Saturday, April 25, 2009

Why Is There No Palestinean Gandhi?


We often hear people say that that if only the Palestinians would commit themselves to non-violence in their struggle for rights, they would accomplish a lot more. Their violence is not only futile - Israel is capable of defending itself and of responding with much greater violence - but it alienates potential allies in the West and in Israel itself. Why is there no Palestinian Gandhi? If only there where ...

But maybe the reason that there is no Palestinian Gandhi is because the Israelis are not the British, and the world today is more hardened than the world of 1930. When Ghandi organized his famous March to the Sea (to protest the British 'Salt Tax') the British merely beat the protesters (OK , viciously beat the protesters) with clubs, and the resulting furor around the world vaulted Gandhi to a highly leveraged position vis a vis the British. The British where roundly condemned for there behavior, and eventually this wore down there will to stay in India. But when Palestinians turn to non-violent protests, Israelis just shoot them: most recently at Bil'in, where several have been killed. And no one seems to care - in Israel or around the world.

Israeli blogger Noam Sheizaf comments on this:

What we tend to forget is that the current violence is a relatively new phenomena. Since 1967 and for the first 20 years of occupation, the West Bank was fairly quiet. I remember, as a kid, how we traveled there during weekends, went shopping and sightseeing. [sn - Having lived in Israel in the 70's and 80's I can attest to this] Yes, the PLO carried on the armed fight, but this was done mostly from other countries – Jordan, later on Lebanon, and finally Tunisia.

But guess what – this nonviolent struggle never made Israel even think about abandoning the land it conquered or hand the Palestinians any civil and political rights. In fact, these were the years in which the colonization of land became an official government policy. Israel agreed to a Palestinian autonomy as part of the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, but never really considered keeping its promise.

Then came the first Intifada. By today’s standards it was a nonviolent struggle - mainly stones throwing, huge strikes and popular demonstrations. It wasn’t pleasant – soldiers were hurt, and there was an increase in terrorism as well, but it was nothing like the “culture of death” everyone’s talking about now. [sn - and the first Intefeda did bring the Palestinians some results - Olso, which unfortunately went nowhere after the assination of Rabin.]

... The real popular armed struggle, as we know it today, only began in October 2000. When I served in the West Bank, as late as the summer of 2000, we were still driving open vehicles and walking in villages without bullet-proof vests.

Bil’in was an effort to go back to the unarmed model, ... And it was for a good cause: the protesters didn’t seek the destruction of Israel. They weren’t Hamas people. They didn’t even oppose the separation wall. They just didn’t want it to pass on their land, in their village. Israel could have just the same build the wall on the international border (the Green Line), and no one would have said anything. But we wanted to get some more land.

My bottom line is this: in Bil’in, like in the first three decades of the occupation, Israel proved that it didn’t really care what kind of a fight the Palestinians are putting up, or what they ask for. This has nothing to do with “abandoning terrorism”, like Netanyahu – and all Israeli PMs before him, except for one – keep on saying. For all we care the Palestinians can convert to Buddhism or join the Likud. We just don’t want to go back to the ‘67 borders. That’s why, when they throw stones or wave flags ... we open fire.

That’s the bad lesson [we are teaching the Palestineans.] That even if you decide to abandon terrorism and protest in a nonviolent way, you would achieve nothing, and you might still get shot in the head. ...

You can read the full article here.

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