08/08/2009

The implicit nonviolent resistance

Since the beginning of their struggle for independence, the Palestinians have often used the methods of nonviolent resistance. So, the first intifada was initially conducted under the slogan of nonviolence. More recently, several villages – Bil’in, Nil’in, Jayyous, Budrus, … – began nonviolent direct actions against the progression of the separation wall in the West Bank. The media success of these actions popularized nonviolent resistance again and made it a strategic option on its own, discussed this week at the sixth Congress of Fatah in Bethlehem.

Many are the Palestinian of the territories to whom nonviolent resistance already represented great hopes but also greatly disappointed. The bloody and constant Israeli repression against the First Intifada, as well as the limited results obtained, has diverted the majority of the activists of this option. However, the benefits that it includes are many, especially for the Palestinian people.

First, to start with a negative argument, it is pertinent to note that the Palestinian armed struggle is not realistic and never reached sustainable goals. It attracted media attention on this region of the world, but facing violence few were the ones to side with the Palestinian cause. Nonviolence has on the contrary the effect of attracting the sympathy of the international media. In addition, to obtain a military victory over the Israeli army with the means available to the Palestinians would be impossible.

Moreover, better than the armed struggle, nonviolence is matching with negotiations. It empowers the positions of the weak side at the negotiating table, while safeguarding opportunities for dialogue with the opponent.

Finally, nonviolent resistance lays solid foundations for the post-conflict era: it helps to build healthy relations with the enemy but also includes the foundations of a democratic society in its organization and functioning.

Facing the Israeli repression, the choice of nonviolence is not easy. Gandhi saw it as superior to violence, requiring more courage and discipline. Today the armed struggle is not a realistic option, and negotiation is not sufficient. The time has come to (re-) consider seriously the opportunities of nonviolent resistance for the Palestinian people.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée