Winning the mainstream: Arba Imahot, the four mothers movement in Israel

Tamar Hermann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


If one accepts the "rational" nature of adopting one form of resistance over another, it is understandable that groups might advocate nonviolent resistance but at the same time-under different conditions-support the right of self-defense through military means. This, indeed, was the case with Arba Imahot, the Israeli Four Mothers movement.1 Its members used nonviolent means to promote the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from south Lebanon and advocated moving from military to diplomatic means to achieve peace and stability in the area. Neither the founders of the movement nor its agenda, however, included antimilitaristic components or called for IDF soldiers to invoke conscientious objection to serving beyond the international border with Lebanon. The Four Mothers based their opposition to the IDF presence in Lebanon on its reading of the deployment as being first and foremost much too costly in terms of soldiers' lives as well as unhelpful, and even counterproductive, in safeguarding Israel's northern border and territory. The use of nonviolent means was primarily the result of a sober reading of available options. Israel's national ethos and the nature of its security challenges necessitated that the movement's strategy be nonviolent at its core, because otherwise its chances of catching on and gaining political influence would have been nil. In other words, under the circumstances, only a strong adherence to nonviolent means could bring the masses on board, generate positive coverage by the media, and create alliances with mainstream politicians who also supported withdrawal from Lebanon.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCivilian Jihad
Subtitle of host publicationNonviolent Struggle, Democratization, and Governance in the Middle East
EditorsMaria J Stephan
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780230101753
ISBN (Print)9780230621404
StatePublished - 7 Dec 2009

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2009 Maria J. Stephan.


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