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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

Trading Rockets for Resolutions: Restructuring Palestinian Resistance in the Context of International Legal and Political Dynamics

US policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict continues to negatively impact on relations between the Muslim world and the West. Improvement of relations depends on a profound shift in policy. This paper argues that norms and identity factors have the potential to reshape the interests and policies of even the world’s most powerful states. It is concerned with contemporary legal and political dynamics and how Muslims must respond if this change is to develop among Western powers. A restructuring of Palestinian resistance is critical in order to harness international support for the Palestinian cause, utilise the weight of international law, and generate external pressure on Israel to comply with the terms of a just peace.

A central factor in the failure to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict is the direct competition that exists between two fundamental international norms: ‘self-determination’, the central claim of the Palestinians, and ‘self-defence’, the overriding concern of Israelis. Palestinian violence against Israel is currently a liability for the Palestinian cause; it validates Israel’s self-defence arguments and ensures that the norm of self-defence continues to trump the norm of self-determination. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of all of the United Nations Security Council resolutions on the Israel-Palestine conflict and shows that they provide a normative framework for a just peace. The use of violence, however, has isolated the Palestinians from the legal authority available to them. Moreover, drawing on international polling data, this paper documents the extensive global support for the Palestinian cause. It explains how on this front too Palestinian violence has offset the potential gains from this support.

Although nonviolence has the capacity to undermine Israel’s self- defence arguments and generate external pressure on Israel to adhere to the terms of a just peace, it has been under-appreciated by Islamist Palestinian groups. Nonviolence is far from having a normative status in the Muslim world as an Islamically legitimate response to occupation and it is yet to be conceptualised as an effective form of resistance. The Muslim conception of jihad needs to be reformulated in accordance with the realities and opportunities confronting the Palestinians while upholding Islamic principles. This paper analyses the Quranic verses on war and peace using the increasingly prominent methods of contextualisation and a maqasid or objective-oriented approach. It demonstrates the Islamic legitimacy of non-violent resistance, its implications for achieving a just peace, and in turn, the prospect of more harmonious relations between Islam and the West.


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