Palestinian non-violent Resistance?
A few days ago I joined an online Anti-Israeli group. My purpose in joining this group was to frankly try to understand what is the point of view of someone who is anti-Israel. Instead of just joining Pro-Israeli groups, I decided that I would try to understand and talk to people who sincerely believe Israel is wrong in fighting the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorists.
Although most of the posts are anti-Semitic and just a flow of hate against Israelis and Jews, there was one post that deserves recognition. It basically speaks of Palestinian non-violent resistance and touches on the heart of Israel's current response to Palestinian terrorism:
"When the issue is the existence of the state of Israel itself, Israelis and their supporters abroad will present a united front and fight with no regard to cost and the number of casualties"
"Some may argue that the goal of armed resistance is not to destroy Israel, but to end the occupation, but that is unconvincing to Israelis, particularly when non-military Israelis are being killed and wounded, and when military activities spill over into Israel itself. In contrast, a non-violent struggle cannot be misunderstood as a physical threat to Israel."
For the full article and my response, see below.
From: Michelle Galin [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, May 10, 2002 12:04 AM
Subject: Politics & Palestine
Jonathan Kuttab and Mubarak Awad
(Jonathan Kuttab is a Palestinian human rights lawyer and peace activist.
Mubarak Awad is director of Nonviolence International).
Overview: The Palestinian people have a genuine chance to achieve their
national goals, in spite of the enormous gap between them and their foes, if
they pursue a conscious, organised strategy of non-violent resistance to the
occupation on a massive scale. Such a strategy would provide a role for the
entire Palestinian people, both inside and outside of Palestine, and would
include the Arab world, the international community, and even genuinely
peace-loving Israelis. It would focus the energies of the entire nation and
move the struggle into an arena that maximises our natural advantages and
neutralises much of the power of our opponents.
For this strategy to succeed, it must be adopted on a massive scale by large
segments of the Palestinian population and by the Palestinian National
Authority (PNA) itself. It must involve a strategic, long-term commitment
and not simply be symbolic or episodic in character. To achieve this
commitment, we need broad public discussions involving unions, students,
civil society institutions, and the local Palestinian media. Political
discussion within the community must be revived so that participation is
universal and everyone has a voice and is included.
To this end, we must call for immediate national elections, even if it means
that Hamas and other extremist groups win many votes. The armed factions
must be transformed into political parties, and a new Palestinian Social
Democratic party must be established to provide a political home for those
who are dissatisfied with the current factions. Elections have to be planned
and carried out regularly, instead of being one-time affairs as in the past.
If the Israeli authorities try to block such elections, the elections
themselves will become a battlefield for the non-violent struggle as the
Palestinian's peaceful struggle for democracy, is pitted against the might
of the occupation's war machine.
International Support: The role of the Arab and Muslim worlds is crucial.
Non-violence, in the form of boycotts, protests, and diplomatic pressure,
must be applied to translate their support into concrete pressure on Israel.
Fiery speeches and futile threats of war against Israel are
counterproductive. A principled campaign of non-violent support, however,
will bear results.
The international community, especially churches, should be enlisted in the
struggle, focusing on the settlements and the occupation. The Palestinian
cause is just and is based on morality and international law. Every
opportunity should be taken to frame the question in these terms and to
challenge the illegal nature of the occupation. The past year has yielded
numerous instances of war crimes for which Israel and specific commanders
should be held accountable before war crimes tribunals. We must insist that
the UN take action on these issues.
Those who support occupation and its crimes must be shamed and challenged
everywhere. This creates a world-wide arena for a non-violent struggle based
on morality and international law. South Africa's apartheid regime faced
such a fight and ultimately collapsed. Israel is highly dependent on the rest of the world, particularly Europe and the
United States, and cannot afford to ignore these voices. Massive boycotts of
Israeli products and services, as well as cultural, sports, educational, and
diplomatic activities, should be conducted. These protests must be linked to
specific individuals or to specific policies. Each activity or event can
become a focus for protest and a pressure point. Broad general boycotts that
oppose all Israelis are unfair and unworkable.
Such a campaign would set the struggle in its proper context and enlist the
participation of people of goodwill all over the world, including many Jews
and others who would support Israel when a victim of violence, but contest its
oppression of Palestinians and its occupation and settlement policies.
Obstacles to a Non-violent Approach: One problem with convincing
Palestinians to adopt non-violence is the "Hezbollah argument." Under
Hezbollah, the Lebanese resistance successfully ended the Israeli occupation
of southern Lebanon by armed resistance, which made the continued occupation
too costly for Israel. Hezbollah's satellite television channel Al Manar
constantly reminds Palestinians of this success and urges them to follow
Hezbollah's example. However, the Israelis never considered south Lebanon
part of Israel and they did not settle it. For them, the occupation of south
Lebanon could easily be abandoned once the cost in lives was too great and
outweighed the military benefits of its continuation. On the other hand, the
Palestinian armed struggle is often interpreted as a threat against Israel
itself, not only its occupation and settlements.
When the issue is the existence of the state of Israel itself, Israelis and
their supporters abroad will present a united front and fight with no regard
to cost and the number of casualties. However, if the issues are the
settlements and the occupation, more than half of the Israeli population may
be flexible. Only 30 percent of all settlers are ideologically motivated.
The other 70 percent are attracted to the financial advantages of
Some may argue that the goal of armed resistance is not to destroy Israel,
but to end the occupation, but that is unconvincing to Israelis,
particularly when non-military Israelis are being killed and wounded, and when
military activities spill over into Israel itself. In contrast, a
non-violent struggle cannot be misunderstood as a physical threat to Israel.
Large masses of Israelis who truly yearn for a just peace will join in
a non-violent struggle against occupation and settlements.
It must be understood that Palestinians would ultimately choose non-violence
as a practical and useful tool to fight occupation and not in order to
appease Israeli liberals or the United States. Although Palestinian armed
struggle against the occupation is both morally and legally legitimate, it
is ineffective, futile, and counterproductive. If Palestinians choose
non-violence, it would only be because they are convinced that it can
achieve results. It must be engaged in as a serious, militant, and difficult
choice in favor of resistance and struggle. We will never submit to occupation and surrender is not an option for us.
In an armed struggle, the Israelis have overwhelming military superiority and would restrict the battle to the military arena, far away from the limits imposed by law, morality, and principles. The Israelis know how to fight against an armed antagonist, but have no understanding of how to deal with non-violent resistance. They expect, and need, the Palestinians to be either submissive or violent. A non-violent approach would neutralise Israel's military might.
In the early 1980s, Mubarak Awad was able to convince many Palestinians as
well as other Arabs and Muslims that non-violence can work and that it is
more powerful than any other weapon we have. Because of his work, the
Israelis considered him dangerous and he was arrested and subsequently
deported. Nonetheless, there continues to be a great interest in
non-violence. What is lacking is an overall strategy and commitment to do it
on a massive scale. People are still trapped in the rhetoric of armed
struggle, and many, especially abroad, applaud the armed struggle from afar
whereas they could be actively engaged in non-violent struggle and take
responsibility for the future.
Jonathan Kuttab is a Palestinian human rights lawyer and peace activist.
Mubarak Awad is director of Nonviolence International. The above text may be
used without permission but with proper attribution to the author and to the
Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine.
Here's my response:
From: David Melle [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, May 10, 2002 8:42 AM
Subject: Stop Palestinian terror, and you'll get a State
>When the issue is the existence of the state of Israel itself, Israelis and
>their supporters abroad will present a united front and fight with no regard
>to cost and the number of casualties.
This is the first time I see a call for non-violent resistance by a Palestinian. I applaud it with all my might! In fact, I would even support it, and you would probably see me in demonstrations in favor of a Palestinian State in Gaza and the West Bank.
>Some may argue that the goal of armed resistance is not to destroy Israel,
>but to end the occupation, but that is unconvincing to Israelis,
>particularly when non-military Israelis are being killed and wounded, and when
>military activities spill over into Israel itself. In contrast, a
>non-violent struggle cannot be misunderstood as a physical threat to Israel.
>Large masses of Israelis who truly yearn for a just peace will join in
>a non-violent struggle against occupation and settlements.
That is also right on! I currently oppose the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and many other Palestinian terrorist groups. They kill as many unarmed Israeli civilians as possible, and their ultimate goal is a Palestinian State not alongside Israel, but instead of Israel.
If it was about ending Israel’s military presence in the West Bank and Gaza, and for the creation of a Palestinian State alongside Israel with peace for Israelis and Palestinians – you have my total support!
Michelle, thanks for posting this. The idea that some Palestinians do not wish to use terrorism to achieve their political goals made my day: it gives me hope that someday there will be Peace in the Middle East.
That said, this is simply an article, and is not the reality on the ground today. The reality is the systematic killing of innocent unarmed Israeli civilians by the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian terrorists. The reality, as Mr.Kuttab and Mr. Awad pointed out is that Israelis fear that the above Palestinian terrorist groups wish for its destruction, not peace.
For a list of victims and their stories, see:
Posted by David Melle
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