Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance Has Strong Roots

January 28, 2010

Remarks made by Bono , New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof and President Barack Obama stating they hoped Palestinians would find their Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) or Gandhi completely ignore Palestinian nonviolent resistance to brutal oppression.

The presumption that the Palestinian struggle is mainly violent is disturbing. And the dismissal of the people who have sacrificed time, money and even their lives to fight injustice with nonviolence is callous.

Although Palestinian nonviolent resistance dates back to the early 1900’s, the image of armed and violent Palestinians still prevails.   In the 1970’s and 80’s, Palestinian refugees from camps in foreign countries, seeing no resolution after decades of displacement, chose armed struggle and  more recent suicide bombings in Israel  reinforced the perception.

Several factors have hindered a single, iconic figure from emerging or a cohesive civil disobedience movement from blooming despite its continued use by different sectors of Palestinian society.

Israeli policies are repressive and brutal.  The use of live ammunition, beatings, destruction of property,  rejection of building permits, constant threats, repeated administrative detentions and the escalation in arrests is discouraging and has been effectively obstructive.

Nongovernmental delegations, employees and individuals who are perceived as critical of Israel or sympathetic to Palestinians are increasingly denied entry or proper work permits for the Occupied Territories.

Sami Awad, Coordinator for the Holy Land Trust, a not-for-profit community support organization committed to nonviolence and the teachings of MLK and Gandhi, aptly points out, “Nonviolence is not something that happens overnight.  It’s not a means to end the conflict tomorrow. It’s something that evolves over long periods of time.”

Complicit too is the media’s noncoverage of nonviolent direct actions and damaging comments by someone of Bono’s stature that completely ignores the vital nonviolent struggle and committed activists.

Palestinian leaders like Ghassan Andoni, Mustapha BarghoutiJamal Juma’, Abdallah Abu Rahme, Mohammed Othman and Jean Zaru , among others, continue to speak publicly and organize direct actions to nonviolently protest injustices.

Israeli and Jewish activists join Palestinian initiatives regularly.  Neta Golan, Jeff Halper, Rabbi Erik Ascherman and Ezra Nawi are just a few.  “Internationals” from other countries also participate, facing beatings, arrest, bullets, teargas and even death from Israeli forces.

Many Palestinians have been killed while taking part in nonviolent protests including Basem Abu Rahme who was killed during a protest in Bil’in.  Internationals have also been killed, including Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall.  Tristan Anderson, an American, lies in a coma after being shot with a teargas canister.

Navigating children through militarized checkpoints, attempting to harvest crops while being attacked by Israeli settlers and living in a tent near the home recently taken over by settlers are all forms of  nonviolence resistance or as the Palestinians call it “sumoud” or “steadfastness”.

Bono, Kristof and President Obama should not discount the millions of Palestinians who are struggling against daily obstacles peacefully.  Nonviolence resistance in addition to protests includes blogging, boycotts, and creating youtube videos.

It would benefit Bono, Kristof and President Obama to take the time to learn about Palestinian history and meet some of the living Palestinian and Israeli Gandhi’s, MLK’s and Aung San Suu Kyi’s active today.