It had been more than three years since the last terrorist bombing targeting civilians in Israel — until a blast caused by an explosive pipe placed next to a telephone pole near the bus station in central Jerusalem on March 23 ended that period of relative quiet. Suddenly, the familiar images appeared across our screens, of shattered streets, frantic rescue efforts, harsh denunciations. And the familiar sorrow of lives lost and irreparably injured.
But the Middle East has changed dramatically during those three years, something that seems to have escaped the cowards who hold onto the discredited belief that bombing civilians in the heart of a cherished city will serve their cause. How can they ignore the obvious? Besides being morally wrong, this sort of terrorism simply does not work.
As of this writing, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack that has killed one and wounded at least 30, but whoever the culprits, they clearly have willfully ignored the powerful lessons from elsewhere in the region. First in Tunisia, then in Egypt, nonviolent uprisings drove despotic leaders from office.
The efficacy of peaceful protest is not wishful thinking but historical fact. A major study published in 2008 comparing the outcomes of hundreds of violent insurgencies with those of major nonviolent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006 found that 53% of the nonviolent movements succeeded, compared with only 26% of the violent insurgencies.
Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth, who conducted the study, reason that nonviolent movements are more effective because they are broad-based and enjoy more domestic and international legitimacy, in part because they are perceived to be less extreme. Violent reactions to peaceful protest, meantime, can backfire, as former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak learned the hard way.
The Palestinian people deserve their own, viable state. But 40 years of terrorism hasn’t brought them any closer, and the uprisings of 2011 only reinforce that message.