TO RESIST IS TO EXIST

Date posted: April 16, 2007
By Emad Omar

The illegal Israeli occupation has for decades suppressed the natural human development of the Palestinian people and their right, like other nations, to determine and shape their future. This occupation rules the daily lives of more than 3.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem by controlling their cultural, social, economic, civil and political life. It has caused wide-spread poverty, daily funerals, collective punishments, house demolitions, environmental destruction, the prevention of Christians and Muslims from full access to their holy sites, especially in Jerusalem, thousands of political prisoners and children traumatized by violence. A recent survey by Near East Consulting found that more than 75 percent of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories is suffering from severe “depression.”

The Palestinians have no option but to resist and end the occupation so they can re-build their devastated country and restore peace and security.

However, despite the Palestinians’ long history of resistance, successive Israeli governments have refused to end the occupation and allow the Palestinians to build their nation-state based on the 1967 borders. This is in part due to a vocal segment of Israeli society still dominated by fanatical thoughts of establishing greater Israel or destroying the Dome of the Rock mosque in order to rebuild the Third Temple. Another large part of Israel’s society is driven by a combination of fear of the consequences of not acting and a greed for the continued acquisition of Palestinian land.

These beliefs are strengthened and rationalized by the rhetoric of many Israeli political parties and media outlets that dehumanize Palestinians, especially their leadership, in order to justify their ideologies and policies. Of course, this is not a new tactic. Throughout history, armies have used the tactic of dehumanizing the enemy to give their soldiers the psychological tools that make it easier to kill. However, driven by their unjustified fears, Israeli soldiers and many citizens are prepared to inflict and accept extremely high casualties among Palestinians.

Beside that, the Palestinian national movement has for a long time been faced with a principle strategic problem: how to maintain any semblance of leverage in negotiations in the face of superior Israeli state power without recourse to guerilla warfare. On the one hand, in the absence of guerilla warfare, Israel becomes complacent and asks itself, “Why should we negotiate in good faith? They are the weaker party.” On the other hand, when guerrilla warfare resumes they say, “We cannot negotiate with terrorists.” Thus, the movement has been caught in a circle of what is called “catch 22.” The problem has always been how to shift Israel from a position of arrogant complacency towards accepting the need to end the occupation on the principle of land for peace and be more responsive to Palestinian national aspirations.

The national movement can address the issue of Israel’s consistent strategic process of de-humanizing the Palestinian by adopting a resistance strategy that presents the victim as a human being. This could work to erode Israel’s strategy and change the power equation.

The 19th century German strategist Carl Von Clauswitz claimed that war is the pursuit of political goals by other means. However, neither he nor any other strategists have ever said that the only way to win a war was with guns. Belisarius, arguably the greatest commander of all time, defeated enemies by simply out-maneuvering them. Coordinated non-violent direct action is such a strategy. It seeks to maneuver and direct the strength of the Palestinian people (its physical presence and just cause) against the weakness of the Israeli state (its failing aspiration to morality and democracy). Its weapon is the organized mass mobilization of an entire people engaged in persistent acts of non-violent direct action.

The Palestinians might seem weak, but they are not without cards. Undertaking a successful strategy of non-violent direct action requires five weapons: leadership, discipline, courage, staying power and organization. The national movement can generate all of these weapons. Unlike guns, these weapons cost nothing and they don’t need to be smuggled. No one has to apologize for these weapons or hide them – one can be proud and open about them. The international community will respect these weapons.

However, to adopt this strategy, the movement must develop an organized structure capable of exerting absolute logistic control over large bodies of people. Palestinian leaders must lead from the front, not from their offices. The presence of the leadership among the people is essential to bolster esprit de corps and foster unity. Another key to this strategy is the staying power – Palestinians cannot simply go out for a few hours or days and then go home for coffee, not if they want to be free. The struggle must be sustainable and effective – the movement must mobilize the entire Palestinian society.

This strategy should utilize the long experience of Palestinian society in practicing creative nonviolent direct actions, organizing itself, and crossing the barrier of fear. Non-violent resistance does not negate the risk of the Israeli security establishment resorting to violence, and therefore needs a great deal of discipline, courage and ability not to allow extremists to undermine the strategy. While a heavy handed response will bring greater support to the Palestinians, a weak response will permit greater latitude for more non-violent resistance.

Coordinated non-violent strategy will open the gate for those Israelis who are against the occupation to speak on behalf of Palestinians, participate in the strategy, to protest the inhumane acts of their government and to call for ending the occupation.

It will expose the Israeli policies of oppression, and the world will have more sympathy for the Palestinian cause. This would weaken the extremist elements and strengthen the moderates. It could turn the tide and instead put Israel in the circle. In the end, not all, but the majority of Israelis will learn that Palestinians are human beings, that they are united and that their national identity is strong. This strategy will help the Palestinians to recognize their rich and strong cultural resources and the value of their civilization, and will help the Israelis realize that they will never have a normal existence unless they negotiate in good faith.

Emad Omar is a conflict resolution and media expert based in Amman, Jordan.

Source: AMIN, 15 April. 2007

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