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Armed resistance as a catalyst for change: a focus on the Palestine-Israel conflict

Opinion Piece

By Chelsea Holding

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Throughout the last 75 years, numerous debates have occurred when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the effectiveness of armed resistance compared to non-violent resistance. While both forms of resistance have been used by the Palestinians to seek liberation and self-determination, the focus of this piece is to highlight that historically, armed resistance has created more significant change compared to non-violent resistance, with a focus on the Israel-Palestine conflict. By international humanitarian law, wars of liberation have been embraced by adopting Additional Protocol I within the Geneva Conventions (1949) as a protected right of occupied people. Decades ago, it was declared that resistance and armed struggle against colonial occupation were recognised and accepted under international law.

It is essential to state the point of this piece is not to condone violence or the loss of any civilian life. This is to analyse how violent resistance typically leads to greater change; the world must acknowledge when violence is involved.

A crucial element as to why violent resistance is being used in the first place is the evident power imbalance between Palestinians and Israel. It is important to question why violent resistance is formed in the first place - it is rarely a first resort. The Palestinian struggle against Israel's military and political influence creates an inherent power imbalance. The use of armed resistance allows Palestinians to defend themselves against territorial expansion and human rights violations. Through armed resistance, Palestinians have achieved global awareness and sympathy for their liberation, amplifying the need for self-determination.

In addition, an argument is to be made that armed resistance tends to mobilise the masses and fosters a sense of solidarity; this form of resistance tends to create public support on both a domestic and international level. It unifies the people around a shared cause and can promote a sense of national identity and purpose. One example of this is the First Intifada (1987-1993), which saw widespread resistance against the occupation; along with this, it highlighted the power of armed struggle in mobilising the securement of their rights. The First Intifada witnessed Palestinians utilising various forms of armed resistance, including stone-throwing and Molotov cocktails. The sustained resistance during this period resulted in garnering global attention and led to negotiations between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel.

The Oslo Accords (1993) came about largely due to the armed resistance and the pressure exerted by the PLO. The forms of armed resistance used were hijackings and attacks, which prompted the Israeli government to partake in meaningful negotiations and ultimately led to the PLO being a recognised representative of the Palestinian people and establishing limited self-governance. As many forms of resistance were continued, it became increasingly clear that despite their military response, Israel was going to have difficulty achieving any victory over organised civilian resistance. While non-violent resistance relies on peaceful actions, it can be easily dismissed or met with excessive violence by the occupying forces.

One example is the March of Return (2018-2019); these were intended as peaceful protests to express the Palestinian people's desire for self-determination and liberation, among other reasons. However, these protests were met with violence and over 250 people were killed and thousands injured. Overall, this shines a light on how any form of resistance can be met with violence from the occupying power and the notion that armed resistance promotes more change as it often compels domestic and international actors to recognise the urgency of the conflict and the threat posed by armed resistance forces those to address the causes of the conflict and work towards resolution.

As the years go on, an argument can be made that violence is growing regarding resistance, the patience of wanting liberation is wearing down, and frustration towards a lack of international support for resolution is visible. The first example of this is the Second Intifada (2000-2005), whereby there was increased armed resistance, including suicide bombing and attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets. It is essential to note the immense suffering during this time and acknowledge how it compelled the international community to recognise the urgency of resolving this conflict, leading to renewed efforts towards peace and understanding the Palestinian struggle for independence.

Additionally, the most recent 7th October attacks and the retaliation of Israel have created a massive amount of international protest and pressure. One must acknowledge the loss of civilian life during this ongoing period and how this cannot be condoned. The media, along with the international community, have been exposed to this conflict and the reality of what is going on within both Israel and Palestine. When violence is used, especially when civilian life is involved, it showcases the urgency for action and resolution towards peace. As pressure and resentment have grown, so has the international pressure for resolution. In this instance, the extreme violence that has taken place over the last 2 months has led to a vast divide across the world and has created strong opinions and protests.

Through highlighting some of the examples of armed resistance and the response, the reality is that – from an objective examination – armed resistance has a positive impact on political and policy change and the need for self-determination. It can be argued that peaceful resistance creates awareness of the issue, whereas armed resistance highlights the urgency of the conflict. It forces individuals and world actors to pay attention and acknowledge that something is wrong. Over the last two months, we have seen large-scale protests in cities worldwide, showing a positive change and the influence of armed resistance. Once again, this is not to condone violence. Still, objectively examining the use of armed resistance, it would be disingenuous to say it doesn't affect creating change regarding the Palestine-Israel conflict.

To conclude, while peaceful resistance does have its advantages, in the context of the Palestine-Israel conflict, it is historically proven that armed resistance is more effective in bringing about meaningful change. This struggle demonstrates that armed resistance has the potential to instigate negotiations, shift power dynamics, and create global attention and support. Nevertheless, there is an acknowledgement that this is a complex and polarising conflict, and the focus is entirely on seeking a peaceful, just, and lasting resolution for both Palestinians and Israelis.


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