the Disillusioned kid: New Palestinian Weapon
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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New Palestinian Weapon

I could be wrong (it does happen occasionally), but I wonder if the Palestinian struggle may have reached an important point with the development of a new, powerful weapon which has the potential to be hugely damaging to Israel. Truth be told, the weapon isn't all that new, but its implementation does seem to be and its first use appears to have been a huge success. This terrifying new weapon? Non-violence.

When Mohammad Baroud, a member of the Popular Resistance Committee received word from the Israeli military that he had ten minutes to evacuate his home before they destroyed it in an air-strike, the local community rallied round to stop it. According to Rami Almeghari, "Within minutes, crowds of people gathered around, on balconies and rooftop of Baroud's house, as the loudspeakers of the local mosque called on the residents to take to the streets to protect the house from the Israeli air strike." Amazingly they were actually able to force the attack to be called off. Conal Urqhart continues the story: "Two hours later Israel warned Mohammed Nawajeh, a member of Hamas, that his house would be targeted and the same process occurred."

Clearly this tactic is not a comprehensive defence against Israeli attacks. On Sunday an airborne attack on a car in Gaza City wounded nine. Although two were apparently Hamas militants, four were children aged 5, 13, 14 and 16. Nevertheless, the symbolic value of nonviolent protest is considerable. The targeting of civilians isn't just morally abhorrent, it is also damaging from a strategic perspective, alienating potential supporters and consolidating support within Israel for repression of the Palestinians. (I don't want to get drawn into a discussion of the distasteful ideologies of those targeted and many of the participants in the action, which is largely irrelevant, just as it would be if the Palestinians were carrying out air strikes against the households of Israeli cabinet members.)

One might assume, given the tone in which this development has been reported, that nonviolence is something the Palestinians have hitherto not bothered with. In fact, there has been a long running (and all too little known) campaign of nonviolent resistance to the construction of the "security fence" in the West Bank town of Bil'in. The often violent Israeli response demonstrates one of the inherent weaknesses to a nonviolent approach: it assumes a degree of self-control on the part of those you are protesting against.

None of the foregoing should be taken as a suggestion that I am advocating the Palestinians give up armed struggle entirely. It is, in my opinion, their right and I doubt the world would have paid attention to the Palestinian cause if they limited themselves to peaceful protest. Nevertheless, there are clearly limits to what armed struggle alone is capable of achieving, particularly when it is used in an indiscriminate manner, as it has been all too often in the last few years. Nonviolent resistance opens up new possibilities - witness the achievements of the ANC after it moved away from political violence, but there is a real risk that these might be foreclosed by Israeli violence which is where the need for international solidarity comes in. None of this is easy, but then neither is violence.

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