Noel Ignatiev's Blog

Nonnonviolent Nonnonlegitimate

I have just finished reading American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen, who presented it as his Senior Honor’s Essay at Harvard just two years ago. It is the story of the Louisiana slave uprising of 1811. The book contains many good things. I cite two: (1) It shows once again that there is not a square inch of American soil which is not drenched in blood; (2) It offers evidence for the positive role of violent struggle in the period of chattel slavery and on up through the Civil Rights Movement.

In a recent article, Alice Rothschild reports that the Knesset (Israeli parliament) is about to criminalize “Nonviolent protests (in Israel and internationally) that advocate boycotts, divestments, and sanctions” and “Any activity against Israeli soldiers or State symbols including nonviolent legitimate resistance to the occupation.”

As usual she links “nonviolent” and “legitimate.”

Rothschild, like other “progressive Jews,” has taken it upon herself to determine which goals and forms of struggle are acceptable in the struggle for justice in Palestine. One of the efforts of these gatekeepers has been to promote nonviolence as the only legitimate form of struggle, and in this they have had some success, as many sincere friends of Palestine write and speak as if the struggle can only be righteous if it is nonviolent.

By criminalizing “nonviolent legitimate” resistance the Knesset is erasing the line that separates it from “violent nonlegitimate” resistance; this step will ultimately lead friends of Palestine to conclude that, if to the oppressor all forms of resistance are illegitimate, to those who side with the oppressed no form of resistance is illegitimate.

I therefore welcome this latest measure of the Knesset.

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