Resistance with Love: The Only Hope for Palestine

Everything has failed in terms of Israeli and Palestinian relations for almost a hundred years. There will be more and more negotiations, and I have hopes that the Obama Administration will be the best yet in really moving the parties toward resolution. But in my heart I have always felt that there is one path to peace that has never been trod and fully adopted, that is the path of nonviolent noncooperation and resistance but with love, the way of Gandhi and King. I will develop this idea more in the coming months, but this is something that a number of Palestinians inside Israel and inside Palestine have tried, but it has never received the backing of the Palestinian National Movement. On the contrary it was suppressed because it only works when it is adopted completely as the only means of resistance.

This is not about fairness or whether Palestinians should have to have the burden of reaching out to Jews this way. In a fair world, the Jews of Israel, the victors of 1948, should have had the courage and good sense to recognize their victory and respond with generosity, some regrets, and a willingness to coexist. Some did, but most did not, as evidenced by their leadership over the years. But this is not about fairness, this is about what may still work.

The Palestinian leadership has chosen two paths in the last forty years: 1. Extreme violence against civilians, that others call terrorism, and 2. recognition of Israel, negotiations, accomodation and a corrupted alliance with Israeli authorities. Neither path has worked. They were dismissed by most Israelis as barbarians for the former, and weak for the latter. Principled nonviolent noncooperation, that also has a strong hand reached out to the Jews in friendship, sympathy, and respect, may be the only answer. It is what worked for African Americans and for many others.

In that spirit, here is a wondeful story from a village in the West Bank that sees perpetual nonviolent resistance to the Wall that has destroyed the town’s livelihood. They decided to make an exhibit on the Jewish Holocaust! Here are excerpts:

Every Friday, the West Bank village of Ni’lin is home to some of the most violent clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian, Israeli and international demonstrators.

Each week, activists from the village’s Land Defence Committee stage demonstrations at the Separation Barrier which cuts off as much as half the village’s farmland and water from its inhabitants.

As a reporter for a Palestinian news agency in Bethlehem, I too travelled to Ni’lin, but last weekend beheld a spectacle perhaps more remarkable than these weekly Barrier protests: Villagers had set up an exhibition to coincide with the United Nations-declared International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January, an exhibition organised by Ni’lin’s Popular Committee Against the Wall.

Hassan Moussa, the exhibition’s organiser, spoke to me over the phone from Ni’lin. And despite the hot-headed rhetoric coming from both sides that weekend (a number of protesters were tear-gassed just hours before), Moussa explained that the exhibit was organised with the most noble of intentions.

“This is a way of extending our sympathy for the Jews,” and the Palestinians’ way of extending that sympathy “to the Israeli people, themselves,” he says.

“Nobody thinks war will lead to peace and security. It will lead to more violence and hatred and agony, as well as suffering to this area, which is neither in our interest, nor the Israelis.”

Since late January the people of Ni’lin have opted to complement their demonstrations with something “to show the Israelis that we feel sorry for them.”

As a Palestinian activist, Moussa says he also wants to convey his suffering: “My suffering will not lead to peace. When I lose my land, it’s like losing your heart from your body.”

The village’s Municipality hosted the Holocaust Remembrance Exhibition at its headquarters in Ni’lin, where organisers say more than 1,000 visitors have paid tribute to the victims of Nazi atrocities committed against Europe’s Jews.

The exhibition of posters and texts, provided by an Israeli Holocaust museum, details “the genocide that was committed against the Jewish people during the 1930s and 1940s in Germany and in other parts of Europe,” Moussa explains.

Nonviolent Protest in Niilin
Nonviolent Protest in Ni'ilin
Confrontation and Violence in Niilin
Confrontation and Violence in Ni'ilin
© Marc Gopin