The Ethics of Resistance

Strip a people of all freedoms. Take their land, kill their children and their loved ones, control their livelihoods, and prevent free movement. Strip them of their humanity. Occupy them. Deprive them of any form of justice. Do not, by any means, hold their aggressors accountable for their aggressions. Acknowledge the aggressor. Support the aggressor. Celebrate the aggressor. Do this for 66 years.

Then dictate to the occupied people the ethics of resistance.

Better yet, give them a list of the forms of resistance that are not allowed. Label those forms as terrorism. Do not tell them what you might consider to be “acceptable” resistance. Imply that non-violent compliance in the face of the complete annihilation of their civilization is the only form of resistance acceptable.

Tell them they must negotiate with the aggressor. Tell them they must accept all the conditions of their aggressor and cannot make conditions of their own. Tell them their people will not have the right to return but give every person in the world who belongs to the same religion of the aggressor the right to citizenship in the newly formed country.

Go to the movies. Cheer along as Hollywood glorifies American resistance fighters as they combat alien invaders, apes, and sometimes other humans. Then come home, turn on the television, and listen to American commentators and analysts deny the aforementioned occupied peoples, living under the worst conditions known to the human race, their right to resist.

Terrorize anyone who shows support to the occupied people. Label them. Demonize them. Threaten them. Call them terrorists and terrorist supporters.

Let’s you and I, sitting safely in our homes cuddling our children happily in our laps, discuss the ethics of resistance.

And let us not mention, once, the “ethics” of aggression and occupation.



  1. Thank you for writing this. I live in a comfortable American city and being white, am pretty safe from state-sanctioned privations and violence.

    I try to get international news from non-US sources, but US news is of course everywhere. Every resistance group I learn about, every people living under some kind of occupation, seems to be labeled (more and more immediately as years pass) “insurgents”, “rebels”, or “terrorists.” It is hard for me to find the line between opportunistic mercenaries and good people fighting for their children or home or country. What would I do to defend my family?

    It has not been politic here to support Palestine (although I think this could be changing) – riskier to sympathize with those living in Syria, the Ukraine, or Afghanistan who have taken up arms. But it’s easy to judge from here, where we talk about “why” X invaded/interfered with Y as though that would make a difference to a family in Y confronted one day by armed foreigners or their local agents.

    Thank you for putting forward the idea of occupier “ethics” as the obvious topic. It reminds me of Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer” – we ask for victory, not realizing we are asking for hunger, maiming, orphans. When we salute assimilation and annexation, what are we asking for? The lives and identities of strangers not unlike ourselves?

  2. Thought provoking! These are certainly complex situations: Palestine/Israel, Sunni/Shitte/Kurds in Iraq,Muslim Brotherhood/ Mubarak in Egypt. I feel that violence only begets violence in racial/ethnic/religious tensions, but I see your point (our own revolution was a bloody one).

  3. A great post. Do you know of any good Palestinian bloggers? I have been specifically thinking about you recently in light of what is happening in Gaza, and about how valuable your 2012 coverage of the Egyptian elections was to me in understanding the dynamics of that election and why Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood won. If I had just read U.S. news sources, I would have probably come away with the caricature that “See, Muslims always vote for terrorists or fundamentalists.” Anyway, I’m looking for another independent voice, only in Gaza this time, to help me understand what is really going on there.

      1. Hi Nadia, Thank you for checking. I will check out all three. I actually found a couple myself since I posted. The first is a blog by an American woman who graduated from Stanford, then worked for a Palestinian newspaper in Gaza for two years. She is back in the U.S., but there is a lot of insightful analysis on her blog. Specifically, her post titled, “Where did Zionism go wrong?,” another titled, “A Brief History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” and a third on “Why did Hamas win the elections in 2006?” She also posts a lot on facebook. She recommended the second source to me (below) when I contacted her via email.

        “Where did Zionism go wrong?”

        “A Brief History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”

        “Why did Hamas win the 2006 Elections?”

        Second source:


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