Tag Archives: non-violent resistance

“Why can’t the Palestinian leaders build a state like the Zionists did after the Holocaust?”

“Why aren’t the Palestinian leaders building a country like my parents, survivors of the Holocaust and millions like them, did with Israel, instead of building tunnels, shooting missiles and subjecting their people to untold horrors?”

I gasped when I read this question sent to me by a well-educated, university professor in Israel. It was a serious question, deserving a serious response.

Where to begin?

To dissuade my friend of any notion that Palestinians might be incapable of building a country, I’ll remind him of the cities, industry, agriculture, schools and civic life that flourished in Palestine before my friend’s parents and other Zionists arrived. Please watch this 10 minute video.

When I returned from Gaza two years ago, I wrote my layman’s version of the history of Palestine here and here. Israel’s 67 years of dispossession, ethnic cleansing, and occupation of Palestine — as well as current events, including the Palestinian resistance and Israel’s successive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza — can only be understood in the context of the Nakba. I believe my Israeli friend’s question is sincere because either he doesn’t know about the Nakba (past and present) نكبة or he has decided to ignore and minimize the ongoing impacts of the Nakba.

I credit Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky for opening my eyes about the Nakba.

In the late 1980s, a group of Israeli historians, including Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, began to challenge the commonly accepted version of Israeli history based on newly declassified Israeli government documents. Morris called them the New Historians. They went head-to-head with the traditional historians who cast Israel as the peace-seeking victim in a hostile Arab world, the David-and-Goliath narrative. The New Historians shared a more nuanced history of the exodus of the Palestinians and the reasons for the persistent political deadlock with the Arab states in the region.

Professor Ilan Pappe’s book “Ethnic Cleansing” was my education about the Nakba. I hope my friend will read it. In this video, Pappe describes in great detail about the Zionists who committed the Nakba crimes. He urges us to know the names of the perpetrators, the victims, the places and events of the Nakba. Pappe also speaks about the “conspiracy of silence” by the international community in 1948. Please watch.

So . . . . . why can’t the Palestinian leaders do what the Zionists have done (are still doing) in creating the State of Israel?

  • If my friend’s parents and other Zionists had decided to live peacefully side-by-side with the indigenous population when they arrived in Palestine, as Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived for many years, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today.  The footage in this short clip shows a time when Palestinians of all faiths lived and worked side by side in harmony.
  • If the Zionists believed in a democracy that values plurality rather than an apartheid regime that values Jews over non-Jews, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today. Saree Makdisi explains apartheid very well here and in his book “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.”

“Apartheid” isn’t just a term of insult; it’s a word with a very specific legal meaning, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973 and ratified by most United Nations member states (Israel and the United States are exceptions, to their shame).

apartheid wall

  • If Israel had not waged three military campaigns in Gaza over the past six years, Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) which I witnessed first hand from the ground in Gaza, and the most recent Operation Protective Edge (2014), and if Israel lifted the multi-year siege and blockade of Gaza, and if Israel allowed Palestinians in Gaza to travel freely to pursue educational opportunities, visit family, accept jobs, seek medical attention, etc., — if none of these inhumane actions had occurred and were still occurring — we certainly would be witnessing a vibrant economy in Gaza with the next generation of Palestinians living in hope, not despair. Instead, the U.N. is predicting that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. Some of my blog posts from Operation Pillar of Defense are here, here and here.

I can hear your retort now, my friend.  It sounds something like this.  (I hope you are not offended, but I’ve heard the same words spoken seriously by many, many Jews.)


So long as the Zionists maintain the brutal occupation and dehumanization of the Palestinians, as they have for decades, resistance will continue.  Resistance in the form of political resistance at the United Nations, resistance at the International Criminal Court, cultural resistance such as teaching the next generation the Palestinian traditions, economic resistance, non-violent resistance in Budrus, resistance with the pen, and violent resistance.

I’ll conclude with Noura Erakat’s well-reasoned explanation of why Israel’s occupation is illegal. As an attorney yourself, I hope you will give Ms. Erakat the time and respect she deserves by reading her paper.

I appreciate your question which initiated this blog post, and I hope we will continue this discussion. Even more, I hope the occupation and dispossession of Palestinians from their land, which your parents and other Zionists started so many years ago, will come to an end very soon.


Filed under Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Nakba, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, Peaceful, People, Politics, Settlers, United Nations, US Policy, Video

Resistance Palestinian-style and Lora’s style

Why can’t you Palestinians be more like Gandhi?

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof pondered this question in his July 2010 column.  On the other hand, Mustafa Barghouthi, a Palestinian doctor and member of the Palestinian Parliament, says many Palestinians are indeed following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi.  Barghouthi says:

What is needed is a Palestinian version of the Arab revolutions that have swept the region: a mass movement demanding freedom, dignity, a just peace, real democracy and the right to self-determination. We must take the initiative, practice self-reliance and pursue a form of nonviolent struggle that we can sustain without depending on others to make decisions for us or in our place. 

Today, Linah Alsaafin, a Palestinian writer, editor and blogger living in Ramallah, shared her thoughts about nonviolent resistance with an audience of about 30 at the offices of the Center for Political Development Studies in Gaza. 


What she said surprised me.

First, the term “nonviolent” should be deleted from the vocabulary.  Linah recommends that we just refer to these actions as “resistance.”  This may be difficult to do since the “elites in the West Bank,” she says, have adopted the phrase “nonviolent resistance” and is supporting it with 100,000s of shekels each year.  


Second, resistance should be seen as a means, rather than the goal, which is the liberation of Palestine. Linah distinguished between tactic vs. strategy, and shared several examples from the West Bank where the actions of resistance appeared to be disconnected from a long-term, sustainable strategy.  

For example, when activists erected tents on Palestinian land where Israel plans to build more homes (known as E1) just east of Jerusalem, they captured alot of international media attention, such as this piece in the New York Times. The Israeli soldiers removed them on the third day and we haven’t heard anything more.  Where was the long-term strategy to make this action sustainable?


Third, International activists and Israelis who want to support the Palestinians need to know their role in the resistance.  They should remain on the periphery, not in the center or taking a decision-making role.  Linah objects to the Israeli peace activists who want to protest and smell some tear gas to assuage their guilt.  The role of solidarity activists is to document, to learn, but not to impose their ideas.  

Finally, popular resistance can only be effective if it targets Israel’s weaknesses.   We “need to make life difficult for settlers in the West Bank,” she said.  And “our actions need to be sustainable.”


After her comments, Linah took questions and that’s where the passion in the room appeared.  Even though many of the questions and comments were in Arabic, and I couldn’t understand them, I could tell there were disagreements and people held very passionate opinions about what they were talking about.

I’ve considered myself an activist for most of my adult life, taking my children to protests and demonstrations in their baby strollers.  My activism has focused on abolishing nuclear weapons and stopping climate change.  I’ve only recently begun learning about Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and the injustices of the siege and blockade of Gaza.

My lodestar for engaging in each of these issues (nuclear war, climate change, Palestine) are the three principles I learned in 1984-1985 in Beyond War.

War has become Obsolete,

We Are One on This Planet,

and Means Determine Ends.

I have found these principles to be life-changing and life-affirming, and NOT at all simple to digest.  But the effort of living consistent with my beliefs has probably been the most effective form of resistance I know. 



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