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Basic Conditions

for the Success of Non-violent Resistance


Fr. Raed Awad Abusahlia


We have often reiterated that violence would only breed violence and blood would call for blood in an ever-ongoing vicious circle. We only reap whatever we have sown from destruction, tears and bloodshed. Folks, we are neither advocating submission or capitulation, nor are we calling off resistance. On the contrary, we advocate its resumption but with a change in direction and adoption of a different strategy that would lead to the same aim, but with a different and more effective and less sanguinary methodology. Do you seek the game or do you wish to argue with the gamekeeper? We seek to enjoy the game, freedom, independence, and the end of occupation, to regain our land, liberate the people and establish a state. All of this is right and legitimate. No one could ever object to this, as it constitutes a part of the inalienable rights as laid down by the international legitimacy.

We have often cited the Olive Branch Strategy for peaceful resistance in proceeding with the current Intifada. It is about time to take a decision to espouse this new methodology. Hence, what are the basic conditions for the success of this peaceful resistance?

  1. Education or frame of mind

No doubt non-violence is a complex weapon to wield because it rests on the basis of self-control in countenancing violence and oppression. It is the implementation of peaceful resistance as a basic strategy stemming from a firm belief in the justice of our cause, the motive of our struggle. The spontaneous human reaction is to counter violence with violence based on the principle of “All that is taken by force could only be regained by force”—despite our confidence and belief in Christ’s words: “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” This would also mean: “Let not evil prevail over you but conquer it with your virtue.” But in the case of the imbalance of military power the use of an inferior force would lead to the supremacy of the stronger and his dominance over the weaker party and causing the latter greater losses with a view to weakening him further and teaching him a lesson that he is incapable of defeating an army equipped with the most sophisticated military techniques. Therefore, it is necessary to set military power aside and have recourse to a different type of power: the power of the people, the power of Truth, the power of Love, as these powers would not be defeated even by the mightiest armies because they are simply based on paralysing the material force with a mightier spiritual and moral force.

However, these principles are in need of a particular education and a certain frame of mind. With this, I mean an ideological training for all people starting right at the base to ascend all the way up to the summit; starting with the very young to attain all adults so that this mode of thinking would turn into a life pattern and would then be adopted as the sole fundamental strategic choice for resistance. Religious and positive moral values, on the one hand, and comparing similar methods of resistance used throughout history, on the other, could play a considerable role in supporting this mode of thinking. Certainly this cannot be achieved overnight, nor could it be adopted swiftly, but requires a time span, experimentation, school programmes, training camps and public mobilization. However, it could, at least, be initially adopted in principle and that which is immediately feasible could be realised there from. This, in itself, would be a considerable achievement for a great people who knew how to fight with steel and fire and would now know how to resume the struggle with spirit and justice. 

  1. Charismatic Leadership

Tall standing trees do not start with yielding fruits and boasting of branches but spring from seeds and roots to develop and grow before giving their first fruits. Similarly, ideas start from a nucleus and a need, exactly as the adage suggests: “Need is the mother of invention.” Seeds of peace exist in all human beings but they need to be developed, protected and reared. The need to adopt a means of peaceful resistance is increasingly felt at this time because all people are experiencing a sense of disappointment with the great loss of lives and the destruction of property along with minimal gains realised. Some have even got into a state of despair and are unable to act. They ask themselves: are we inching forward or going backwards?

This is exactly why I overtly say that a charismatic leadership in place could rally all the good intentioned and would work on a reorganisation, which could succeed in embracing many, or even bring together the entire people around it. We are in need of a Palestinian Ghandi, the like of Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., or Nelson Mandela. We had Mubarak Awad, founder of the Palestinian Centre for Non-violence Research, who was active in the first Intifada and who succeeded in sowing the seeds of an active non-violent movement but was deported to the USA after being imprisoned. We also had Martyr Faysal Husseini who enjoyed a great asset of struggle behind him that goes back to his grandfather and father and who has gained experience and wisdom during the popular strife to the point that he became the address for Jerusalem. He was a great loss to the city and he left a vacuum behind him that could not be filled.

We are now awaiting this leader who should possess all attributes of historic and personal leadership. But as such a leader has not yet appeared on the Palestinian arena, and perhaps would not appear in the near future, I dare to suggest that the current leadership with President Arafat at its head, could transform and espouse this historic choice through turning the struggle into absolutely peaceful and non-violent means to a point of giving up arms and even declaring a demilitarised Palestinian State. The reason for proffering these suggestions is not only the “need and invention” but in consideration of the historic balance in the struggle, in addition to the popular and international support that President Arafat enjoys, being a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. This provides him with the qualifications and the potential to lead the people on a new and different path, provided necessary reforms are carried out and steps are taken to secure this new strategy. If I were in the shoes of the current Palestinian leadership, I would have asked Mr. Nelson Mandela and other non-violence specialists to hold training sessions in this lofty art of struggle that surpasses all military training.

3. The general public or popular participation

The secret of success of the weapon of non-violence lies in the general public’s power, similar to that of a raging fire that cannot be doused by the waters of a deluge. This is why it is necessary to enlist everybody in this struggle, young and old, men an women, so that the burden of struggle does not rest only with a number of children who were the stone throwers during the first Intifada or a handful of armed men who opened fire at tanks in the second Intifada, while the general public remained the spectators suffering and paying double the price in lives and property as a result of the occupation forces retaliation. This struggle, also, should not be confined to peace groups or organisations that are convinced of this method, because in this case their necessary efforts would be wasted due to any act of violence that erupts from any party whatsoever. How many large demonstrations in the streets of Tel Aviv were neutralized by one single martyr’s action in a close-by street!

The power of the general public means that everybody is to take to the street and make it contagious to reach the enemy’s streets and their midst through gaining friends and supporters and travel beyond the frontiers to nearby Arab and Moslem countries and even further to friendly world countries that support our just cause. The participation of the entire public with all its sectors and orientations, in all its towns, villages and camps would cause confusion in the opponent’s side, would paralyse the mobility of its forces and tanks and would reduce its weaponry into children’s toys that could not be used. However, if they dare to use them they would be censured by the world over and would fall into the media traps. Some of the generals had warned the Israeli Government that recourse of Palestinians at large to the weapon of non-violence would paralyse the movements of the army; therefore Palestinians should be prevented from using this weapon because we simply have well-trained forces for warfare and fighting but not for confrontation with an unarmed public. Therefore, our use of force, violence and weapons would provide an excuse for the Israeli army to justify its use of excessive force in self-defence.

  1. The time factor or perseverance

The factor of perseverance is very important. It is not enough to organise a demonstration, a march or a sit-in then stand idle until the next action is called for in several months to come. No, there should be a general public mobilisation with resolve towards determination and perseverance for the realisation of the gradual, strategic or ultimate aims, always bearing in mind that this would require time and patience. Therefore, it is necessary to have symbolic creative ideas, diversify the means of non-violent action and commit all such weapons to the battlefield. Hence, it is absolutely necessary to study such techniques that had been utilised throughout history and to create other appropriate means that conform to our current situation and are capable of being adapted to the changing events. It is very important not to despair nor to lose courage and to kindle hope in the hearts because those who persevere attain their destination. No right is lost so long there is a claimant to it and that justice will prevail in the end no matter how long it takes. I believe that, in this domain, we have become experts in endurance and patience. We have tried all means throughout more than a century and we have been long waiting. So why should we not try this method at present as long as we are certain that if it were not effective soon it would have to succeed later on. Also if we were not able to realise all our ultimate goals at once we shall be satisfied with the little that we can obtain and continue to claim the lot knowing that if we do not gain everything we shall not lose anything. We shall not lose our dignity, we shall not have our homes demolished, we shall not have our blood spilt and we shall not lose our humanity. On the contrary we shall hold our heads up high and we shall regain our humanity and restore humanity to our enemy and bring him back to his senses. 

  1. News Media or the Press

If we were to consider the modern news media as the fourth power in the world, if not the peak, and if we were to consider that it has attained a high degree of accuracy, speed and efficiency in that it reaches all the nations in all countries of the world in the four directions, then we should use it cleverly and wisely. This factor is very important for several reasons: regretfully, our image is very much distorted at present. Despite our heroic struggle we are identified with terrorism; despite the equity of our cause the world not only does not understand it but carries a erroneous and fallacious view about it; despite the availability of oil wealth the Arab world has not established universal news media channels to cover or to counterbalance the news media directed and consecrated to the service of the Jewish propaganda. Therefore the latter one remains devoid of objectivity or even excels in its screaming partiality.

I am not saying this as publicity, nor with an intent to beautify the image or to present it in an affected manner, but to display the naked truth and to talk to the world in a new and understandable language far from the conventional resounding rhetoric. It is necessary to create a new image, considering that the media is the art of drawing interest and providing diversity to ensure attraction. The world can get accustomed to all things even to war and death to the point that these become a natural occurrence. It got bored with images of the stone throwers and the firearm shooters, it resents the bombings and is sickened with watching funerals despite their solemnity and the personal sacrifice involved, as they are now presented in a manner that depicts violence and are accompanied with loud shouts and the burst of bullets fired in the air… Our battle is one of information as much as it is political; so, should we not appreciate the importance of the media in our battle of non-violence? It is even an integral part of the struggle itself! We have a dire need for an information office with specialised expertise in addition to funds and modern techniques.

The mere fundamentals are unfortunately unavailable at present. Yet it is best to start with the first step now before it is too late. The thousand-mile journey starts with one step.

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