Nonviolence, BDS, and the Dream of Beloved Community in Palestine/Israel

As a lifelong feminist practitioner of the Torah of nonviolence, I am drawn to respond to the question of what’s next in Israel/Palestine through the hermeneutics of nonviolence, which I believe is a fruitful way out of the one-state/two-state conundrum.

A painting of children in front of the Israeli West Bank separation wall.

"Nonviolence demands that we pressure Israel to stop prosecuting Palestinian children in military courts and agitate for an end to the criminalization of children of color in the United States," Gottlieb writes. {title}Jerusalem, 2014{/title} by Nabil Anani. Credit: Nabil Anani ({link url=""}{/link}}.)

The practice of nonviolence is a path toward the future. We learn from people on the front lines of systemic violence that “don’t speak about us without us” is a core principle of nonviolence solidarity, and so I begin with words from a poem titled “Running Orders” that Lena Khalaf Tuffaha wrote after the massacre of Gaza last summer.


They call us now.

Before they drop the bombs.

The phone rings

and someone who knows my first name

calls and says in perfect Arabic

“This is David.”

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

They call us now to say


You have 58 seconds from the end of this message.

Your house is next.

They think of it as some kind of

war time courtesy.

It doesn’t matter that

there is nowhere to run to.

It means nothing that the borders are closed

and your papers are worthless

and mark you only for a life sentence

in this prison by the sea

and the alleyways are narrow

and there are more human lives

packed one against the other

more than any other place on earth

Just run.

.  .  .  .  .


One state or two, here or there, let us mourn the dead, recite the names of the slain, theirs and ours together, until it feels the same. Mourning together points us in the direction of convivencia(living well together), which is the framework for the future. It helps us address our trauma and fear.

One state or two, here or there, rebuilding has to happen now. Gaza lies in ruins. Entire cities were destroyed. What is true for Gaza is true throughout Israel/Palestine, each habitation with its own story, needs, and strategies of beautiful resistance. The physical restoration of the landscape of cities, villages, farms, fields, and cultural sites of Palestine is paramount.

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