Friday, December 21

MCC Palestine Update #34

MCC Palestine Update #34

In our last update we indicated that we would not send out another update until after the New Year. We are eating our words. Across our desks came two passionate please from Palestinians for nonviolent resistance, the first by Palestinian Christian lawyer (and former MCC volunteer) Jonathan Kuttab, the second by Dr. Eyad al- Sarraj, director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. Both, in their own ways, underscore the need for Palestinians to turn to nonviolent resistance as the means of struggle against the occupation and for justice in the land.

For Western Christians to preach nonviolence to Palestinians, while our governments pour billions of dollars worth of military aid into Israel, is hypocritical at best. More and more Palestinians, however, are realizing that Palestinians have no "military option" against Israel. Palestinians are facing perhaps the most dangerous time in their history. In an article in the Dec. 20, 2001 edition of Ha'aretz journalist Akiva Eldar sketches out the Israeli establishment's unwillingness to countenance a Palestinian state in all of the occupied territories, leaving three potential scenarios:

a) finding a Palestinian leader willing to accept a Palestinian state/bantustan in 40% of the occupied territories, with settlements, Jerusalem and refugees all indefinitely deferred;

b) continuing the apartheid rule over 3.2 million Palestinians in the occupied territories;

c) "transfer," or ethnic cleansing.

As Eldar makes clear in his article, the last scenario is not as far-fetched as one might wish. Faced with such dangerous scenarios, Palestinians have nothing to lose by following the counsel of Kuttab and al-Sarraj.

Your prayers and actions for justice and peace in Palestine/Israel are urgently needed. May God's reign of peace come quickly. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!

1. "When Sharon Gets and Inch, He Takes a Mile": Excerpts
Akiva Eldar
Ha'aretz, 20 December 2001

"The prime minister [Ariel Sharon] calls it 'the people of Israel's determination' and explains how important it is to show the enemy that terror won't break us. And what happens after the enemy is convinced that we won't break? Does Ariel Sharon plan to freeze the settlements, as he gets ready to hand over territory to the irrelevant man [Israel recently declared Arafat "irrelevant."] The answer is hidden in an interview Sharon gave to The New York Times three months ago. He said that it's inconceivable that a young couple that wants to settle in the territories should need permission from Arafat. In a politics-laced lecture at the Herzilya Interdisciplinary Center, Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz sid on Tuesday that the public's 'steadfastness,' combined with the IDF and Shin Bet's actions are winning the battle for us. According to Mofaz, Arafat wants to achieve in war what he couldn't get through negotiations.

And what does Arafat want? Mofaz revealed that the IDF is in a fateful conflict with a man who wants to establish a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, with its capital in Jerusalem. It's interesting that Mofaz didn't say Arafat wants to go back to Jaffa. Aside from the military campaign, which will claim ever more casualties, Mofaz had nothing else to offer. But he did say that the IDF doesn't want to rule the Palestinian population. So, if on the one hand there's opposition to freezing settlements and the establishment of a genuine Palestinian state, and on the other, people want a Jewish state that doesn't rule over another people, what's the point of intensify in the friction and hatred? One possible answer is provided by Tourism Minister Benny Elon. In an interview Elon gave in the latest issue of Nekuda, the settlement movement's journal, Rehavam Ze'evi's heir in the Israeli government and Moledet leadership says that his party platform includes willing transfer, consensual transfer and transfer by war. 'Behind the term willing transfer is hidden the still-undecided great competition over 'summud.' Who's more attached to the land, and who will hold on despite all the difficulties? Us or them?' Behind the word 'difficulties' is hidden, says Elon, the policy that the Sharon government is implementing in the territories with the help of Mofaz and Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer. The tourism minister points to a number of ways to help the Arabs want to get on the buses; in other words, 'forcing him until he says I want.' As far as he is concerned, 'there might be an argument, because the I want can be played with politically and morally. For example, I'll close the universities to you, I'll make your life difficult until you want to leave.' Elon admits that there's some indecision 'whether to do it as government policy or as a step by civic organizations.; But he proposes that 'once and for all they'll be in a place where they can be citizens of a real state, and not of divided cantons that lack any independent economic infrastructure or any signs of sovereignty, like the mini-state that the left is offering, as if we have given them independence, and as if anyone on their side accepted it in the short run, the long run, or ever.' As by interviewer Uri Elitzur--Benjamin Netanyahu's former bureau chief and current advisor--if Elon is proposing 'to send all the refugees from 1948 to Jordan,' Elon answers without hesitation, 'Yes, explicitly. Or to Sinai. Also to Sinai.' One wonders what the tourism ministers of Jordan and Egypt have to say about their Israeli colleague's package tours."

2. Nonviolence: A Powerful Alternative
Jonathan Kuttab
Common Ground News Service

The events of September 11 have created a new reality requiring the Palestinian Authority to abandon, and even to combat, manifestations of armed resistance to the Israeli occupation. In fact, the PNA has already announced its acceptance of a unilateral cease-fire, and President Arafat has declared that Palestinians will not shoot even if fired upon. Furthermore, he has declared the military wings of all factions to be illegal and is trying to enforce that policy in the face of blatant provocations by Israel including assassinations and incursions into Palestinian areas. If the "cease-fire" is not holding, it is not for lack of effort by the PNA.

Does this mean the end of resistance to the occupation and acquiescence in continued subjugation of the Palestinians, or is there another method for an oppressed people to continue their struggle? For those who think only in terms of armed struggle, it must be a frustrating dilemma: Either bow to the pressure and accept the occupation or continue armed resistance, which may be counterproductive and injurious to the cause.

Yet this should not be the dilemma facing Palestinians. In my opinion, the road is now wide open to engage in a massive campaign of nonviolent resistance to the occupation. The lessons of the past, as well as of the second intifada, clearly point in that direction.

To begin with, Palestinians never were, and are unlikely to be, a match for the Israelis in terms of brute violence and firepower. While this intifada has shown them capable of inflicting losses on the other side and rendering many outlying settlements insecure, they cannot (alone or even with the support of the Arab armies) hope to defeat Israel in an open military confrontation. To the
contrary, open warfare provides the justification for Israel to use the full array of its military might and unites the Israeli public behind the settlers and the right wing. It also places the
Palestinians in an impossible dilemma, since the more casualties they inflict on Israelis, the less likely their cause is to prosper internationally and, hence, the less pressure there is on Israel to accede to their just demands.

By contrast, during the first intifada, Palestinian unarmed tactics effectively neutralized the superiority of the Israeli military and split the Israeli public down the middle. Those tactics also
generated effective international pressure on behalf of the Palestinian cause, and helped reverse hateful stereotypes and images of the Palestinians.

More importantly, the use of nonviolent tactics allowed all sectors of Palestinian society to participate in the resistance rather than just the armed few, which released the creative energies of the people in a beautiful, unifying, and uplifting struggle full of hope and promise. To be sure, there were many casualties and much suffering, and the occupation did not end; yet neither did the present intifada, which also created many martyrs and much suffering. The difference was that the nonviolent struggle highlighted the justice of our cause, which rests on morality,
international solidarity, and international law rather than on brute force and overwhelming military superiority. To insist on waging the struggle only in the military sphere is, therefore, doubly foolish because it deprives us of our natural advantages and allows the conflict to play out in an arena of military violence where our enemies are vastly superior.

Why, then, does the Palestinian leadership not move into a nonviolent struggle? I believe there are several reasons for this.

First, while we as a people have often used nonviolent resistance and tactics, the language and philosophy of nonviolence have remained largely unknown in our communities and political
discourse. Although most of our struggle against the occupation has been political, such tactics as strikes, demonstrations, human rights advocacy, non-cooperation, boycotts, insistence on
national symbols, and unarmed resistance to land CONFISCATIONS have also been used. Even stone throwing, which while potentially harmful and therefore violent, was mostly utilized as a form of defiance and rejection of the occupation rather than as a serious weapon. Note, for example, how Edward Said used it in South Lebanon. Yet we have never defined these tactics accurately as methods of nonviolent resistance.

By contrast, we idolized and enshrined the language of "the gun" and made it central to our political culture despite the fact that the vast majority of the Palestinian population has never touched a weapon. The presence of the PNA, with its experience in Lebanon and structure of a traditional Arab regime, only exaggerated this trend and foolishly suggested that we now actually have a military force and a military option.

Additionally, there is a misunderstanding of how nonviolence works. Nonviolent resistance does not guarantee that the other side will refrain from violence or that there will be no casualties. It simply creates a new paradigm, and uses "moral jujitsu" to handicap the enemy and turn his superior military force against himself as he brutalizes a nonviolent opponent.

In my opinion, the main obstacle preventing the widespread adoption of a nonviolent strategy by Palestinians is the popular confusion of nonviolence with passivity, timidity, and acquiescence to injustice. In reality, nonviolence requires greater courage, more discipline, training, and sacrifice, and can be very militant and proactive. Therefore, as the Palestinian Authority responds to the new reality by suspending or combating manifestations of legitimate armed resistance, it would do well to consider the option of nonviolent resistance. If it does not, then ordinary Palestinians may well consider this as the only viable alternative, since acceptance of continued occupation is not an option.

Jonathan Kuttab is a Palestinian lawyer based in Jerusalem.

Written exclusively for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

3. {PRIVATE} Letter to President Arafat
His Excellency, President Yasser Arafat Chairman of the PLO
Head of the PNA
President of Palestine

Dear President Arafat,

The escalation of Israeli violence is a significant expression of fear from the past, and an escape from the true confrontation. Palestinian reaction in the form of overwhelming anger and vengeful bullets also escalated. The situation in deteriorating on all front on a daily basis in Palestine, Israel, and the region. We are all in danger of a scorching inferno. In addition, Palestinian society is in danger of splintering and extremism. In these critical times, the need for a leader arises. Dangerous crises are decisive and great opportunities. Israel has chosen its leader and savior. This choice is on par with suicide missions, caused by depression, hopelessness, and extremism. We cannot and should not use suicide. On the contrary, we must know how to achieve victory, not just how to die. The choices open to us are: Continuous limited warfare, as is the situation today

Expanded warfare that is more destructive and could drag the whole region in it

In these two options, the calculations of benefits and losses is not in our favor. But there is another choice that could weigh the scales in our favor. The option of peace and freedom born out of this crisis and opportunity by a leader and savior. Let this be the choice of the Palestinian people. Let us teach a world a lesson in the desire for peace. Let us teach Israel how weakness can be transmuted into power. Let us give our people the hope of achieving freedom. The crisis/opportunity requires a Palestinian leader who is a savior armed with a brave and daring peace plan directed to the Israeli people, not their government. This message of peace should uphold our right to free people from fear and destruction. It is a serious message that will revive people's pride in their Palestinian nationality. It should rejuvenate hope within the Israeli people. It is a clear message to the world that we are seeking freedom and peace. It is a message rejecting violence and blood. It is a message of prayer for the martyrs and victims on both sides. It is a message that will put the world in front of its responsibility. It is a message that will put the Israeli government to the test in front of its people and the world. It is a message that should be presented before the time passes, before the world views us as aggressors instead of liberators, and before the world forces us to stop our resistance. This initiative should be accompanied by:

A call for everybody to stop all forms of protest and military resistance and Orders to confiscate weapons

Implementation of the law

Not Sharon or anyone else will be able to maneuver around this initiative, with the whole world waiting for it. If he does try to do so, he will fail and the initiative will prevail. Extensive media and diplomatic campaigns should accompany the initiative. And before these two, there should be an internal campaign to re-establish order and improve the functioning of the PNA.

Dear President Arafat, The crisis/opportunity confronts us. In this historic moment, you could make history. The people follow you; and they believe in their rights, await your initiative, and look forward to a day of freedom under your leadership. Around you are a people anxious for a miracle. And outside the barbed wire friends and brethren who believe in our just cause. The moment and opportunity are upon us. We are poised to make victory, snatch our freedom, and establish peace.
Sincerely yours,

Eyad al-Sarraj

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