Palestinians and Israelis call for nonviolent people power to end occupation

A meeting between Israeli and Palestinian Communist leaders last month highlighted a new approach that is gaining favor among Palestinians as the path to achieving a state of their own alongside Israel.

“Depending on the sole option of negotiations has exhausted its purposes,” leaders of the Palestinian People’s Party and the Israeli Communist Party said March 25, following a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, “and … it is necessary now to activate and develop other strong factors in the Palestinian position.”

Fed up with the increasingly aggressive Israeli far-right and frustrated with U.S. hesitancy to confront it, Palestinian leaders of varied political views are emphasizing nonviolent mass action by the Palestinian people to push back against Israeli settlement encroachments and the occupation’s repressive measures.

The aim, they say, is twofold: to arouse the world community to press Israel to end its occupation, and simultaneously to create “facts on the ground” that will make a Palestinian state an inevitable and speedy reality.

This approach, called “sumud” (steadfastness), was highlighted by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad last month, when he joined residents in planting trees in a village near the West Bank city of Qalqilya, where the Israeli separation wall surrounds the city and blocks farmers’ access to their land. Fayyad told about 1,000 people gathered to hear him, “This is our real project, to establish our presence on our land and keep our people on it.”

“Steadfastness must be translated from a slogan to acts and facts on the ground,” he said.

In a recent interview with Asharq al-Awsat,  Fayyad said his approach “is based on the peaceful daily expression, in a non-violent manner, of opposition to occupation and settlements, boycotting the products of the settlements and invigorating the popular movement against the wall.” Such a movement, he said, should be matched by stepped up international involvement “to strip away legitimacy from everything that has any connection to the Israeli colonialist scheme.”

Resistance and intifada (uprising) should not be defined narrowly as armed actions, Fayyad said. “The entire Palestinian people today are in an intifida peacefully in resisting the settlements, the wall and the occupation. If this resistance does not meet the specifications of some [it is because] it does not have boys who are killed.”

“I am not ashamed to say that I am against sending children to the barricades so that they would be slaughtered for the sake of issuing a statement,” he said. “Resistance without blood is also resistance.”

Last week, Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, visited Bil’in, a West Bank village slashed by the Israeli wall, whose residents have become international symbols of the Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement, holding weekly protests against the wall since 2005. The movement has spread to other Palestinian villages. “What happens in the village is a model for contemporary nonviolent popular resistance,” Gandhi said during his visit. By awakening the conscience of the world community, this movement, he said, will spur an end to the “persecution and occupation” of the Palestinian people, and the Israeli settlements and separation wall “will disappear.”

On April 14, Martin Luther King III is scheduled to speak at a conference on nonviolence in Ramallah, sponsored by Realizing the Dream, a group founded by King and his mother Coretta Scott King, and two Jerusalem-based organizations: Middle East Non-Violence and Democracy and the Center for Democracy and Community Development. The event’s objective, the sponsors say, is to bring together, strengthen and enlarge Palestinian nonviolence efforts in order to end the occupation.

Israeli peace advocates are joining with Palestinians in many of these efforts. On March 6, several thousand Israelis and Palestinians demonstrated in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood against Israeli authorities’ eviction of Palestinians from their homes to accommodate Jewish settlers. The event drew wide international media coverage.

The Palestinian People’s Party and Israeli Communist Party leaders emphasized the need for “escalation of popular struggle and resistance” among the Palestinian people and for activating the “peace moves in the Israeli street that opposes occupation, settlements and provocations in Occupied East Jerusalem, just like what happened in Sheikh Jarrah recently.” They pointed to “the adamant popular resistance against the Apartheid Wall in Bil’in and Ni’lin, which has become a unique model and symbol of the struggle.”

At the same time, they stressed the need for “comprehensive political moves at the international level” to push Israel to stop settlement construction, abide by international laws and United Nations resolutions, and end the occupation.

Their statement gives their views on a range of pressing issues, including Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the U.S. role, the East Jerusalem settlement crisis, Gaza, the demand for Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, democratic struggles within Israel, and the splits within the Palestinian movement. It is available in English on the Israeli Communist Party web site.

Photo: Scene at a 2008 protest in Bil’in. (Friends of Freedeom and Justice Bilin)



Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.