To Win, Palestinians Must Adopt A Nonviolent Strategy

by Mubarak Awad, April 12, 2002

The Palestinians need to pursue a conscious, organized strategy of nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation.

Violence, fiery speeches and threats of war against Israel are counterproductive. Instead, Palestinians should organize massive peaceful marches to demand an end to Israeli settlements and occupation, which are violations of morality and international law.

Such a strategy must involve Palestinians, the Arab world, the international community and committed Israelis. It must be grounded in broad public discussions involving unions, students, civil-society institutions and the local media.

The role of the Arab and Muslim worlds is crucial. Nonviolent resistance in the form of boycotts, protests and diplomatic pressure must be applied to translate the support of the various Arab populations into pressure on Israel.

The international community should focus on ending the Israeli settlements and occupation. Every opportunity should be taken to frame the question in moral and legal terms and to challenge Israel's war crimes. We must insist that the United Nations take action on these issues, regardless of U.S. opinion.

Boycotts of Israeli products should be linked to specific individuals or policies hurting Palestinians.

The Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims should view acceptance of Israelis as an acceptance of the humanity of other people who were born in the land and have a right to stay.

As a consequence of this new way of thinking, Arabs and Palestinians would accept the economic need for open borders between Palestine, Israel and the Arab world. Jews would be accepted as a minority in the Middle East and would not have to rely on the protection of the United States and Europe. Instead, they would be protected by a regional security arrangement such as the one put forth in the recent Saudi initiative.

This proposal has the potential of becoming a solid building block.

How can Israelis born in Israel, who possess the right to live there as citizens, coexist with the neighboring Arab and Islamic communities, especially the Palestinians, with equality and dignity for all?

The answer does not consist of believing in Israeli superiority or the power of military might. Salvation lies in Israel's relationship with the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim community. Israel has no future as a colonizing power without being seen as an apartheid state. Whites in South Africa, despite their power, were not able to enforce their rule forever. The sooner Israel reaches this conclusion, the sooner we will see an end to this conflict, which has taken a devastating toll on Palestinians and Israelis.

It is important for Palestinians to focus on nonviolent struggle. Many Israelis, who truly yearn for a just peace, can be enlisted in this nonviolent struggle against occupation and settlements, whereas there is almost no chance of enlisting them in any armed Palestinian activity. Palestinians will choose nonviolence only if they are convinced of its efficacy.

The Israelis know well how to fight an armed antagonist, yet they have little understanding of how to deal with massive nonviolent resistance. They expect and, in fact, need for Palestinians to be either submissive or violent.

A nonviolent approach would neutralize much of Israel's military might and disrupt its actions. We need to embark on this course now.


Related Interview: Nonviolence in the Middle East: A Talk with Mubarak Awad

Mubarak Awad is founder and director of Nonviolence International, a nonprofit organization that helps those seeking nonviolent means to achieve their social and political goals. He is also the Palestinian Christian psychologist who organized a nonviolent resistance movement against the occupation of Palestinian lands at the end of the 1980s. Israel expelled him to the United States, where his organization is known as Nonviolence International. Meir Amor, an Israeli peace activist living in Canada, interviewed him.

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