Articles
Nonviolence: The Only Rational Choice                                
Is the road map going to get us anywhere? Can we trust in
anyone involved in this process? Can we overcome the find a
way out towards a more livable future? What kind of a future
do we want and what are we going to get?

At the time of writing (mid-June) the answers to these questions
are impossible to fathom, although the outlook remains bleak,
but whatever turns out for the time being, the fact remains that
there cannot ever be a military solution to the conflict. The
military imbalance is overwhelmingly in favour of Israel,  but it
has nevertheless proved unable to stop Palestinian resistance.
Palestinians can never win militarily against such odds; all that
can happen is that each side will continue indefinitely
ratcheting up the pain and the violence (including the
institutional violence), multiplying the evil and adding to the
darkness, sucking more and more people into the vortex of
despair.

The only way to break the cycle of violence is through active
and highly strategic and public nonviolence. We are now at a
pivotal juncture, which can either be a way towards a real and
ultimately self-sustainable peace, or a condemnation to many
more years of waves of increasing frustration, violence and
fear, which will be even harder to undo. The terrible toll on
Palestinians, adds up to one essential thing; that for the vast
majority of Palestinians, life has become unliveable, and
despair dominates. The frustration and anger can be
channelled into a national movement for non-violence and
peace, or they can be left to explode with more and more
expressions of despair in outbursts of random violence.

Every single Palestinian is affected every day by the current
harsh measures of the Israeli occupation, by the institutional or
the military violence. The continuing tension and pressure are
unbearable. The official casualty figures show only the numbers
killed or wounded by Israeli soldiers and settlers, but they don’t
show all the people who have simply fallen ill and died from
sheer misery and lack of hope. Such an abnormal life fraught
with difficulties and dangers has nevertheless become normal.
There is an increasing need for a way out of this terrible situation
and a return to a life where it is possible to make plans for the
future, to send one’s children to school without fear and to live
like normal human beings, without humiliation or danger lurking
everywhere.

This life is only possible in a state of peace, and there is a need
for preparing the ground for peace at all levels. Without
peace, the current situation is only going to get worse, as it
undoubtedly can. Peace is not one-dimensional, it is a fabric
that need to be tightly woven and it is essential to weave it
well, to give depth and breadth to the work which is going on
at the political level to make sure it is a tough fabric that will
hold together even when governments run into difficulties; this
means working for a self-sustainable peace, which completely
ends every form of Israeli control over all Palestinian lives and
lands occupied in 1967; a peace that provides security, space
and a viable future for both peoples.

A viable future essentially linked with nonviolence. One broad
definition of violence, which covers its many manifestations, is
“the cutting off of potential” (whether in the physical,
emotional, or psychological sense. In its most extreme form it
takes away the potential for life; in the form of humiliation it
warps or stunts emotional growth, destroying the emotional
completeness/well-bring of the person. If violence destroys
potential, it also therefore destroys the future. Nonviolence is
the opposite of violence, in the most positive sense of the
word. Nonviolence is a form of strength and dignity and
standing up for one’s rights; it is reasserting one’s potential and
capacities for rational choices in the face of all the obstacles.
It is also hanging onto one’s humanity and onto the humanity of
one’s enemy across all conflicts and boundaries. A solution
brought about through nonviolence, will usher in a future which
allows for the development of potential.

In fact most Palestinians practice forms of active non-violence
every day, simply by managing to survive, or go to work in spite
of the innumerable obstacles and dangers. The steadfastness
throughout the long years of occupation, the many efforts to
disengage from the tentacles of the Israeli system during the
first intifada, the resilience and continued humanity in the
current political, economic and military nightmare; all of these
are constant examples of Palestinian nonviolence. This  Week in
Palestine is a good example of active nonviolence, filled as it is
with news about the positive goings on all over the country;
one of the most extraordinary was a report about a rowing
team that recently began in Gaza; the caption saying “proudly
printed in Palestine” is a fine assertion of active nonviolence in
the face of those who would crush everything Palestinian and
deny every Palestinian the pleasure of being proud or of being
creative or courageous.
Now after two and a half years of fighting, there is a serious
degeneration into terrible dehumanisation and demonization.
Wars nowadays are different from the past, as we see all too
often, they tend to be against society and to target civilians
specifically. Occupation is even worse than war, in so far as the
occupied population are not only adversaries, but also
adversaries in the control of their enemy. All levels of society
are affected and all therefore are demonized, the women and
children are all the enemy, too. Included in this war against
society is the media war, and even the non-violence war.  But
again, just as there are new wars, so there are new mechanisms
for peace, and one of these that has been acknowledged as
crucial in shaping peace movements after the end of the Cold
War has been the informed solidarity of civil society- working
with universal values, such as defence for human rights as the
basis for the politics of solidarity; in other words, working with
the media and with nonviolence.

If Israelis would allow themselves to see Palestinians as human
beings they would find it much harder to do the things they do,
preventing sick people from medical care, shooting at children,
bombing and bulldozing houses full of people etc. So
dehumanization is a serious problem, but there is also a
fundamental difference in the way most Palestinians and Israelis
relate to each other by now – there tends to be far more
equality; a recognition that was not very much there during the
peace process that we are all in a mess together and we have
a joint responsibility to find a way out of it. There is also a
growing commitment on the part of some courageous Israelis
to really take risks for peace, such as by refusing their military
service (which not only send them to prison but blacklists them
for life) and risking army roadblocks to take food or provide
medical treatment that Palestinians are unable to do because
of travel restrictions. They are prepared to suffer to make a
difference.


There is in fact a shared need to return to a liveable life, the
Israelis also have their economic and social problems and they
live with fear, even under the domination of fear; fear of
Palestinians as potential terrorists and destroyers of the state of
Israel. Fear is a terrible master, which deafens people to reason
and allows for any amount of acts of violence and cruelty in the
name of protection from fear. The road map’s emphasis on
security is ample evidence of this as an overriding concern of
Israelis.
If there is to be a sustainable peace it is essential to address the
fear of the Israeli people; it is essential to break the (completely
inaccurate and unfair) stereotype of the Palestinian as a
terrorist and destroyer of Israel and to work to give the Israeli
public a human perspective again regarding Palestinians.
This is part of the media war and the non-violence war.

For a peace process to work between Israelis and Palestinians,
it has to work at the popular level and therefore it is not enough
to call for security via the governments; Israeli fears need to be
dealt with at the popular level as do the Palestinian sufferings
and fears. Palestinians can do this by working with non-violence.
The man who is pinning down someone who he is afraid will
attack him the minute he lets go is in as difficult a position as
the man he is pinning down; both are locked into their positions.
But the man on top, who has force on his side is locked into his
position by fear only – the man underneath is locked in by force
and fear. Paradoxically it is the man underneath who can
unlock them; as he can release the man on top from his fear; if
he also tries to use force he will simply increase the fear and
make him pin down even harder; if he shows that he will not use
force, then the man on top can let go without fear and they
can start to solve their problem rationally.

Polls show encouraging numbers of Israelis who favour peace
along the lines of the 1967 borders. Polls taken in August and
November of 2002 show that the basic problem by now in
relation to peace process is lack of trust (e. g. 72% of each side
believing major problem is lack of trust; other figures from polls
on non-violence…)
If civil society can strengthen non-violence among Palestinians,
then maybe the Israeli public will start to be able to hear them;
maybe they will start to be able to overcome their fear enough
to understand that with the end of occupation there would be
a real peace that would answer their needs on security and
community.


There needs to be a multifaceted approach to break the
mindset of mistrust, fear and violence; there also needs to be
active engagement by the international community, both the
inter-governmental and the NGOs to make the road map and
the way to peace succeed by allowing the voices of
Palestinian non-violence to be heard even when they are in
danger of being drowned by the rejectionists, both in the
government and outside; to raise an outcry at the attacks on
ISM activities and others coming with their courage and their
humanity to aid and protect Palestinians.

Once again this is a crucial time; the onus is on Palestinian civil
society to work to strengthen and develop non-violent
approaches to assuage Israeli fears and thereby end the cycle
of violence; the onus is then on the Israeli civil society to
respond to this opportunity and humanity on the part of their
enemies, and to understand that there is no other way;
militarism doesn’t work; Sparta did not survive, it is Athens
which is now the capital of Greece.
Finally the onus is on the international community to give
active and concrete support to help Palestinians and
especially to open the ears of the world to the humanity of the
Palestinian people. This is a crucial time, and
If we do not work now with this opportunity for peace, the angry
and excluded will only make themselves heard in their
desperation in ways that will perpetuate and exacerbate the
violence.


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