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Nonviolent Peaceful Alternative

for Proceeding With Intifada

 father Raed with the pope

Father Raed Awad Abusahlia


A myth says that a giant sent a letter threatening another competing giant in a neighboring land. When the latter received the message, he tore it, cursed the sender and rushed for revenge, the ground was shaking under his feet. When the sender heard the footsteps, he was scared to death. His wife cooled him down and advised him to lie down in bed and hide so that she could handle the matter using the brain mechanism rather than the muscle mechanism. She then covered him with a blanket, leaving out his huge feet. When the furious, roaring giant approached, she expressed her regret at the absence of her husband and begged the giant not to raise his voice so that her son would not wake up. When the giant looked and saw the protruding feet, he said to himself, If this is his son, how would the father look like! He was frightened and ran away.

I did not narrate this story at the outset with the intention of foiling the extraordinary efforts being exerted in resisting the occupation, despite the fact that we are fighting a giant boasting of his strength. I narrated it so as to put forward a new idea that is not based on the mechanism of the muscle power but on another mechanism based on the brain power and the Power of Truth derived from rightfulness and UN resolutions.

I will call this alternative mechanism nonviolence in the Gandhian sense of the term Satyagraha, which means Power of Truth or the Power of Love. It was used by that skinny man, with the great spirit, the Mahatma Gandhi, who was able to defeat the Empire on which the sun never sets, drive away British occupation of the Indian subcontinent and force the greatest power in the world at the time to grant his country its independence. Likewise, his student, Martin Luther King Jr., used the same method to liberate blacks in America from slavery and racial discrimination on the basis of color, and achieve equality and full civil rights. The contemporary Nelson Mandela, as well, was able, while in prison for 27 years, to defeat the government of South Africa which, for over a century, practiced the Apartheid policy against blacks. The voice of reason and truth finally prevailed in all the above cases.

Our case is no less complicated than the above cases, and is not of a lesser justice and legitimacy at all. In our struggle, we have used some nonviolent means, especially during the first Intifada with the freedom fighter, Mubarak Awad, who established The Palestinian Center for Nonviolence Studies. However, when the Israeli authorities realized the danger of such techniques, they put him in prison and released him after three months provided he leaves the country. He now lives in Washington and heads Nonviolence International. I visited him two years ago while preparing my Ph.D. dissertation on Violence and Nonviolence in Islamic Thought. I pleaded with him to come back and resume his struggle. But his many obligations there and the unsuitable atmosphere here prevented him so far from coming back. This does not mean that his ideas have died and become forgotten. They are still useful and could be effective and efficient.

Therefore, I call upon my Palestinian brethren to adopt the Nonviolence Strategy that is based on the following clear principle, The Palestinian people, possessing the force of truth and UN Resolutions, is stronger with stones than with arms, and still even stronger with olive branches than with stones. Nonviolence attempts to seek civil, nonviolent, defensive means that enable people to organize real resistance for averting any aggression, instead of doubling condemnations thatexperience has taught usare useless and ineffective. Consequently, it is essential to have historical courage, lay down arms and stones, and raise again the olive branch that President Arafat raised in his famous speech in the United Nations in 1974 when he said, I have come here carrying an olive branch in one hand and a gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall down from my hand. Yes, the olive branch alone will be victorious!

I am very much convinced, for very valid reasons, that this period necessitates choosing the olive branch strategy:

  1. We adopted all violent resistance means before the creation of Israel, during its creation and after it, and till this day whereby we proved our courage and recorded a history of heroic acts. Unfortunately, we lost all battles and the world called us terrorists because we did not know how to convince it, in a civilized way, that we have a right, that we are not the oppressors but the oppressed, and that we are not the executioner but the victim.
  2. I tend to believe that the world, till this day and despite its awareness, knowledge and recognition of our rights, does not support us enough. This is due to Israeli propaganda that distorts the image of Arabs in the mass media, and due to the worlds sensitivity to any violent act we commit. The exaggerated violence practiced by Israel is condoned and acceptable, but resistance on our side is always rejected, condemned and labeled with terror, as usual. That is why it is inevitable to use a new language that is understood by the whole world. It is the language of nonviolence with all the force of thought and symbols that it encompasses and that may have a stronger impact on mass media than the daily pictures carried by the press of children throwing stones at soldiers, and soldiers shooting at them. Even pictures of shelling and detonations have become normal in the eyes of the world, while simple people pay a heavy price daily in terms of their lives and nerves.
  3. The circle of resistance and violence, and the corresponding exaggerated violence on the Israeli side, is a continuing and escalating vicious circle that cannot be stopped but broken. The reason is that the stubborn enemy does not understand that the sacrifices of a whole people for its freedom and independence are not terrorist acts, as it tends to believe. In this case, the enemy will not give in because of its pride since it considers itself a super power that cannot be defeated by mere childrens stones. Consequently, there should be an outlet for this stalemate, the purpose being not to spare the enemy from embarrassment but to embarrass him with new techniques that do not offer him the justifications or pretexts to respond violently, since he cares about its image before the world. Thus, we will drive away occupation and preserve its dignity, and ours as well.
  4. The strongest and most important reason for this strategic turn is that the energy inherent in the crowds of people should be somehow expressed. It could be used for more violence and escalation, and will thus become explosive and outrageous and difficult to control. Also, its results cannot be predicted because it is built on spontaneous individual or group emotions.
  5. Finally, all sectors of society are affected by, suffer from and participate in the Intifada activities. The participation of the vast majority is passive because it suffers silently and grumbles. But through the new peaceful way, everybody can be mobilized to participate in all the activities undertaken. The neighboring, Arab and Islamic countries might be affected, as well. I am positive that many foreigners and friends, all over the world, even Israelis from peace movements who sympathize with our just cause, will be mobilized and will come to our rescue and will dare to actively participate in our activities without being labeled as terrorists.

I outlined above my idea and the driving forces behind it. However, I call upon the political, religious and the peoples leadership to study the idea and develop it as soon as possible. It will be advisable to consult local and international specialists in this field, especially academics who conducted relevant research.

I end my letter with a verse from the Bible: Love your enemies and pray for those who hate you. For loving our enemies does not mean submission and weakness or relinquishment of our rights, but rather claiming those rights with the force of Love.

I know very well that these strategic ideas require knowledge and understanding, education and preparation, time and leadership. But I also know that it is good to start now before it is too late and before more blood is shed.

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