Jun 10 2015

Palestinians need non-violent strategy

Published by at 10:52 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

Following appeared in the Jordan times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

For the first time in 48 years, Palestinians are playing in a much more level playing field.

By strategically moving into the non-violent field, Palestinians are in a much stronger position to make an impact in their decades-long struggle.

Whenever Palestinians fought the Israelis in militarily they failed. Not only was Israel superior militarily, it was also using its fight as a country struggling to exist and survive.

Palestinians were painted as blood-thirsty terrorists with no respect for “civilised” rules.

Israel was careful to superficially “apologise” when its attacks caused civilian deaths, leaving Palestinians losers both on the military front and the political front.

By restricting their struggle to non-violence only, the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom and independence is much more powerful politically, for a host of reasons.

Unlike the military action, which is restricted largely to trained young men, non-violent struggle can be fought by all Palestinians, both inside the occupied territories and outside.

The international version of this non-violent struggle has taken the form of boycotts, divestments and sanctions. The BDS campaign, which started in the academic sphere, has taken root in major international locations causing panic to the Israelis.

Moving from the military to the non-violent struggle might give Palestinians a better opportunity, but it will not be easy.

The strong Israeli reaction to a statement by the CEO of French telecommunications giant Orange appears to be a rehearsal for what will be happening in the future.

The Israelis, with their vast international political connections, lobbying efforts and financial abilities, will tackle every single attempt at boycotting them.

The Israeli response to the BDS campaign was evident this week. Speaking at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to bring the discussion to a more comfortable ground: violence.

Using wrong information about the decisions of the British National Union of Students (NUS), Netanyahu said the union refused to condemn Daesh while it approved boycotting Israel.

His attempt to make the connection with the radical violent Islamists was based on incomplete information. In fielding a motion last December, the union refused a particular text that included condemnation of Daesh and asked that it be revised. The anti-Daesh motion was revised and approved, but Netanyahu conveniently focused on the initial decision.

As making the connection between BDS and violent acts will prove to be difficult, the Israelis are trying to bring the anti-Semitism argument. Using the fact that some of the BDS leaders are not strictly supportive of the two-state solution but prefer the one-state idea, the Israelis are arguing that this amounts to anti-Semitism because it shakes up the very nature of a state for the Jewish people.

A quick survey of the founding document of the BDS movement’s website shows that the term Israel is mentioned 24 times, Palestinians 22, civil society and international law four each. Refugees and occupation appear three times each while West Bank and Gaza, occupied Palestinian territories and the 1967 borders once each.

Neither the term Jew nor the term Palestine appears at all in the BDS founding document.

The non-violent struggle to boycott Israel will continue and escalate now that it has become clear that Israel is not at all interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict and that its prime minister has no intention of granting the Palestinians their inalienable right of creating an independent state during his watch.

The challenge, however, is how to bridge the gap that exists between activists, both inside and outside Palestine, and the Palestinian leadership, which is shackled by the Oslo agreement, security cooperation and a host of other Israeli restrictions that hamper its ability to move.

While there is little in the form of formal cooperation between BDS activists and the PLO, it is imperative that a minimum level of cooperation exist that can help strengthen the non-violent activities and translate these efforts into tangible gains.

A national non-violent strategy is now badly needed and the sooner one is agreed on and enforced the sooner the occupation nightmare will be over.

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