When one speaks of or advocates nonviolence, does he promote
such an idea because he believes that historically it has been a more effective
means of liberation, or is it purely because he thinks that it is a more
self-respecting means of struggle?
In recent history, many advocates of nonviolence have been
celebrated as modern day icons. From Ghandi to King, songs are written in their
honor, their life stories fill the pages of our children�s history volumes as
noble examples of which everyone must aspire to emulate. Holidays are
instituted in their honor and around the world streets and boulevards carry
Why is it that the �establishment� goes to such great
lengths to lift up these individuals? Where are the holidays commemorating the
life and sacrifices of Malcolm X, where are the stories of Crazy Horse or
Geronimo? Could it be possible that these figures remain in the shadows of pacifists
because their ideals shook up the status quo just a little too much? When the
�establishment� celebrates individuals for their nonviolence, could that be
another way of recognizing them for making just enough commotion, but not too
For decades, the Palestinian struggle for freedom was
largely a nonviolent movement. With occasional pockets of armed resistance,
Palestinians in the occupied territories employed methods of general strikes,
demonstrations and the like to express their demands and desires to finally
live in freedom. And yet these were the years when Palestinians saw that great
majority of their homeland swallowed up into what is now the State of Israel.
Land was stolen with no recompense to its owners, prisons burst at the seams
with prisoners who never received a trial, houses demolished by the hundreds,
entire groves of olive and fruit trees ransacked and burned. All this was
carried out in the confines of an �Intifada-free� society. So, it might be
suggested that Palestinians gave nonviolent resistance more than a fair shot.
It seems that there is an ongoing trend among many in the
�establishment� to celebrate those broken and oppressed refugees who in spite
of more than 60 years of bondage call for nonviolence or passive resistance.
While the intention is in itself honorable, one must question the timing.
Recently, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
released a report entitled: �UN: 70% of Palestinian youth oppose violence to
resolve conflict with Israel.� The report addressed a survey conducted in the
occupied territories that interviewed 1,200 youths in the West Bank and Gaza.
The survey found that nearly 70 percent of young adults in the occupied
territories do believe that the use of violence is �not helpful� to resolve the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The report stated that only 8 percent found
violence a necessary tool, and it also found that 80 percent of young
Palestinians are depressed, 55 percent being �extremely depressed.�
In recent months, Palestinians have endured some of the most
painful blows since the early years of Israeli rule. The recent bloodletting in
the Gaza Strip claimed the lives of more than 1,400, wounded thousands, and
robbed millions of any sense of security, safety and hope for a better world.
Human rights groups around the world decried the Israeli genocide as war
crimes, World leaders committed to filing charges at the International Court of
Justice and have Israeli leaders tried for war crimes and crimes against
humanity. The liquidation of Gaza became center platform in Israeli elections.
Cluster bombs, white phosphorous and God only knows what other illegal weapons
were unleashed on a starved and sieged civilian population where relief workers
strived to pinpoint just what chemical weapon only leaves behind the evidence
of a human skeleton?
Amidst the grief and rage that followed, Belgium found it
fitting to nominate one sorrow-stricken doctor and father of three lovely
daughters from Gaza for the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of his efforts to
promote peace between Palestinians and Israelis. The 55-year-old physician,
Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, lost his three children in a most vicious way when
Israeli shells hit his house, crushing and suffocating all those inside. Dr.
Abu al-Aish just happened to be talking on Israeli television about the
suffering of the people of Gaza when he was informed that the shell hit his
home with his family inside. He suppressed his anguish long enough to express
his hope that his daughters would be the last victims of Israel�s attack.
While it cannot be denied that such a man deserves the
highest honor for his commitment to the population of Gaza, and for the
personal sacrifice he has endured, the irony of his distinction coming at such
a time, after the most horrifying of sieges, after the grisly killing of his
children, but more, after the grieving father responded with a poignant message
In the midst of this mess, where is the call for Israel to
embrace nonviolence, would the media and the world community press the Israelis
to embrace nonviolence, had they endured such atrocities such as those
witnessed in Gaza?
And once again, the intentions of the �establishment� come
in to question. One has to wonder, if Abu al-Aish would have responded with the
resolve of so many grieving parents who vowed to �never leave� to �rebuild� to
�resist until victory or death in its pursuit,� would he still be recognized
for his efforts to promote peace among Palestinians and Israelis?
Just why does the UNDP find it fitting to highlight a survey
that concludes that most Palestinian youth find violence �unhelpful� at such a
time? And why does the world praise a man who calls for reconciliation, a term
that somehow suggests a conflict between people of equal standing, while his
daughters rest in fresh graves? Some may suggest that nonviolent resistance in
such situations is the embodiment of the dignified struggle.
Others might call it surrender.Ramzy Baroud is an author and
editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many
newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The
Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People�s
Struggle (Pluto Press, London,) and his
forthcoming book is, �My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza The Untold Story�
(Pluto Press, London).