American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Toward a Nonviolent Resistance in Palestine
Ramzi Kysia is a Muslim American peace activist. He recently took part in a two-month peace mission to Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness (www.vitw.org) and a one-month mission in Palestine.
It's easy to be a pacifist outside of war, and it's hard not to be trapped by hatred from within one. Caught within war, we can wonder that peace is ever possible. But it is precisely in war that peace becomes so vital. What, within ourselves, are we willing to risk for peace?
These are the darkest days of the Intifada. Who will save us? Will Arafat, humiliated and besieged, bring peace to the Middle East? Will Sharon, the Butcher of Lebanon and Palestine, bring peace to the Middle East? Will America, openly calling for the destruction of Iraq, bring peace to the Middle East?
In a world increasingly embracing collective insanity, what our governments do is almost irrelevant. They will do what governments always do--protect their own power to the best of their ability. It's what we as individuals do, or don't do, that does matter. Violence depends on our consent, or, at the least, on our acceptance. What, within our lives, are we willing to risk for peace?
Pacifism is a radical challenge to power, and if it isn't--it isn't pacifism. Non-violent action isn't just protest and persuasion--it's non-cooperation and direct intervention as well. As long as pacifism is confused with acceptance, or even with protest, then regardless how passionate our rhetoric may be--we've failed. And however misguided we believe violent resistance to be, we have to recognize that at least it is resistance.
Israel's violence cannot end this resistance when what is being resisted is Israel's violence. But neither will violence end the Occupation. Occupation cannot end without an internal, Israeli movement that brings down the government, or a world-wide campaign that starves the government (as in South Africa)--or both. Neither are possible through violent resistance.
Instead, according to a recent poll, almost half of all Israelis now support "transfer"--the ethnic cleansing of the rest of Palestine. Almost a third favor expelling Israeli-born Arabs as well. We are caught within a spiral of death.
Suicide bombers may rain pain and fear on Israel, but suicide and mass murder are not a means toward salvation. If the killers who sent Ayat Akhras to blow herself up in a Jerusalem market really believed in suicide, why didn't they "martyr" themselves first? Our salvation will only come when we give teenagers like Ayat a chance for life--not death. Death is what we're fighting against.
Why is it so easy for us to be willing to pick up arms and risk our lives, and so difficult for us to put down those same weapons and still risk our lives--in the cause of life?
Like Israelis, Palestinians remain trapped by their sufferings. But fear, hatred, burning self-righteousness--these end for all of us when we stand before God and answer for our lives. Israel is an arrogant, racist, vicious state, and Israel must be humbled. Violence will never do this. Did September 11 humble America? Has Israel's brutality humbled Palestinians? For every people in every place, violence serves only chaos.
We must meet violence with love, and learn to provoke peace, in our own hearts as in the world. Instead of sending children to kill other children, what if Palestinian grandmothers formed a group to protect Israeli soldiers with their bodies and lives? Can you imagine Sharon's reaction?
"Curfews" should be collectively ignored. Palestinians should start publicly burning identity cards, and peacefully marching through checkpoints and "closed military zones"--even when they come under sustained fire. When asked for their names, they should give the names of political prisoners in Israeli jails. And throughout the West Bank and Gaza, there should be a massive campaign of "illegal" home construction and land development. There are thousands in Israeli prisons. Let's flood those same prisons by the tens of thousands, and shut them down once and for all. All of this already happens in small degree, but it must be encouraged, organized, massively increased, and sustained. Among others, the brave Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists in the International Solidarity Movement in Palestine today are showing us what a commitment to peace means. Who will follow their lead? Facing F-16s, tanks, attack helicopters, and thousands of armed soldiers, it will mean great risk and great pain. When was freedom's price ever less?
Sharon will never make peace. And why should we look to the killers for peace? Palestinians must refuse to be occupied, and resist with a righteousness that provokes love in their enemies. They must resist with life, not death. The uproar this will cause in Israel, and the massive, worldwide pressure it will put on Israel, will bring down Sharon, and it will bring peace. The Israeli government can be overthrown--but only through a resistance that provokes the Israeli people to overthrow it for themselves.
Perhaps right now, in the middle of war, the greatest act of nonviolent
resistance is in simply staying alive, and fighting despair. But
this moment of massacre and madness will not last forever. And
when it finally passes--where then, Palestine? After
God, only we can humble ourselves. Only we can save ourselves.
And the only real question before us is: what are we willing to
risk for peace?