In a previous article I put out a call for a nonviolent struggle as a strategy for the Palestinian People that will lead to a real peace and a viable independent Palestinian state. Here I want to expand on that idea. I believe that nonviolent struggle should be at the core of the Palestinian struggle. Many people ask how and most feel skeptical about that, because they see that the majority of the Palestinian People are so angry and because they do not see a Palestinian leadership that can lead in that direction. Many have been telling me that Arafat is no Mandela. Some also argue that a nonviolent struggle simply does not work. Of course there is a lot of truth to all that, except the thinking that nonviolent struggle does not work. We have actually seen it work in India under Ghandi, in the US led by Martin Luther King junior, in South Africa led by Nelson Mandela, ,and most recently in Yugoslavia and perhaps in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe notwithstanding that these regimes collapsed from inside). I know that there are difficulties, and they are pretty big, (and I know that no one struggle is a carbon copy of another) but I believe that in time we will be able to surmount those difficulties. Everyone who believes in nonviolent resistance should keep calling for it. Enough people will finally listen. A current of opinion will form and this current will grow and become visible. Besides it is not the case that the Palestinian People have no experience in nonviolent resistance. They actually do and from early times. I can remember from my early childhood days in Palestine and before Israel was established , when the Palestinian People organized many peaceful demonstrations against the British who ruled Palestine at the time. I remember my mother and even grandmother and many relatives and friends rushing to participate in those demonstrations. And then we have the example of the First Palestinian Intifada in the eighties which was almost totally peaceful. Moreover at present there are many Palestinian voices in support of nonviolent struggle.
So why not go back to nonviolent resistance? Why not mobilize all our people, students ,teachers, workers, writers, artists, health professionals, and all? All Palestinian organizations should mobilize and can mobilize in the occupied territories as well as in all places where Palestinians exist. It will be wonderful to see the Palestinian leadership organizing peaceful marches against the occupation, and more wonderful to see the leadership leading those peaceful marches. One demonstration a week if that can be sustained in one or more Palestinian cities , supported by Israeli Peace People ,and also International Peace People from all over the World will accomplish a great deal especially in terms of solidifying the Palestinian peaceful resistance movement in the eyes of the Palestinian People. This will also send a great message to the World. Even if it may accomplish nothing in terms of removing the forces of the military occupation it will still bring big gains , and then as this movement grows, it will move on to further actions like civil disobedience and other peaceful means of resistance.
In addition to the difficulties mentioned above one big difficulty is the fact that Israel has shown no tolerance to peaceful resistance. People have been shot at and killed demonstrating peacefully against the occupation. The best example was the killing by Israeli police of 13 Israeli Arabs, citizens of Israel, because they demonstrated against the occupation, and that was when Barak was in power. My answer to that is that peaceful resistance has its price, but it is a much lower price than Palestinians pay for violent resistance and suicide bombings. It will be a great service to the Palestinian cause if suicide bombers gave their lives in peaceful protest instead of blowing up themselves and innocent Israeli civilians.
Finally as to Arafat and whether he can be a Nelson Mandela , I have to say that this is a very difficult question. I just hope that he can be. He is a shrewd and a very experienced politician and he is a survivor and a highly committed leader. He has had his mistakes and some big ones and he is said to be surrounded by corrupt or ineffective people, yet he is the leader of the Palestinian People and Sharon can’t change that. However President Arafat has to make changes if he is to survive as a Palestinian leader. (more on that in another article).
Mr. Waleed Husseini contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from El Cerrito, CA, USA.