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Bahbah: Is Violence an Effective Tool to Reshape the Outcome of Conflicts?

posted on: Nov 15, 2023

Bahbah: Is Violence an Effective Tool to Reshape the Outcome of Conflicts?
Man in Gaza. Credit: Wiki Commons.

By: Bishara A. Bahbah / Arab America Featured Columnist

Historically, the use of force among warring parties has led, in several notable instances, to resolving those conflicts. The United States’ entry into World War II in support of the Allies, for example, led to the defeat of the Nazis in Europe and Japan in the Far East, hence ending the war.

Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7 has led to placing the Palestine issue at the forefront of critical issues facing the world. Suddenly, with every bloody day of war in Gaza, the world is becoming anxious to find a resolution. 

The initial sympathy that Israel garnered following Hamas’ October 7 attack has quickly dissipated. At present, 95 percent of demonstrations in 92 identified countries have been in support of the Palestinians and have called for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire.

Had it not been for Hamas’ use of violence on October 7th, would the United States President be earnestly calling upon nations to work toward a two-state solution? 

In a speech on October 25, U.S. President Joe Biden called for a “concentrated effort” on the part of world leaders to work toward a two-state solution once the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas comes to an end. 

This urgent call came 18 days following Hamas’ surprise and massive attack on Israel that led to the killing of 846 Israeli civilians and 322 military and police personnel and the capture of 240 hostages. 

Bahbah: Is Violence an Effective Tool to Reshape the Outcome of Conflicts?
Children in Gaza. Credit: Wiki Commons.

By comparison, since October 7, Israel has killed 1 out of 200 residents in Gaza and destroyed 45 percent of all of Gaza’s residential units. 

Israel’s massive attack on Gaza from land, sea, and air resulted in the killing of over 11,180 Palestinians – 4609 children and 6571 adults and the wounding of over 28,000 civilians. Additionally, Israel imposed a total siege on Gaza, preventing the entry of food, medicine, and other necessities, especially fuel, which is critical for the operation of electrical generators to run, at the very least, the hospitals. Israel forced the displacement of more than half of Gaza’s population from North to Southern Gaza. It justified its attacks on hospitals in Gaza by claiming that Hamas was hiding its command centers under those hospitals.

In October of 2022, during a visit with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, President Biden said that the United States would not give up on the goal of a just settlement to the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. However, he added that the “ground is not right at this moment to restart the negotiations …” 

Biden noted, “Even if the ground is not right at this moment to restart negotiations, the United States and my administration will not give up on trying to bring the Palestinians, Israelis … closer together.”

Unlike U.S. presidents before him, Biden has held off on launching U.S.-mediated negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians at the beginning of his administration. Instead, he has focused on a strategy of managing the conflict by supporting security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and by unfreezing U.S. aid, which the previous Trump administration cut off.

Bahbah: Is Violence an Effective Tool to Reshape the Outcome of Conflicts?
Woman in distress in Gaza. Credit: Wiki Commons.

Shoving the resolution of the most prolonged occupation in modern history under the rug is never an acceptable solution, especially for those who have been wronged: the Palestinians. 

In the absence of hope for a better future that includes an independent and sovereign state, Palestinians have resorted to violence multiple times to force change and end Israel’s occupation.  

The first Palestinian intifada erupted in December 1987. It ended in September 1993 with the signing of the Oslo Accords. This diplomatic agreement gave the Palestinians hope that they would one day achieve independence within five years.

The second intifada erupted following the failure to implement the Oslo Accords within the agreed-upon time framework. The intifada was sparked by then-candidate for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The second intifada died down when Israel and the PLO agreed to hold presidential and legislature elections to elect the PA’s president and members of the Palestinian legislature. 

The first and second intifadas demonstrated that violence ended only when Palestinians were given hope for a better future. In the current war between Hamas and Israel and given the large number of casualties and destruction the fighting has caused, if the outcome does not include an independent, sovereign Palestinian state, then it will be a matter of time before a more significant and more ruthless Hamas-style attack will occur. The drums of war will grow louder.

For now, there needs to be an immediate ceasefire and a peace conference that would address, with the help of many interested parties, the demands of the Palestinians for an independent state, the clear demarcation of Israeli territory, and a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine.  A Palestinian state would be established under one military and political umbrella – the PLO. Hamas would be allowed to become a political party, and Palestinian authorities would collect all weapons in the hands of Palestinian civilians.

After 75 years of the Nakba – the 1948 expulsion of over 750,00 Palestinians from their lands and the simultaneous establishment of Israel – and more than 55 years of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, Palestinians can no longer wait for their freedom. 

Bahbah: Is Violence an Effective Tool to Reshape the Outcome of Conflicts?
Sign saying “End the Genocide.” Credit: Wiki Commons.

Whether we approve of it or not, violence or the use of force has been an incredible instrument to instill change. Wide-scale violence against Israel’s occupation has become more frequent. There was the first intifada of 1987, the second intifada of 2000, and the four wars between Hamas and Gaza, including the ongoing war. 

Israel does not seem to understand the concept that it cannot occupy Palestinian lands forever. Israel does not seem to realize that, given the number of Palestinians and Jews living in historic Palestine, it has become an apartheid state. Israel does not seem to recognize that the savagery of its troops is being seen on live television and through social media outlets throughout the world.

The United States is the only power that can effectively put pressure on Israel to agree to a final peace agreement with Israel that includes the two-state solution. More than 500 U.S. officials – political appointees and staff members representing 40 agencies – have signed a letter addressed to President Biden to protest his support of Israel and to urge the president to seek an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. With this mounting pressure from within the U.S. government and governments worldwide, Biden will eventually relent and force Israel to agree to a ceasefire. 

In short, violence has been an effective instrument in the Palestinians fight against Israel’s occupation. If Palestinians do not resort to violence, it appears that Israel will remain forever comfortable as an occupying power of Palestinian lands.

About the Author: Dr. Bishara Bahbah is a senior fellow and distinguished columnist at He taught at Harvard University, where he served as the associate director of its Middle East Institute. He was the past vice president of the U.S. Palestine Council and negotiator in the Middle East peace talks.

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