The Burden of Peace in Gaza

My first-ever bit on Huffington Post just went up—”Who Carries the Burden of Peace?” It’s an attempt to talk about the place of nonviolence talk in the Gaza conflict and, ultimately, to challenge those in positions of power to push harder for peaceful solutions. Loyal readers will recognize parts of my recent essay, Can Nonviolence Govern? on which the Gaza piece is based.

This whole idea of writing political op-eds doesn’t totally sit well with me. I’d much rather be a spinner of pretentious reflection and ambiguity than an über-wonk. As always, I’m eager for reactions and critique, so bring it on.





10 responses to “The Burden of Peace in Gaza”

  1. […] The Burden of Peace in Gaza | The Row Boat by Nathan Schneider […]

  2. BT

    But isn’t there a more fundamental problem, namely that nation-states are inherently founded on violence by definition, holding the monopoly on “legal” violence as the very basis of their sovereignty? I don’t think a serious commitment to non-violence can exist without efforts to move beyond the political form of the nation-state at the same time, for better or worse. The notion of a “non-violent State” just seems like a category mistake to me (as opposed to some other future form of government, beyond the State-form, which maybe could be non-violent).

  3. What if we are mistaken about the definition of the nation state? Or what if that entity can be transformed by how it chooses to behave?

  4. BT

    I hope there is transformation, over time. Although sustainable non-violent governments would have to move beyond defining inclusion based on land + ethnicity, no matter the factions involved, or majority/minority issues, it seems to me (and there’d have to be a grassroots willingness for that to occur; it couldn’t be coerced by force, of course, if it’s to be genuinely non-violent). Maybe this is just a semantic issue then, but a political form other than the nation-state wouldn’t be a nation-state, right?

  5. I think that the political shape of what I’m talking about is yet to come. Now is the time to focus on our methods, not on our ideologies, our means not our ends.

    For now, what I’m calling for is to put nonviolent action on the table. Basically, for countries with all this military power to start looking much harder for nonviolent solutions to their problems. That is, I want the taboo against organized violence to grow much stronger. At this point, I don’t see any need not to allow groups of people to organize (i.e., as countries) and pursue their common interests—so long as serious efforts are made to act resolutely yet without counterproductive destruction.

  6. Elliott

    A great article Nathan. I have two comments:

    1) Was it Hamas who broke the cease fire? CNN reported on the situation and supplies evidence to the contrary:

    2) I wish I could get more excited about Obama, but I cannot. When you quoted him in your article, it just shows that he’s up against a brick wall and can only really say one thing (i.e., the “right” answer). You point it out too… when Israel defends itself, it’s called self-defense, but when Hamas retaliates it’s called “breaking the cease fire”. It’s sad and disheartening that Obama acts like a douche, for lack of a better word, but spades are spades. Maybe he will bring change for this country and he’s certainly instilled hope, but he’s no different than Bush in many regards. Until the larger US government stops backing Israel uncritically, I’m not optimistic about what a president can do.

    By the way, I’d say I’m a pretty strong advocate of non-violence, but then again, I’ve never seen my family murdered by merciless aggressors. If I had, I have no idea what I’d believe.

  7. Very interesting video. Hard to take the standard CNN theater of “hard-breaking news,” but there seem to be some important facts coming to light. Good to know.

    I certainly didn’t mean to express great confidence for Obama. In fact, I bet the pundits are right that Obama was expressing support for Israeli retaliation. But I took a skewed reading of his works to give some picture of what it might be like if our leaders began taking violence off the table. And I do, actually, believe that presidents can make a difference here. Bush, for instance, defined the national reaction to 9/11. If he had taken it as a call for reconciliation, rather than for war, the whole of world history for the last 8 years would’ve been totally different. It was up to him.

    Obama, by the way, has said a little more about Gaza. Still vague, but a little promising.

    “We are going to engage effectively and consistently in trying to resolve the conflicts that exist in the Middle East,” he told reporters, adding that “the loss of civilian life in Gaza and Israel is a source of deep concern to me, and after January 20th I am going to have plenty to say about the issue.” (source)

    As far as nonviolence goes, no need to begin with your family being murdered. I’m talking about how a bunch of old, rich, safe men in Washington choose to act toward a much weaker power on the other side of the world. Responding the assailants in one’s home nonviolently—which has been done many times—certainly requires great strength, discipline, and care. A worthy goal, but let’s take baby steps. Responding nonviolently to those at one’s mercy seems like it should be a much simpler proposition.

  8. BT

    …Basically, for countries with all this military power to start looking much harder for nonviolent solutions to their problems. That is, I want the taboo against organized violence to grow much stronger.

    I agree with the goal, although just think countries don’t see it in their interest to do so by definition. I agree, though, that that is clearly better policy as far as people are concerned (!). As G. A. comments of the Tiananmen photo you link to, “tanks will appear” (The Coming Community, p. 87) whenever State authority is truly under threat, whether a non-violent or violent threat…

  9. See, I would like it to be insulting to the state people to say “tanks will appear” whenever the state is under threat just as it would now be insulting to say “tanks will appear” when the republican party looses to the democrats and there is a change of administration. It is simply a matter of changing habits. We’ve done it before. I don’t think that I’m asking for a radical revision of human nature.

  10. BT

    …I don’t think that I’m asking for a radical revision of human nature.

    Right, human nature can accommodate new governmental forms, but I suspect that disassociating State legitimacy (as a particular governmental form) from violence is less likely. But I agree that relying on violence is usually bad policy regardless…