Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hussein Ibish on Nonviolent Tactics

Dear Friend,

Hussein Ibish has a strong point in how Palestinians strategize for "liberation".

The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) has no strategy against unarmed protesters, except to physically harm them.

They keep equating nonviolent protesters with "violence". In truth, nonviolent protesters expose the violent center of the occupation forces.

Read on. JRK

Nonviolence, a Palestinian path to liberation

Hussein Ibish
NOW Lebanon (Opinion)
June 28, 2011 - 12:00am

At the end of last week in the West Bank village of Bilin, an important principle was decisively demonstrated: Palestinian nonviolence can achieve real results in resisting the Israeli occupation.

After almost a decade, Bilin protests against Israel’s gruesome West Bank separation barrier has finally produced a substantial rerouting of the wall, giving villagers access to a significant portion of their confiscated land. The greater part remains seized or inaccessible, and protesters vow that their struggle is far from over.

There are several important lessons to be learned from this significant achievement.

First, the protests have been successful precisely because they are, and only to the extent that they have been, nonviolent. Israel and its supporters have no answer to Palestinian nonviolent resistance to an abusive occupation, except the accusation that it is, in fact, violent. While sometimes the protests have degenerated into stone-throwing by youths, and have often been met by force by the Israeli occupation forces, in fact the demonstrations have been overwhelmingly nonviolent. This is what has given them their power.

To extend and replicate this effective nonviolent approach, serious discipline will have to be developed and maintained to ensure it continues even in the face of military repression. Nonviolence is one of the most powerful weapons of resistance against occupation.

Second, the protests are all the more powerful when their objections are firmly rooted in international, and even where possible Israeli, law. In 2004 the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion that the route of Israel’s separation barrier, which is not along its own border but cuts deeply into occupied territory, was unlawful and a human rights violation. In 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the portion of the barrier in Bilin had to be rerouted.

Both of these important legal findings were consequences of the nonviolent confrontation with what is plainly unlawful human rights abuse against ordinary Palestinian villagers under occupation. Nonviolent protests prick the conscience of the world, and of Israelis. They also disarm the logic of the occupation and the settlements as forward defenses in an existential struggle by Israel, revealing them to be in their essence, instead, a system of discipline and control by a foreign army over millions of subjugated people.

Third, nonviolent protests are not an end in themselves, but have to be part of a broader Palestinian national strategy. The fact that some significant Palestinian national leaders, especially Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, have supported and participated in the protests demonstrates a convergence between grassroots, bottom-up organization addressing local issues and top-down leadership that deals with national ones.

Fayyad’s rousing speech at last Friday’s protest—in which he spoke of the slow but inevitable victory of nonviolence, how it is a crucial tool in ending the occupation, and that when Palestinians confront occupation with nonviolence “the whole world is with us”—demonstrates the potential for such a convergence. Combined with state-building, boycotts carefully targeted against the occupation but not Israel per se, and well-calculated diplomacy, Palestinian nonviolence should be an essential part of a successful national liberation strategy.

Contrast this powerful and genuine grassroots approach with the transparent and cynical effort by the Syrian government to encourage protests on June 5 at the armistice lines between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. This area is one of the most tightly controlled border regions in the world, and has been under virtual lockdown by the Syrian military for decades. With the Assad regime in deep trouble at home, suddenly protesters were welcome to come and go freely, and apparently encouraged to confront Israeli troops.

At least 20 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, an overreaction and excessive use of force that typifies Israel’s approach to what it regards as its frontiers, whether those approaching it are armed or not. The death toll was predictable, predicted and entirely avoidable. Indeed, all Lebanese factions agreed a repetition of the violence along the Lebanon-Israel border on May 15 was unacceptable, and that area, by contrast, remained entirely calm on June 5.

If the goal of the June 5 Golan Heights protests was to embarrass Israel or touch the conscience of Israelis and the whole world, it did not succeed for many reasons: above all the unavoidable perception that the Syrian government was hoping to distract attention from its own killing of nonviolent protesters in cities throughout Syria. In fact, unlike the West Bank protests, the Golan protests achieved nothing.

This was only underscored in the following days by the killing of 20 Palestinians at the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus by a radical Palestinian faction aligned with the Syrian regime.

When the dust settled in early June, dozens of Palestinians lay dead while Israel and Syria were stripped of the ability to point fingers at each other for shooting unarmed people. And between these two events, the Syrian regime lost the ability to play the “Palestinian card” in its struggle to hold onto power.

While cynical exploitation by desperate Arab dictatorships is the last thing the Palestinian cause needs, nonviolent protests such as those at Bilin have proven their efficacy. They offer not only the best way of resisting the occupation but also, as the part of a broader strategy, a real path to national liberation.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Urgency of Reconciliation

Dear Friend,

Salim Munayer and MUSALAHA, are working for reconcilation between Palestinian-Israelis (20%), Israelis and Palestinians. It isn't just whose working for "peace and security" outside the bounds (undefined as they are), it's what's happening among the inhabitants of the land, which includes 20 - 25% of the population that is Palestinian Israeli.

The stakes are high, expectations are low, convictions/conflicts seem cemented into place.

The hard-pack allows no seeds of peace to be planted and grow to fruition.

We cannot stop our praying for change; change for better relationships; especially inside the country of Israel/Palestine. JRK

The Urgency of Reconciliation

As Israeli and Palestinian believers, we usually focus on our theological differences, but we are unaware of the greater political and societal differences. Recently, I was speaking with one of my colleagues from the Hebrew University, a professor who has done a lot of work on bringing Israelis and Palestinians together. We were discussing the different challenges that these sort of inter-group meetings face, and the lack of hope that people have in the prospect of reconciliation. This led us to talk about the new report by Sammy Smooha, a professor of Sociology at Haifa University, and one of Israel’s preeminent scholars of Israeli-Palestinian relations, especially within the State of Israel. He recently published a report through the United States Institute of Peace, called Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel, Alienation and Rapprochement. It is an informed look at the shift in attitudes over the past few decades, as well as the current situation, and suggests a number of policy changes that should be made to help reconciliation as we go forward.

Smooha first points out that Israeli society is fragmented on a number of different levels. He writes, “Israel is a deeply divided society. The division between Arab and Jewish citizens is reflected in institutions; culture; national identity; socioeconomic status; and stances on the character of the state, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and other fundamental issues. Furthermore, Palestinian-Israelis, [R]eject Zionism, the de facto state ideology of Israel. They see Zionism, the Jewish movement of national liberation, as colonialist and racist, and they denigrate the Jews’ fundamental Zionist collective identity. The Jews, meanwhile, do not see themselves as colonial settlers but rather as the genuine proprietors of the Land of Israel, from which they were historically exiled and to which they rightfully returned to find alien Arabs in possession . . . Both sides reject the most cherished values of the other.

This division is important, because the Palestinians in Israel make up a very significant minority; one in six Israeli citizens are Arab, and they make up around 17 per cent of the total population (excluding the Palestinian Territories). Smooha explains that there are two different theories on the Arab-Jewish relations within Israel, mutual alienation and mutual rapprochement. The mutual alienation theory states that the two communities are on a violent collision course, while the mutual rapprochement theory claims that they are in the process of adjusting to each other. He then looks at the period from 1996 to 2010 and discusses some of the developments that took place, in light of these two theories. “By either account,” he writes, “any account in fact, this was a lost decade for Arab-Jewish coexistence. The situation has worsened and bodes badly for the future of their relations."

For example, Smooha discusses the collapse of the Oslo accords and the beginning of the Second Intifada, as well as the October Events in 2000, when Israeli police killed thirteen Palestinian-Israelis in protests that took place across the country. Smooha also looks at the steep rise in popularity of right wing political parties such as Yisrael Betenu, and the proposed measures to require loyalty oaths, and to criminalize participation in Nakba Day memorial ceremonies. Although these measures were not passed, they affected Arab-Jewish relations within Israel and indicate the level of animosity between the two communities. Among Palestinian-Israelis, the voting rate has dropped from 75 per cent in 1999 to 53 per cent in 2009, and contains an element of boycott that demonstrates a withdrawal from Israeli society. The Palestinian-Israelis that do vote have increasingly supported Arab parties that advocate a bi-national state that would no longer be Jewish. Smooha also includes the results of his survey on attitudes towards reconciliation, and they do not paint a rosy picture. 43 per cent of Palestinian Israelis are not ready to have a Jewish neighbor, and 50 per cent of Jewish Israelis are not ready to have an Arab neighbor. All of these trends represent a growing hostility between these two communities.

For Smooha, real progress will only be made when a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is found, and when Palestinian-Israelis are integrated into mainstream Israeli society. Unfortunately, no progress was made on either of these fronts in the past decade. In spite of this lack of progress, however, Smooha is optimistic. He sides with the mutual rapprochement theory, and believes that we can still reach coexistence and reconciliation, but only if we are willing to work for it. If nothing is done to bring about change, the only result will be further alienation, destruction and violence. We cannot afford to “postpone change until peace is concluded,” we must “take steps immediately to improve Arab-Jewish coexistence” if we are to “preclude further deterioration that might impede peace.”

This is encouraging, and serves as an affirmation of Musalaha’s work. But it is also a warning. As believers, we are by no means immune to the destructive traits that mark our respective communities, and all of the factors that have further entrenched the divisions in the past decade have also affected us. We may disagree on how to go about reaching reconciliation, but we do still have hope for an improvement of our relations, and we have our shared faith in the Messiah who calls us to dwell in unity as brothers and sisters. If nothing is done to restore the relationships that have been damaged, there are dark days ahead, and this is why it is crucial that we allow God to use us as an instrument of his peace. We are called to be peacemakers, and stand against division, hatred and violence with love.

Salim J. Munayer

Musalaha Director