The Non-Violence Alternative
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Noah Salameh, Common Ground News
Service, 9 June 2003
An Arab proverb states, "For every situation, there is a
statement," while another says, "For every incident there is a dialogue, and
every government has its men and governance." A great deal has been said
about resorting to different means in different situations, but many Arabs
only recognize Arab wisdom after it is too late. History has taught us that
historical parties and leadership, and those in charge of public affairs,
review the nation’s strategy only when they realize that a new era has
arisen. Politicians refer to this as "evaluating the political phase and
deriving lessons from events."
Today, the Palestinian people need more than ever to stop and
evaluate the course and strategy of the Palestinian national struggle, with
all its political, military, organizational, and intellectual dimensions.
Evaluating the course provides an opportunity to crystallize a new strategy,
new methods, and new ideas commensurate with the features and facts of the
new stage, current international equilibriums, and other yardsticks.
Among the most important reasons for an evaluation of the Palestinian
national course is the harsh condition in which the Palestinian citizen
survives, which causes frustration and a lack of confidence in the political
actions and activities surrounding him, as well as suspicion of all
diplomatic schemes and proposals - whether they are called the "road map,"
"Burns Plan," or something else. Such plans will never have meaning for the
normal citizen unless they are coupled with improvements in his living
conditions and respect by all parties for his humanity.
Raising this issue should not result in further frustration or in surrender
to this sad reality, but it should motivate officials to search wisely and
courageously for areas of failure and success, and for what can be done to
bypass mistakes and correct them. It is essential to address the common
citizen candidly and honestly. The Palestinian citizen has the right to know
what his leadership and elected representatives have in mind in terms of
ideas, plans, and concepts that deal with his present situation and his
future. The citizen has the right to participate in crystallizing these
ideas and plans, and to participate in implementing and supporting them
The time has come to think about a new strategy after two years of armed
conflict and violent struggle that has left many casualties and losses, a
new strategy that employs weapons of non-violent resistance and that enjoys
popularity and local, regional and international recognition. This type of
resistance will deprive Sharon and his government of the excuses they use to
conceal violence by the military against the Palestinian people. Non-violent
resistance gains additional importance in light of the imbalance in military
power between the Palestinian people and the Israeli army. Non-violent
direct action works at neutralizing military methods and exposes the
brutality of these methods. At the same time, the weak party has the
opportunity to use more moral and effective methods of resistance, which
give more weight to his cause.
It is clear from the Palestinian-Israeli struggle that the "material"
balance of power, whether military or economic, tips in favor of the Israeli
occupation, which owns tanks, airplanes, and various kinds of weaponry, and
is supported by a comparatively strong economy. In return, Palestinians can
gain a great deal of moral support because they are subjected to an
occupation that violates international humanitarian law. The practices of
the occupation forces cannot be morally defended, and they stand impotent
and without justification before the world. Exposing these practices reveals
the ugliness of this occupation to the world, and even to an important
segment of the Israeli public.
Freedom, independence, equality, respect for human rights, ending house
demolitions, and group punishment are all within the core of world moral
values. Non-violent resistance provides the opportunity to activate and
consolidate this moral and ethical power for the Palestinians. Non-violent
resistance also places on both sides of the conflict two conflicting civil
situations. Although we resist a strong military well-armed with tools of
death and destruction, and a great ability to inflict harm, we need to
maintain the civilized character of our nation and our just cause by
maintaining the dignity of the individual, respecting his humanity
regardless of nationality, religion, creed, race, power, or how much money
he has. It is a struggle of positive values - represented by non-violence,
love of people, and respect of the human being - that achieves justice among
people and promotes human rights.
Whoever believes in justice, peace, love, and freedom cannot persecute
people, threaten their security, or occupy another nation. Non-violent
resistance can achieve more effective results in a more open world with
advanced communication tools. The world is now comparatively more aware of
what is happening in Palestine, the nature of our life under occupation, and
the practices used by the occupation army. We now hear more voices calling
for the non-violence alternative in Palestine. These voices are enhanced by
this type of struggle, in its various forms, and this growing chorus will
contribute to creating a popular non-violent movement that provides the
opportunity for all segments of the Palestinian populace to participate in
resisting occupation and to excel in this resistance.
Non-violent resistance has different mechanisms and methods refined by human
experiences that refused to succumb to oppression. The Palestinian struggle
is one of these experiences. We must refuse to submit to the orders of the
occupation forces, and we must consolidate our efforts among various social,
spiritual, and institutional forces to form a broad, united movement that
employs a resistance methodology that embarrasses the occupation and exposes
its practices. Non-violent resistance will force the occupation to look into
the mirror and see how it endangers both nations in terms of the destruction
of the human factor and moral values.
The time has come to crystallize and enhance a Palestinian national strategy
consistent with our human values and with current international
Noah Salameh is the Director of the Center for Conflict
Resolution and Reconciliation (WIFAQ) in Bethlehem.
From the Common Ground News Service