Jonathan Cook: the View from Nazareth -

Letters: Palestinians and violence


The following letters were published by the International Herald Tribune criticising my article Nonviolent protest offers little hope for Palestinians, published by the paper on August 31. They are but a small selection of the letters received. I have heard that more than 1,000 letters and emails of complaint arrived at the newspaper. This was not a spontaneous outburst of anger but lobbying activity coordinated by several Zionist organisations masquerading as disinterested groups promoting fair coverage of the Middle East. See in particular the websites of Camera, Honest Reporting and the Anti-Defamation League. My response is published afterwards.


International Herald Tribune – 2 September 2004

Jonathan Cook’s commentary condoning Palestinian political violence as an effective tool for achieving statehood left me with a sense of disbelief (“Nonviolent protest offers little hope for Palestinians,” Views, Aug. 31). His assertion that the violent and immoral targeting of Israeli civilians will somehow move the Israeli government into concessions flies in the face of the facts.

The Palestinian Authority made the most headway toward a negotiated settlement during the calm of the post-Oslo 1990s when there was mutual prosperity between the two sides and a belief that Palestinian society was ready to be a peaceful partner with its Israeli neighbor. When the Palestinian Authority responded to concessions for statehood at Camp David in 2000 with violence rather than counterproposals, the Israeli left was slowly discredited in the eyes of its Israeli brethren.

Cook laments the absence of the Israeli left, yet peace organizations are very active and in the news every day despite Palestinian terrorist violence. Their ranks would grow were it not for the vitriol spewed by Palestinian leaders and its media on a daily basis. The real absence is the lack of an equivalent Palestinian peace movement.

The end result is that to most Israelis it seems as if Palestinians would rather kill them than live beside them. Just look at the cult of martyrdom in Palestinian culture and its glorification in the Palestinian media and you can see why the Israeli left is shrinking.

It’s a shame that Cook, an otherwise credible voice, could look at the facts and make such a ridiculous, morally reprehensible and counterproductive conclusion.

Matt Bierman, Los Angeles

Jonathan Cook fails when attempting to draw comparisons between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa. As a 38-year-old South African living in Israel, I can say that on no occasion did the African National Congress or any other party involved in the struggle inflict carnage on the white minority as the Palestinians have done to Israeli’s Jews, Christians and Arabs.

If Palestinians had not walked into our restaurants and boarded our buses to kill hundreds of innocent people, they might have found a leftist Israeli public more willing to take the steps necessary to drive the peace process forward. But the Palestinians resorted to terrorism – and we can see this has amounted to nothing.

Now Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, calls for thousands of Palestinians to march for peace. Why was he not in Rabin Square when more than 100,000 Jews gathered to support withdrawal from the territories?

Russel Harris, Tel Aviv

The infererence by Jonathan Cook that the relative infrequency of attacks on Israelis in recent months, in particular what had been a lack of spectacular attacks like bus bombings, was the result of some sort of decision by Palestinians to cease and desist. But the reason for the reduction was the success that the Israeli Army and security services have had in either killing or imprisoning successive generations of the terrorist leadership. Only through the vigorous and ongoing action of Israel’s forces have the Israeli people gained some measure of respite from Palestinian terror. To suggest that this is the result of any sort of change of heart on the part of the Palestinians is disingenuous.

Joseph Leven, Winnipeg, Canada

The commentary by Jonathan Cook is riddled with one-sided distortions and outright untruths. Turning the conflict on its head, he infers that the battle started 37 years ago with Israel’s sudden occupation of “Palestinian” lands in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, thus ignoring the crucial premise that Israel has been under attack by its Arab neighbors since its founding in 1948.

And while lamenting continued Palestinian deaths “despite the current lull in attacks on Israelis,” Cook fails to note that Israel is in fact rightfully pursuing terrorists, whose efforts to attack Israeli civilians continue unabated, notwithstanding Cook’s perception of a lull.

Instead of obscenely justifying Palestinian violence by stating that “bombing buses is immoral, but it makes the front pages,” Cook and the Palestinians should adopt Gandhi’s nonviolent approach. If only Palestinians would eschew violence, which has only brought misery upon them, they would find the Israeli majority yearning for peace and willing to embrace their just aspirations.

Doron Berenblit, Antwerp, Belgium

Jonathan Cook is both morally disgusting and wrong. He is tacitly, if not overtly, advocating the use of suicide bombings as the only effective tool for Palestinians to use in gaining leverage from Israel. Cook shares this view with Hamas, Fatah, and Yasser Arafat, but thankfully not with the majority of the Western world.

The record has shown that Palestinians have suffered more, and gained less, when they have used terrorism as their primary tool. It stops any negotiations on Israel’s behalf, and triggers an immediate and swift military response. It also silences those within Israel who may otherwise advocate policies favorable to Palestinians. During the intifada of the 1980s, it was Palestinian work stoppages, strikes and civil disobedience that pressured the Israelis to enter the Oslo process. The suicide bombings of the current intifada have made that grind to a halt. What the Palestinians need is accountable leadership, not more children sent into Israel as fodder for Hamas.

David Sax, Buenos Aires


Writer response

IHT – 8 September 2004

I note with dismay the correspondence provoked by my commentary last week (“Nonviolent protest offers little hope for Palestinians,” Views, Aug. 31). My critics fall into two camps. The first accuses me of excusing or justifying violent Palestinian attacks on Israelis. This is a gross misrepresentation. I simply explained why Arun Gandhi’s message of nonviolence is likely to fall on stony ground in the occupied territories. Sadly, the suicide bombing in Beersheba on the day my commentary was published appears to confirm my point.

Let me restate my core argument for those who missed it: A peaceful solution to this conflict will emerge only when the Israeli left shows true solidarity with ordinary Palestinians. That will require that Israeli peace activists take the same risks as nonviolent Palestinians in facing down their own country’s tanks and armed soldiers.

The second camp accuses me of ignoring the violence repeatedly used by the PLO leadership during their long exile in Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia. I should have made my meaning clearer. When I wrote that the Palestinians were nonviolent “for most of the 37 years of Israel’s occupation,” I was referring only to those Palestinians who were living under occupation. I was making a historical assessment of the value of nonviolence as a tool for ending the occupation by those Palestinians who actually lived under Israeli rule. My point was that Israel responded, not by recognizing the moral rights of the occupied Palestinian people, but by entrenching its hold on the territories. In contrast, though I did not mention it in the original article, the exiled PLO leadership, which did use violence, was allowed to return by Israel in the 1990s and set up shop in the occupied territories in the new guise of the Palestinian Authority. Again, sadly, the lesson to be learned is that, in the realpolitik of this conflict, violence does work.

Jonathan Cook, Jerusalem

Back to Top

You can also read my Blog HERE. To join discussions about my work, please visit my Facebook or Twitter page.