Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ignoring the Palestinian Uprising

West must Recognize Peaceful Palestinian Resistance Movement

The West has been largely silent on Palestinian nonviolent resistance, which is unifying groups like Fatah and Hamas. Unless the West recognizes these peaceful initiatives, some Palestinians may question whether civil protest is any better than its violent alternative.

By Sarah Marusek
The Christian Science Monitor
June 7, 2012

BEIRUT, LEBANON  – Some ask why the Palestinians seem to have been left behind in the so-called Arab Spring. In fact, they have not.

Palestinians in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and throughout the Middle East region have been engaging in nonviolent resistance over the past year. But the Western media have been largely silent in their coverage of this remarkable movement, which is unifying groups as disparate as Fatah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Unless the West recognizes these peaceful initiatives, some Palestinians may question whether nonviolent civil resistance will be any better than its violent alternative.

The current nonviolent resistance movement in the region – known as the Arab Spring or Arab Awakening – can, in fact, be connected back to the struggle that started in the Palestinian territories in 1987.

As American University of Beirut Professor Rami Zurayk notes, “the Arab uprisings have of course taken their inspiration from the [first] Palestinian intifada.” However he clarifies that the reverse is also true: There is “a constant feeding in from the Arab uprisings to Palestine and from Palestine to the Arab uprisings.”

Here in Lebanon, the diplomatic Israeli-Palestinian peace process embraced by the West has never been very popular. According to the leaked “Palestine papers,” Palestinian negotiators were willing to concede the right of return, recognized by UN Security Council resolution 194, to all Palestinian refugees but a select 10,000. One should not be surprised that this concession was unpopular here; over 400,000 Palestinian refugees are registered in Lebanon alone.

But their reaction to this and other developments has shifted in recent months. While in the past many Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon have supported the path of armed resistance to fight for their rights, today they are peacefully taking to the streets.

The new wave of Palestinian non-violent civil resistance in Lebanon started last year on the anniversary of the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” to commemorate the expulsion or fleeing of around 700,000 Palestinians from their land in 1948. On May 15,  2011 more than 50,000 Palestinian refugees gathered in a non-violent demonstration near Lebanon’s southern border with Israel. Since then, Lebanon’s Palestinians have been regularly organizing peaceful sit-ins and demonstrations, demanding civil rights in Lebanon (which they lack) and the right to return to their homeland.

But while the Palestinian Authority’s recent bid for statehood at the United Nations generated a lot of Western media interest, that same media are not reporting on the Palestinians’ peaceful protests in Lebanon, and were mostly silent when Hamas leaders in Gaza issued a declaration last December that “violence is no longer the primary option” for the party’s resistance against Israeli occupation.

At around the same time, the Western media also largely ignored Palestinian Khader Adnan’s hunger strike to protest against the Israeli policy of “administrative detention” – holding Palestinian prisoners indefinitely without trial or charge. Reports about the hunger strike only started to appear in February when Mr. Adnan was close to death. Subsequently, at least 1,600 more prisoners joined the hunger strike, with several approaching death.

Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, criticized the lack of response from Western governments, media, and even the UN itself. Since then, Egyptian mediation negotiated a deal where Israel agreed to meet some of the prisoners’ key demands, ending the hunger strike for most, although several prisoners have continued their protest.

Throughout the spring, there was a frenzy of non-violent events in the region showing solidarity with the Palestinian hunger strikers. On March 30 an unprecedented series of peaceful demonstrations were organized in the Palestinian territories and the neighboring countries of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, under the banner of the Global March to Jerusalem. And then on May 15, people came out into the streets once again to remember the Nakba.

All of the major Palestinian parties are coordinating these activities, including Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The US considers the latter three terrorist groups.

As with the hunger strikes, the Western media are largely ignoring the remarkable fact that these three parties are now actively embracing non-violent resistance to achieve their political goals. But even when Hamas recently leaked to the press that the party is conducting secret talks with several European governments, the Western media barely noticed.

The danger is that Western silence – in the media and in government – on this peaceful movement will undermine the effectiveness of the Palestinian protesters. What good is peaceful protest if it is not recognized or engaged?

In a recent op-ed, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan argued that the international community must give Palestinian non-violent resistance a chance. They are right. The only problem is that we first need to know that it exists before we can encourage it.

Sarah Marusek is a member of the International Central Committee of the Global March to Jerusalem and is a social science doctoral candidate at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. She is in Lebanon on an International Education Graduate Fellowship for International Study to research Islamic charities.


  1. Total nonsense and dishonest nonsense at that. The Philistines have NOT been "non-violent".

    This is the "non-violence" that you talk about in these incidents:

  2. Dear Yishai,

    Thank you for your response.

    I am confused. Your videos show un-armed protesters peacefully chanting slogans for the downfall of a corrupt regime and then retreating from Israeli violence. In fact several scenes show Israeli snipers targeting the protesters. Most respond to the violence with more chanting but some throw stones.

    Having been at many of the protests in Lebanon myself, including the 2011 Nakba Day demonstration that The New York Times reporter was not witness to, I know for certain that only one side used tanks and guns, and it was not the protesters. How many Palestinian casualties were there? Over one hundred. And zero Israeli casualties.

    I do not fault people for throwing stones after being sieged by any of the following: guns, tanks, tear gas or skunk water. Nor for throwing stones over fences and climbing them to drape the barriers with national flags to forge a connection to a native land that is criminally denied to them.

    Egyptians and Tunisians have recently used the same non-violent resistance tactics to international acclaim as have anti-apartheid South Africans and American civil rights activists before them. Recognize a human for a human.

  3. Sarah,

    You sure are confused. The videos show Arab gangs rushing the Israelis and throwing rocks. That isn't non-violent. Tear gas used to disperse the hordes is much more non-violent.

    And as per the NY Times article above:

    In the West Bank, about 1,000 protesters carrying Palestinian flags and throwing stones and occasional firecrackers and gasoline bombs fought with Israeli riot troops near the military checkpoint between Ramallah and Israel.

    ...“This is war,” said Amjad Abu Taha, a 16-year-old from Bethlehem who joined the protesters in Ramallah, a rock in one hand and a cigarette in the other. “We’re defending our country.”

    Nearby, hundreds of Israeli troops roamed the area, using stun guns and tear gas.

    In Gaza, the Hamas police stopped buses carrying protesters near the main crossing into Israel, but dozens of demonstrators continued on foot, arriving at a point closer to the Israeli border than they had reached in years and drawing Israeli fire.

    Later, in a separate episode, an 18-year-old Gazan near another part of the border fence was shot and killed by Israeli troops when, the Israeli military says, he was trying to plant an explosive.

    At the Syrian border, an Israeli military spokesman said, troops fired only at infiltrators trying to damage the security barrier and equipment there. Some 13 Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded from thrown rocks.
    Not non-violent either. Not in the least. I would hope that one who aspires to become an academic would show intellectual honesty.

    As to apartheid, you really should look up what it means. Hint it doesn't apply to Israel, but it absolutely does to the would-have-been "Palestinians":


    Abbas vows: No room for Israelis in Palestinian state

    Abbas Zaki of Fatah Admits, "Wiping Out Israel Main Goal"

    PA Religious Official Publicly Calls for Genocide of Jews

    Nabil Shaath: We'll Never Accept "Two-States for Two Peoples" Solution

    We will not tolerate Muslim apartheid here in OUR land.

    1. You call me dishonest? The videos show Israeli soldiers shooting at unarmed Palestinians. Mahmoud Zaqout was only trying to plant a Palestinian flag at the contested border fence when he was shot. You are right, how terribly violent of them. And a Jewish State is racist, so you need not fear apartheid on the land of Palestine as it is already a reality thanks to Zionism. All's that I can say is that I am sure happy that I do not see the world through your eyes. I would never be able to live with myself. Maybe that is why you cannot live with your neighbors? In any case thank you for reading my blog :)

  4. Yup. Dishonest.

    The reports from ALL over included the fact that the Arabs were engaged in VIOLENT- NOT "non-violent", protests.

    "Unarmed" Philistines somehow "magically" produced large rocks, Molotov cocktails- which are minimally made of a bottle, gasoline, oil, a rag, and fire; and an explosive device.

    It must have been creatio ex nihilo- right?

    Mahmoud Zaqout was a Hamas member who paid the price for his own violence. I know: Whenever terrorists get shot, they were really just minding their own business when out of nowhere- boom! How could that happen?

    Fact: He and the rest of them knew what they were doing. Warning shots were fired. Non-lethal weapons had been used, and they continued.

  5. Tell me what about the line between Gaza and the Negev that is "contested". True- According to Hamas' Covenant (From the Preamble):

    Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it" (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).

    Article Six:

    The Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinguished Palestinian movement, whose allegiance is to Allah, and whose way of life is Islam. It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine...

    Article Seven:

    ...the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

    "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).

    Article Eight:

    Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.

    Article Eleven:

    The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgement Day?

    This is the law governing the land of Palestine in the Islamic Sharia (law) and the same goes for any land the Moslems have conquered by force, because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Moslems consecrated these lands to Moslem generations till the Day of Judgement.

    It happened like this: When the leaders of the Islamic armies conquered Syria and Iraq, they sent to the Caliph of the Moslems, Umar bin-el-Khatab, asking for his advice concerning the conquered land - whether they should divide it among the soldiers, or leave it for its owners, or what? After consultations and discussions between the Caliph of the Moslems, Omar bin-el-Khatab and companions of the Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, it was decided that the land should be left with its owners who could benefit by its fruit. As for the real ownership of the land and the land itself, it should be consecrated for Moslem generations till Judgement Day. Those who are on the land, are there only to benefit from its fruit. This Waqf remains as long as earth and heaven remain. Any procedure in contradiction to Islamic Sharia, where Palestine is concerned, is null and void.

  6. Article Thirteen:

    Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against part of religion...

    Now and then the call goes out for the convening of an international conference to look for ways of solving the (Palestinian) question. Some accept, others reject the idea, for this or other reason, with one stipulation or more for consent to convening the conference and participating in it. Knowing the parties constituting the conference, their past and present attitudes towards Moslem problems, the Islamic Resistance Movement does not consider these conferences capable of realising the demands, restoring the rights or doing justice to the oppressed. These conferences are only ways of setting the infidels in the land of the Moslems as arbitraters. When did the infidels do justice to the believers?

    "But the Jews will not be pleased with thee, neither the Christians, until thou follow their religion; say, The direction of Allah is the true direction. And verily if thou follow their desires, after the knowledge which hath been given thee, thou shalt find no patron or protector against Allah." (The Cow - verse 120).

    There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors...

    Article Fourteen:

    ...liberation of Palestine is then an individual duty for very Moslem wherever he may be...

    Article Twenty-Eight:

    ... Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people. "May the cowards never sleep."

    Article Thirty-Two:

    ... When they (the Jews) will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.

    You obviously agree.

    As to us living with our neighbors- THEY can't live with themselves. Look what they're doing; imploding all over. We're the ONLY island of tranquility and sanity here.

    I don't fear apartheid because we will not allow it here in OUR land like they do in theirs.