Violence: The path of least resistance

By Khaled Diab

Despite the proven futility of blood-letting for both Israelis and , violence is exercising an irresistible magnetic force.

Monday 19 October 2015

Like a giant mosquito, the surveillance helicopter buzzes overhead for much of the day and night to keep an eye on the Palestinian protesters and rioters beneath, and perhaps also to intimidate.

From our island of tranquillity atop the Mount of Olives – home to the world's most important Jewish cemetery and where Jesus reportedly wept over – we hear the chanting of protesters downhill, the boom of sound bombs, and shots being fired.

Jerusalem, the , the Palestinian towns and villages in , as well as , are, once again, teetering on the edge of wide-scale revolt. Like the summer of 2014, no single day passes without numerous protests and clashes occurring across the increasingly isolated spaces and enclaves inhabited by the Palestinians.

This has revived the periodic speculation of whether the long-awaited third has arrived. The stone was the symbol of the first intifada, and the suicide belt of the second. If this is the third intifada, then it's symbol may become the knife or the car as a ramming weapon.

For me, the question of whether this counts as an intifada is far less significant than the type of uprising it evolves into – violent or peaceful.

Israeli attempts at firefighting are only causing the flames to burn harder. Harsher rules of engagement which are encouraging Israeli security forces to become more trigger-happy and the apparent extra-judicial killing of a number of suspected or alleged Palestinian attackers has only provoked further anger and fear.

Extremists on the right are, like pyromaniacs, dousing petrol on the fire by calling for ever-tougher, more violent Israeli action.

On the other side of the fence, a growing minority of Palestinian civilians are turning to violence, with numerous attempted and actual stabbing attacks against often random Israeli passers-by, which achieves nothing but provoking Israeli fury and fear.

This raises the question of why it is, despite the proven inefficacy of blood-letting for both sides, violence appears to be exercising an irresistible magnetic force, drawing the situation towards the precipice of war.

In my view, this is because violence, in a way, is the path of least resistance. For Israel, it is far easier to use an iron fist to deal with the symptoms rather than treat the disease itself: the decades-old occupation and the attendant injustices it metes out on the Palestinian population. “The real problem is that Israel has chosen occupation over peace,” jailed Palestinian leader wrote from his prison cell.

In addition, the fog of escalating is a good cover for ideological to drag the rest of Israeli society reluctantly towards completing the settlement enterprise and rendering impossible the dreams of Palestinian .

On the Palestinian side, the resort to violence seems to be fuelled largely by despair at the worsening situation, the accelerating loss of their lands and livelihoods, the repressive restrictions on their movements, the draconian martial law many of them live under. This is reflected in how all the attacks seem to be carried out by “lone wolves”.

There is also the lack of leadership and vision among Palestinian leaders, and their inability, partly due to Israeli restrictions, to mobilise wide-scale and sustained protest. Palestinians are also disillusioned by the lack of international support and the precious few fruits peaceful means – from negotiations to protest – seem to have borne.

If the world has ignored years of peaceful protest, Palestinian radicals claim, then violence is the only way to liberate Palestinians from occupation. But in the toss-up between the olive branch and the gun, it is peaceful agitation against the occupation which has delivered the most promising results, as demonstrated by the greater success of the first intifada compared with the second.


Follow Khaled Diab on Twitter.

This article first appeared in Dutch in De Morgen on 14 October 2015.


  • Khaled Diab

    Khaled Diab is an award-winning journalist, blogger and writer who has been based in Tunis, Jerusalem, Brussels, Geneva and Cairo. Khaled also gives talks and is regularly interviewed by the print and audiovisual media. Khaled Diab is the author of two books: Islam for the Politically Incorrect (2017) and Intimate Enemies: Living with Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land (2014). In 2014, the Anna Lindh Foundation awarded Khaled its Mediterranean Journalist Award in the press category. This website, The Chronikler, won the 2012 Best of the Blogs (BOBs) for the best English-language blog. Khaled was longlisted for the Orwell journalism prize in 2020. In addition, Khaled works as communications director for an environmental NGO based in Brussels. He has also worked as a communications consultant to intergovernmental organisations, such as the EU and the UN, as well as civil society. Khaled lives with his beautiful and brilliant wife, Katleen, who works in humanitarian aid. The foursome is completed by Iskander, their smart, creative and artistic son, and Sky, their mischievous and footballing cat. Egyptian by birth, Khaled's life has been divided between the Middle East and Europe. He grew up in Egypt and the UK, and has lived in Belgium, on and off, since 2001. He holds dual Egyptian-Belgian nationality.

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One thought on “Violence: The path of least resistance

  • Pakeha56

    Two very different conversations happening here.


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