First Published: 2017-12-18

There is Only One Course for the Palestinians Non-Violence
At this, perhaps the very darkest moment for the Palestinian cause, light and hope can only come from a new peaceful strategic mobilisation, thinks Rashmee Roshan Lall.
Middle East Online

I write this from the Indian capital New Delhi, where a massive 11-figure statue is probably the clearest sign that the Palestinians can fight a mighty system and hope to win.

The statue commemorates the start of Mahatma Gandhis non-violent struggle against the all-powerful British Empire. It depicts the Salt March, begun by Gandhi to defy a deeply unjust British law that forced Indians to buy salt at exorbitant prices from the colonial government and prohibited them from collecting their own.

That single act of disobedience set off a massive campaign of non-compliance across India and that campaign of unceasing peaceful resistance to occupation forced the worlds dominant power to accede to the protesters demands and set India free.

There can be no more powerful template for the Palestinian cause now that US President Donald Trump has abandoned even the pretence of even-handedness in the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Trump ignored international law and recognised Jerusalem as Israels capital.

With that, the United States, the worlds richest, most militarily powerful nation, threw its weight behind the Palestinians Israeli oppressors. It had the effect of a non-military offensive that wins a war, leaving the Palestinians long fight for justice uncertain, for how do you battle for something that has been given away?

The blow to Palestinians can hardly be understated. This is not because they cherished hopes that a Trump-led America would broker a just and viable peace but because it legitimises every indignity suffered by the Palestinians and makes it acceptable for Israel to further colonise land for Jewish settlements.

At this, perhaps the very darkest moment for the Palestinian cause, light and hope can only come from a new peaceful strategic mobilisation not unlike Gandhis Salt March. Thousands of Gandhis must emerge. Thousands of Rosa Parks must take a stand.

Parks, a black seamstress and rights activist, triggered the US civil rights movement against racial segregation by refusing one December day in 1955 to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. I was not tired physically, she later wrote in her autobiography. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Gandhis and Parks must now stand and sit and march on principle, casting their struggle as a binary battle between right and wrong. If the Palestinians adopted non-violent resistance and held to it, the struggle would pit physically asymmetric but psychologically powerful forces against each other. Israel, a cruel oppressor supported by the United States, would be fighting the Palestinians even as they make a moral and peaceful argument against injustice.

Additionally, as Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan point out in their book Why Civil Resistance Works, there is a strategic logic in peaceful protest. They analysed 323 major insurrections since 1900 in support of self-determination and democratic rule and found that violent resistance was successful 26% of the time but non-violent campaigns were nearly twice as successful.

So, can the Palestinians do it? More to the point, will they?

Naysayers point out that the non-violent method of struggle has little appeal and even less of a track record in the Arab world but it was unarmed civil insurrections that ousted two autocrats Tunisias Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypts Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Chibli Mallat, the Lebanese lawyer, US professor and author of Philosophy of Non-violence: Revolution, Constitutionalism and Justice beyond the Middle East, said it was remarkable that probably the most violent region of the world, the Middle East, was capable of rallying around a non-violent philosophy of historical change in 2011.

Stephen Zunes, a University of San Francisco professor specialising in the Middle East, insists: There is a long history of non-violent resistance in the Middle East. He offers a rundown of generally successful non-violent protests in the region, including Egypts 1919 independence struggle against the British, Lebanons 2006 Cedar Revolution ending Syrian domination, Sudans insurrections against military dictatorships in 1964 and 1985 and Irans 1890s Tobacco Strike, 1906 Constitutional Revolution and 1979 overthrow of the shah.

The Palestinians themselves, Zunes reminds us, have used non-violent mobilisation as a strategy, launching a general strike in the 1930s, the first intifada in the late 1980s and more recent campaigns against Israels separation wall and settlement expansion in the West Bank.

They must do so again, this time until they have justice and peace. They must surge forward holding aloft the weapon of truth.

Rashmee Roshan Lall is a regular columnist for The Arab Weekly. She blogs at www.rashmee.com and is on Twitter @rashmeerl

Copyright 2017 The Arab Weekly

 

Syrian rebels agree to leave new area outside Damascus

Family accuses Israel of killing Palestinian in Malaysia

Rouhani slams officials' 'vow of silence' in face of protests

US has 'concerns' about Turkey holding fair vote under state of emergency

Cinema makes return to Saudi Arabia

UN Security Council meets over Syria in Sweden

Turkish government rejects criticism of election campaign

Condemnation after Gaza teenager killed by Israeli soldiers

Natalie Portman says backed out of Israel prize over Netanyahu

Morocco, EU start talks on new fisheries deal

FIFA to return to Morocco to check hotels, stadiums

Turkey in shock after violent Istanbul derby

Iraq pays first war reparations to Kuwait since 2014

Fiery kites adopted as new tactic by Gaza protesters

Romanian president slams plan to move Israel embassy

Western strikes on Syria bring no change whatsoever

Trump criticises OPEC for high oil prices

Syria says rebels south of capital surrender

Market has capacity to absorb higher oil prices: Saudi minister

Putin 'ready' for Trump summit

Saudi Arabia to host first public film screening

HRW criticises Lebanon for evicting Syria refugees

Saudi says intercepted ballistic missile from Yemen

Russia mulls supplying S-300 missile systems to Syria

Bashir fires Sudan foreign minister

Washington: Assad still has 'limited' chemical capability

European MPs urge US not to scrap Iran deal

Oil price soars to highest level in years

Two more pro-Kurdish MPs stripped of Turkey seats

Oil theft 'costing Libya over $750 million annually'

Turkey's snap polls: bold gambit or checkmate for Erdogan?

Iran arrests senior official over public concert

Bahrain sentences 24 to jail, strips citizenship

UN experts urge Iran to cancel Kurd's death sentence

Moderate quake strikes near Iran nuclear power plant

Syria regime forces caught in surprise IS attack

Turkey sentences 18 to life for killing ‘hero’ coup soldier

Exxon faces setback in Iraq as oil and water mix

Libya to clamp down on fuel smuggling

Yemen to arrest colonel for overlooking African migrant rape

Erdogan sends Turkey to snap polls on June 24

Qatar joins Gulf military exercise in apparent compromise

Saudi-Russia oil alliance likely to undercut OPEC

UN in security talks with Syria on chemical probe

Riyadh says two al Qaeda militants killed in Yemen