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The Non-Violence Alternative
Last uploaded : Saturday 14th Jun 2003 at 22:40
Contributed by : Noah Salameh


Noah Salameh
The Non-Violence Alternative

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 wherever possible.

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 circumstances.

Noah Salameh is the Director of the Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (WIFAQ) in Bethlehem.

JewishComment is grateful to Common Ground News Service for copyright clearances.




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