Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Non-Violence in Palestine:
Timing and Intentions
By Ramzy Baroud
ccun.org, April 18, 2009
When one speaks of or advocates non-violence, does he promote
such an idea because he believes that historically it has been a more
effective means of liberation, or is it purely because he thinks that it is
a more self-respecting means of struggle?
In recent history,
many advocates of non-violence have been celebrated as modern day icons.
From Ghandi to King, songs are written in their honor, their life stories
fill the pages of our children’s history volumes as noble examples of which
everyone must aspire to emulate. Holidays are instituted in their honor and
around the world; streets and boulevards carry their namesake.
Why is it that the “establishment” goes to such great lengths to lift up
these individuals? Where are the holidays commemorating the life and
sacrifices of Malcolm X, where are the stories of Crazy Horse or Geronimo?
Could it be possible that these figures remain in the shadows of pacifists
because their ideals shook up the status quo just a little too much? When
the “establishment” celebrates individuals for their non-violence, could
that be another way of recognizing them for making just enough commotion,
but not too much commotion?
For decades, the Palestinian struggle
for freedom was largely a non-violent movement. With occasional pockets of
armed resistance, Palestinians in the occupied territories employed methods
of general strikes, demonstrations and the like to express their demands and
desires to finally live in freedom. And yet these were the years where
Palestinians saw that great majority of their homeland swallowed up into
what is now the State of Israel. Land was stolen with no recompense to its
owners, prisons burst at the seams with prisoners who never received a
trial, houses demolished by the hundreds, entire orchards of olive and fruit
trees ransacked and burned. All this was carried out in the confines of an
“Intifada-free” society. So, it might be suggested that Palestinians
gave non-violent resistance more than a fair shot.
It seems that
there is an ongoing trend among many in the “establishment” to celebrate
those broken and oppressed refugees who in spite of more than sixty years of
bondage call for non-violence or passive resistance. While the intention is
in itself honorable, one must question the timing.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released a report entitled: “UN:
70% of Palestinian youth oppose violence to resolve conflict with Israel”.
The report addressed a survey conducted in the occupied territories that
interviewed 1200 youth in the West Bank and Gaza. The survey found that
nearly 70 percent of young adults in the occupied territories do believe
that the use of violence is “not helpful” to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict. The report stated that only 8 percent found violence a necessary
tool, and it also found that 80 percent of young Palestinians are depressed,
55 percent being “extremely depressed”.
In recent months,
Palestinians have endured some of the most painful blows since the early
years of Israeli rule. The recent bloodletting in the Gaza Strip claimed the
lives of more than 1400, wounded thousands, and robbed millions of any sense
of security, safety and hope for a better world. Human rights groups around
the world decried the Israeli genocide as war crimes, World leaders
committed to filing charges at the International Court of Justice and have
Israeli leaders tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The
liquidation of Gaza became center platform in Israeli elections. Cluster
bombs, white phosphorous and God only knows what other illegal weapons were
unleashed on a starved and sieged civilian population where relief workers
strived to pinpoint just what chemical weapon only leaves behind the
evidence of a human skeleton?
Amidst the grief and rage that
followed, Belgium found it fitting to nominate one sorrow-stricken doctor
and father of three lovely daughters from Gaza, the Nobel Prize, in
recognition of his efforts to promote peace between Palestinians and
Israelis. The 55 year old physician, Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, lost his three
children in a most viscous way, when Israeli shells hit his house, crushing
and suffocating all those inside. Dr. Abu al-Aish just happened to be
talking on Israeli television about the suffering of the people of Gaza when
he was informed that the shell hit his home with his family inside. He
suppressed his anguish long enough to express his hope that his daughters
would be the last victims of Israel’s attack.
While it cannot be
denied that such a man deserves the highest honor for his commitment to the
population of Gaza, and for the personal sacrifice he has endured, the irony
of his distinction coming at such a time, after the most horrifying of
sieges, after the grisly killing of his children, but more, after the
grieving father responded with a poignant message of “reconciliation”.
In the midst of this mess, where is the call for Israel to embrace
non-violence, would the media and the world community press the Israelis to
embrace non-violence, had they endured such atrocities such as those
witnessed in Gaza?
And once again, the intentions of the
“establishment” come in to question. One has to wonder, if Abu al-Aish would
have responded with the resolve of so many grieving parents who vowed to
“never leave” to “rebuild” to “resist until victory or death in its
pursuit”, would he still be recognized for his efforts to promote peace
among Palestinians and Israelis?
Just why does the UNDP find it
fitting to highlight a survey that concludes that most Palestinian youth
find violence “unhelpful” at such a time? And why does the world renown a
man who calls for reconciliation, a term that somehow suggests a conflict
between people of equal standing, while his daughters rest in fresh graves?
Some may suggest that non-violent resistance in such situations is the
embodiment of the dignified struggle.
Others might call it
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net)
is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been
published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world. His
latest book is, "The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's
Struggle" (Pluto Press, London), and his forthcoming book is, “My Father Was
a Freedom Fighter: Gaza The Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London)