WORKING WITH NONVIOLENCE February 12, 2009Posted by wmmbb in Israel-Palestine.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is a Palestinian medical doctor and political leader, interviewed by Glenn Greenwald. The interview can be heard at Glenn Greenwald’s blog at Salon.com.
The context for the interview is the current Israeli election, which applies to be a classic case of a society caught in the spiral of violence. Bravado aside, the damage that violence does to the violators, even in the absence of effective international institutions to oversight the process of justice, is greater than might be first thought. To live with murder and injustice is a huge burden.
When you talk to Palestinians, and they say to you, what is it that we need to do or we need to change in order to make peace more likely, what proportion of the blame or the cause for all of this do you attribute to the Palestinian side?
Mustafa Barghouti replies:
Listen. Israel has been actually very good at abusing and using things like the rockets and other military forms of action to undermine and delegitimize and dehumanize Palestinians. I personally believe in non-violence; I believe that it’s more effective. I believe that conducting military interaction with Israel is like committing suicide, because Israel is so powerful from a military perspective.
At the same time, I think our cause will have more integrity if we use non-violent methods – this is what I have been advocating. But the power of non-violence is strictly connected with the power of solidarity of the international community. This has been the case in South African struggles; this has been the case in many other non-violent struggles all over the world, and that’s why when I explain to Palestinians, and even to Hamas people, and they ask me this question, why do you think it is important to have international opinion on our side, and I explain that. And then they ask me, how could non-violence be powerful and strong, and then I give them the examples of Martin Luther King. Now, the election of Obama is, in my opinion, the greatest success of Martin Luther King’s non-violent approach to struggle.
But, you see, to strengthen our line of non-violence, we need some different position from the international community. What happened during the war on Gaza was just shameful. They – not only the United States administration, but many, many world leaders simply violated the basic moral standards when they refused to criticize Israel, when they could not tell Israel enough is enough and slaughtering children is not a way of finding a solution.
That’s why I think, what I tell to my fellow citizens, is that our non-violent approach is the best way, and we’re practicing this. But non-violence does not mean you surrender to your oppressors. Non-violence does not mean you give up your right to be free. Non-violence does not mean you become hostages of your occupier, as has happened to the Palestinian Authority under Abbas in the West Bank. That is the issue. Non-violence does not mean that Palestinian government should oppress its own people to prevent them from even non-violently expressing their views and their demands for freedom.
So, these things have to be clear, and I am a strong believer that the future of our struggle will be non-violent; I believe in non-violence; I believe in democracy; I believe we can provide Palestinians with better options, to have better health care, to have better education, better social system, but I am convinced, like every reasonable Palestinian, that none of that can happen unless we are free, totally, from occupation and oppression. Unless we are free, knowing the cause of all these problems, which is occupation.
Violence is a symptom of the disease, and as a medical doctor I learned that you have to deal with the cause of the disease, not just with the symptoms. And the cause has been 41 years of oppression and occupation, 60 years of partition, and the most important thing is the lack of justice towards the people who are called the Palestinians.
Now it seems that the Israelis did many things to impede Dr Barghouti’s election campaign including stopping him from campaigning in Jerusalem where he was born. Somehow overlooking this interference, they find it convenient to condemn Hamas.
The election of fascists – and I am just repeating opinion I read – into the likely Netanyahou Government at the very least for cause cognitive dissonance for international, especially European, governments.
According to Juan Cole’s analysis of the Israeli election the two state solution has been effectively rejected.Then the only alternative, which seems extraordinarily difficult to envisage, the one state solution. There are other options, essentially the existing policies, such as expulsion and apartheid, but they lead from nowhere to nowhere.
Hamas spokes person colorfully described the election result as a “troika of terrorism”, according to Ha’aretz. Since 61 seats is necessary for a majority, presumably the Knesset has 120 seats. 70 seats are held by Kadima, Likud and Beitneu (Israel our home). Labor got 13 seats and the Arab parties, representing 20% of the population, 9 seats. As Juan Cole points out the Arabs will not support Livni because of her role in the Gaza Massacre, so giving the government to Likud, the Liebermann led Beitneu with minor party support.
Ha’aretz political correspondent Yossi Verter writes many left wingers voted for Kadima, who will not be able to form a government without the inclusion of Avigdor Lieberman’ party. The election has not settled anything, other than encouraging the violent suppression of the Palestinians, who will be thereby encouraged to respond with violence. As Dr Barghouti suggested international opinion and solidarity will be important.
Carlo Strenger in The Guardian ominously observes:
Prospects are more than bleak. These elections have proven that even though Israel is a hi-tech powerhouse with a strong army and a functioning democracy, it no longer has the ability to think strategically, act morally and truly manage its own fate. Given that the Palestinians have lost any cohesiveness and have no functioning leadership, the region is likely to deteriorate into chaos and violence.
Israel’s tragedy is that the motivation for the Zionist project was to allow Jews a life of dignity, freedom and self-determination. Instead Israel is turning into a ghetto, progressively oblivious of the outside world, with a paranoid and often dehumanising attitude towards Arabs and deafness towards the values of the western world to which it wants to belong. The resulting moral blindness was dramatically shown in the way the Gaza operation was conducted.
What this, and similar observations choose to ignore, is that Israel in particular has chose to derail past peace initiatives. It might be too, that Obama might have other priorities than satisfying the claims of the Israelis arising in part from the GFC.