Resisting the Tool of Control
An Interview with Ghassan Andoni
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bitterlemons: You recently said at a lecture that "you can't
build a mass movement with the current level of violence." What did you mean
by that and do you think that it still holds true?
Andoni: I think that it is extremely difficult to accommodate civilian mass
resistance with a high level of military clashes and violence because it
affects dramatically the level of risk people are required to take by just
stepping into the streets into a massive civil-based movement. But people
who want to engage in the struggle against the occupation cannot just wait
for things to be suitable for them and by the book.
bitterlemons: Would you call yourself a supporter of non-violent resistance
Andoni: From the start of this crisis, we have been organizing campaigns
including Palestinians and internationals in which we tried to remove
roadblocks, defy checkpoints, demonstrate in occupied areas and reach
families there. We have been engaged in front of tanks to prevent them from
moving. We have been doing protection work by providing human shields for
people who are threatened and constantly bombarded. We have people who are
now living in homes that are scheduled for demolition by the Israeli army.
We try to protect the homes and prevent punishment for the families and try
to go with farmers to their fields when it is really risky and dangerous to
bitterlemons: Why do you feel that these kinds of activities are important?
Andoni: We need to find a way for the Palestinian masses to join in, in an
active way -- not only in remaining steadfast throughout the hardship. We
think that having internationals with us will provide a better platform to
defy the occupation and to report the truth of what is happening here and to
urge the international community to think more about the need to protect
Palestinians when brutal war is being waged against them.
We also believe that civil-based resistance can indeed be effective in terms
of cracking down on the tools of occupation, mainly the tool of control. We
believe that if we grow more massive we can really affect this huge network
of roadblocks and checkpoints and force the occupation to rethink its
policies in the Palestinian occupied territories.
bitterlemons: Does that mean that you do not think that armed resistance is
Andoni: No, we state clearly that Palestinians have the full right to resist
the occupation with means that they think are suitable. We as the
Palestinian Solidarity Movement have decided, however, that our tool for
resisting the occupation is non-violence.
bitterlemons: How might Israel practice non-violence?
Andoni: Occupation alone is a violent action that touches the lives of
everybody who is under the control of the occupier. Recently, I think that
the occupation has taken on a new form and now includes direct killing of
people, creating war zones and bombarding Palestinian areas. There is no
question, however, that the occupation is violent in using all its of its
force to crack down on the will of Palestinians to be free and independent.
bitterlemons: What was your impression of the Common Ground poll that
questions Israelis and Palestinians on their approaches to non-violent
Andoni: On the Palestinian side, I think that Palestinians stated clearly
that we are willing to do whatever it takes to get out of this mess. There
is a large majority that supports non-violence, but that same majority
supports violence as well. That is my interpretation of the results.
On the Israeli side, I think that most of the questions asked were
irrelevant. In my understanding, if we are to arrive at peace in this area,
we must have an active Palestinian resistance and an active Israeli anti-war
and anti-occupation movement. This is the shortest way to conclude this
conflict in a peaceful solution.
Therefore, on the Israeli side, I did not see questions such as, "Do you
support Palestinian non-violent resistance?" as relevant. The relevant
question is, "Would you be engaged in non-violent direct action against your
government's atrocities and violence in the occupied territories?" That is
what I want to see the poll results for.
bitterlemons: You sometimes stage joint demonstrations with Israeli
left-wing groups. How would you evaluate that experience?
Andoni: I am interested in trying to attract as many Israelis as possible to
join in efforts towards ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian
territories. I consider this important and it has been important in all of
the different historic examples where people were fighting against an
occupier to liberate themselves on their land.
Secondly, in principle, we are willing to work with Israeli groups who are
willing to join active civil-based resistance against the Israeli
occupation. In particular, the invitation to the Israeli groups must come
from the Palestinian community in which the activity is happening. By doing
things this way, we give priority to Palestinian unity over Israeli
Now, this is sometimes problematic because some Israeli groups feel that
they are not adequately included in the planning period. But we think our
policy in this regard is right.
bitterlemons: How has the Israeli army responded to your joint activities?
Andoni: Evidently, the presence of Israelis and internationals can defuse
the ability of the Israeli army to use greater force against protestors and
make soldiers think twice before starting to shoot or use force.
But this is not always the case. We have instances where Palestinians and
internationals and sometimes Israelis have been shot at or injured and
treated brutally by the Israeli army. Soon, we will start a campaign of
olive picking, in which Palestinians and internationals and maybe some
Israeli groups will join villagers as they work on olive groves that are
close to settlements and in dangerous areas. In encounters with settlers, we
will have to see how much "protection" internationals and Israelis can
Ghassan Andoni is one of the founders of the International
Solidarity Movement. Source:
www.bitterlemons.org, October 7, 2002
Distributed by Common Ground News Service
Copyright permission has been obtained for publication.