A Response to Ramzy Baroud’s “Non-Violence in Palestine”

Anis Hamadeh

Posted May 1, 2009      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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An adequate Provocation - And the Consequence?: A Response to Ramzy Baroud’s “Non-Violence in Palestine”

By Anis Hamadeh

“Where is the call for Israel to embrace non-violence?” asks Ramzi Baroud after his analysis of Palestinian resistance which has a long tradition and broad basis of nonviolent action. Baroud did not even mention the calm Palestinian reaction on the 1947 UN Partition Plan and the even more important - because more political - contemporary nonviolent weekly demonstrations in the Palestinian villages Bil’in and Ni’lin which often are brutally attacked by the Israeli military, as, for example, “Maariv” journalist Noam Sheizaf pointed out in his article “Nonviolence? Israel prefers the Hamas” (April 22, http://www.promisedlandblog.com/?p=892, published at the same day when Ramzy’s article was published at http://www.counterpunch.org/baroud04172009.html ), mentioning the reckless murder of nonviolent protester Bassem Abu Rahme that almost went unnoticed in the mainstream media and public. See the shocking video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlbzuZ_50mU.

Add also Huwaida Arraf’s article “Heed voices calling for justice for Palestinians” from April 24th, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2009118102_opinc26arraf.html, opening with: “We Palestinians are often asked where the Palestinian Gandhi is and urged to adopt nonviolent methods in our struggle for freedom from Israeli military rule. On April 17, an Israeli soldier killed my good friend Bassem Abu Rahme at a nonviolent demonstration against Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land. Bassem was one of many Palestinian Gandhis.” The bottom line of all these articles is that it does not seem to matter if Palestinians choose violence or nonviolence in their legitimate struggle for equal rights. Moreover, it is to be considered that violent resistance against aggressors is not illegal. There is a right to self-defense, no doubt.

What Baroud associates with “surrender” is not nonviolence, though. He refers to the example of the Gazan doctor Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize after that his three children were brutally killed by the Israeli forces while he was talking about reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis on Israeli TV. And the tragic loss did not change his mind. Baroud is correct in assuming that the path of nonviolence has not been politically fruitful in an adequate way. But this is not the fault of nonviolence. It rather has to do with the stereotypization of Palestinians as perpetrators and Israelis/Jews as victims. These stereotypes with their highlighting and hiding mechanisms distort the discourse.

The nonviolent internationals Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall were killed by Israeli tanks and bullets and showed the irrational violence and lack of peace will of Israel’s army. So do the peaceful demonstrations in Bil’in and Ni’lin. In Bil’in, people even held a holocaust commemoration recently, remembering the cruelties committed against Jews in Europe, and there is an “Arab Institute for Holocaust Research and Education” in Nazareth (http://www.alkaritha.org). Considering the circumstances, this is an act of highest awareness of the substance of violence and its failure. And there can be other reasons for nonviolent action not to work out in the right way, as shows the killing of nonviolent Colombian Antioquia state Governor Guillermo Gaviria Correa on May 5, 2003, among ten hostages massacred by FARC guerrillas, in reaction to a military rescue attempt.

So what are the consequences to be drawn from this insight in Palestinian resistance? Let us not forget that both violence and nonviolence have not changed the situation. And neither Baroud, Sheizaf, or Arraf have actually stated that violence is the better option. They merely express their anger and frustration about the fact that a just solution seems so far, and they have all the right to point this out. The ongoing killings of Palestinians - regardless of their disposition toward violence - thus is not a failure of nonviolence, it is mainly a failure of the public. Nonviolence needs the public, both during action and afterwards.

It is, in fact, the international public that is proven to be closer to the law of the jungle than to those nonviolent principles that we as the human race have actually agreed on. Did we not agree on the Human Rights? Did we not agree on the Geneva Conventions and on international law? The signatures are extant. So here is where we have to start: make clear that our priorities are these laws that we developed in order to leave the violence of former conflicts behind. Actively. Nonviolence does not mean surrender or hypocracy at all, on the contrary.

Anis Hamadeh translated the book “Nonkilling Global Political Science” into German (forthcoming, see http://www.nonkilling.org), www.anis-online.de