadership, its terrorist-proxies - Hamas and Hezbollah, and the PLO-derived and Fatah-party ruled Palestinian Authority all employ the term “resistance” when referring to their openly stated hope and intention to destroy the State of Israel, either in stages that commence with the establishment of a Palestinian State (as in the case of Fatah and it allies) or simply by waging all-out-war against Israel via terror, conventional warfare, or a nuclear attack. Hamas actually incorporates this terminology into its charter, calling for Israel’s destruction, that of world-Jewry, and that of the United States - each and all via “resistance.”
Setting aside for the moment the obvious problem of the President’s usage of the very term (“resistance”) employed by the Western World’s greatest enemies when referring to its intention to destroy us, is it true that Terrorism is absolutely immoral? Is it true that one might never imagine a situation in which Terrorism is, even possibly, morally justifiable? According to the Palestinian Arabs and many of their supporters, any and all forms of “resistance” are justified. Their argument is that the innocent Palestinian Arab civilian-population cannot defend itself against Israeli aggression and ongoing attempts at ethnic-cleansing (an absurd but increasingly common accusation against Israel); the Palestinian Arabs have no armed forces and no defensive capability against the supposed Israeli war-machine. How can one blame the otherwise helpless Palestinians for “responding” to Israeli aggression with attacks against the only targets that they can hit - Israel’s civilians?
Furthermore, as Israel itself notes regularly and correctly, Israel’s army constitutes the majority of its 18-21 year old young-adults, drafted into service without significant protest among Israel’s citizenship and serving alongside reservists, the majority of whom are adult-men who continue their reserve-service into their 40’s. As such, the distinction between army personnel and Israel’s civilian-citizenship might be seen as a distinction without a difference; a substantial portion of Israel’s civilian-citizenship might appear to be complicit in Israel’s “aggression” against Palestinian Arabs, perhaps rendering some or all Israeli civilians reasonable and justifiable targets of Palestinian terror.
In truth, contrary to President Obama’s condemnation of Terrorism as absolutely immoral, one can indeed make a case for ongoing Palestinian "armed-resistance” against Israel, supported financially, materially, and logistically by Iran, Syria, and other “freedom-loving” nations, so long as one accepts as basic assumptions either the veracity of the Palestinian Arab’s historical narrative or their recounting of Israeli oppression. After-all, while unarmed protests worked in South Africa against Apartheid and in the United States against segregation, had these methods failed, would armed resistance against civilians (if available as an option) have been unjustified? Had the citizenship of the United States been proven to have been complicit in enforcing policies of segregation (which many were, particularly in the South) or had white South Africa been proven to have been similarly complicit in enforcing Apartheid policies (which it was, overwhelmingly), and had civil-disobedience failed to achieve its desired end, would not “armed-resistance” against civilians have been the logical and justifiable next step in attempting to put an end to American and South African oppression of blacks in either country?
In actuality, wittingly or unwittingly, by likening the Palestinian Arab’s cause to the anti-Apartheid and Civil Rights movements, President Obama has indeed justified Palestinian violence against all Israelis - whether army-personnel or otherwise. All one needs to do to justify such “armed-resistance” is to show that unarmed resistance has not worked to bring about the outcome sought. After all, the President has clearly stated that the goals of the “resistance” are worthy!
This is not the first presidential gaffe of this general sort. For President Bush, America’s “War on Terror” sought to defeat a formidable enemy, that of Terrorism itself, rather than the Islamist Expansionists who employed it against the United States, and continue to seek to do so. This, too, amounted to a presidential failure to identify that which truly deserves absolute condemnation. Only, President Bush’s failure to identify as the enemy in “The War on Terror” the Islamist Expansionists who employ the Terror as a tactic could never have been confused with any affirmation on his part of their objectives; clearly, President Bush found the cause of the Islamic Expansionist to have been morally repugnant.
The problem with Palestinian Arab “resistance,” is that it is wrong whether it is conducted with or without violence; it is immoral and even criminal when conducted with violence - against any Israeli or Jew, anywhere in the world. It is the cause that is fundamentally objectionable, thereby relegating any means by which it might be achieved unjustifiable. The Palestinians have no legitimate claim to the land that they seek as a sovereign state. The truth is simply not on their side. It is because of their baseless claims against Israel that their violence, against any Israeli anywhere, is entirely unjustifiable.
In this regard, I will not, in this piece, aim to prove the lack of legitimacy of the vast majority of Palestinian Arab claims. However, it suffices to say the following, as has been stated by many an Israeli statesman over the past sixty-one years: If the Palestinian Arabs and their Arab and Muslim supporters were to lay down their weapons unilaterally, recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, and pursue a path toward peace, Israel’s use of any violence in its defense would be unnecessary and would therefore cease. On the other hand, if Israel were to lay down its weapons unilaterally, its annihilation would occur within hours, if not sooner, at the hands of its Palestinian and otherwise Arab neighbors and its Muslim foes worldwide.
Who’s violence is more effective does not reflect or determine the perpetrator and victim in any conflict. Rather, one should hope that the victim, Israel in this case, would be more effective in its self-defense than the Palestinians and their supporters might ever be in their aim to destroy Israel.
It is the Palestinian cause that lacks any moral underpinning; while Israel may choose to cede territory for the creation of a Palestinian State, its reasons for doing so would be either because of its benevolence and compassion for a population abandoned and betrayed by its Arab and Muslim brothers or because of Israel’s assessment that it is simply in Israel’s best interests to do so -- or both. One would hope that President Obama might one day soon reconsider his distinction between “armed-resistance” and any other sort of “resistance” on the part of Palestinian Arabs and their supporters, affirming the immorality of either when employed toward a morally unworthy aim.