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Peaceful Protest in Palestine

May 17, 2010

I don’t work on Middle East issues at FCNL and am by no means an authority on the history or issues in that region. However, one nice thing about working at FCNL is the opportunity to learn about many different things. I’ve been thinking a fair amount about the West Bank recently because I heard from a Palestinian friend that within the last week claims have been made that his village is a Jewish religious site and the IDF were called in. While my friend has been exiled to the States, his family still lives in the West Bank and his younger brother was one of the many 16 year olds throwing rocks at the IDF soldiers. Later, a sniper took out one of those same boys (thankfully not his brother). Needless to say,  my friend is very worried about his family and neighbors, but this got me thinking a lot more about how easily violence can escalate in any given situation. Once the cycle of violence has begun, it becomes so much harder to pull back and choose non-violence.

Then, when I got to work I saw this Washington Post article on a new Palestinian protest that uses economic leverage to non-violently protest their treatment. Who knows if this particular effort will succeed, but it got me thinking more broadly about non-violence resistance and how iconic and inspiring it can be.

I am currently reading a hefty tome called The Children, by David Halberstam. It tells the story of the civil rights activists who aren’t as well known–the ones who don’t have a national holiday named after them. It goes into a lot of detail about the principals of Ghandian non-violence, the struggle to believe in its power and the ways it touched and bound these young people together in “a movement.” As I am reading I am finding myself very inspired by the lives of these ordinary people who decided to stand up for what they knew was right and more importantly to do so nonviolently. It was by no means easy, but in the end peace won out over the might of institutionally backed racism and the violence that came with it.

Somehow non-violence seems to have been sidelined as an effective means of resistance recently. Maybe it is because public protest has become a common sight and therefore has lost some of its power? Or maybe politicians just aren’t listening? I find that exuse hard to swallow, because you can bet that segregationalists wanted to hold onto their way of life more than anything else and that they fought hard against the Civil Rights Movement. And yet in the end non-violence triumphed, even if imperfectly. I invite people to comment here on this issue. Can peaceful resistance work in this day and age? If it isn’t working, why not? How can we each feel the power of purpose that these young African American students in Nashville Tennessee felt and use it to act on our beliefs? My suspicion is that the struggles we face today are not so different from the struggles of 50 years ago–we just think that the tools that have worked can’t work anymore.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 21, 2010 3:06 am

    Free Polazzo from SAYMA, whom you met, tells me Kai Bird is his in-law. You could Google him, a nice fellow who writes about the obstacles to peace in the mid-east in an “unvarnished even anti-Zionist manner” He and I both have had the thought that the holocaust has made it difficult to maintain clear Peace-driven consciousness.

    The reason to mention this, is at 11 this am Kai bird was on Book TV, but I missed.

    Otherwise, I would just watch “Arab Labor” on LinkTV. Refreshing comedy about Arabs living in Israel proper.

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