10/10/2005

Beyond violence

Little noticed, the date of October 2 has been assigned by the United Nations to celebrate non-violence. Although the best known examples of non-violent struggles are those of India, South Africa and the civil rights struggle led by Martin Luther King in the United States, the Mediterranean has been and still is the field of many non-violent struggles. Among these, the resistance of the Palestinian people will hold our attention today.

All too often it is in terms of bombs and suicide attacks that we receive news from Palestine. Yet apart from these tragic events, millions of men and women are fighting for the rights of their people with nonviolent means.

Last February, for example, thousands of people from Gaza formed a human chain on some 40 miles long to protest against the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Despite its size, the event got only a few titles in the press, quickly swept away by a rocket fire.

Occurred in 1987, the First Intifada was the first completed form of nonviolent resistance of the Palestinians. It was composed by ninety percent of non-violent actions and ten percent of violence. However ten percent are still ten percent too much and considerably lessened the impact of non-violent actions.

Indeed, non-violence is a greater power than violence, but to be as such it must be applied as the only strategy, systematically and categorically. Take the example of Gandhi: what would have been the impact of his struggle if all the people of India hadn’t followed him? Similarly, in a demonstration, a handful of thugs is often enough to undermine the credibility of thousands nonviolent demonstrators.

Non-violence is an effective method of struggle, but it must be intolerant vis-à-vis violence. The weakness of the nonviolent resistance in Palestine is there: it is too conciliatory toward violence and offers therefore too easily a justification to Israeli repression. Despite the courage and strength put in the non-violent struggle, violence remains too often the tree that hides the forest.

 

 

N.J.O.