There’s a long tradition of U.S. pundits wishing for the day Palestinians finally decide touse non-violent means to protest Israeli occupation. Time magazine’s Joe Klein weighs in on the subject this week:
Ever since Israel won control of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the Palestinian national movement has been defined by terrorism, intransigence and, until recently in the West Bank, corruption. It has never been known for dramatic acts of nonviolence. “If they’d been led by Gandhi rather than Yasser Arafat, they would have had a state 20 years ago,” Kenneth Pollack of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution told me. Israeli officials acknowledge that the recent, peaceful economic and security reforms led by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have been the most effective tactics the Palestinians have ever used in trying to create a state.
Ofcourse what Palestinians are “known for” or how they are defined might not always resemble what they’re actually doing. There is a long tradition of Palestinian nonviolent resistance. There has rarely been, however, much U.S. media coverage of those acts–which means that, every so often, someone will urge Palestinians to consider behavior they’ve been practicing for years, or treat nonviolence as if it were a striking new development in the conflict–as the New York Times did last year.
The young activists may be preoccupied by the chimera of Palestinian unity at the moment, but what happens if they turn their full attention to the Israeli occupation? What happens if they begin to organize marches to protest the near daily outrages perpetrated by Jewish settlers? What if they stage sit-down strikes to open roads that are used by settlers but closed to Palestinians? What if they march 10,000 strong against a settlement that is refusing Palestinians access to a traditional water supply? “If it is nonviolent, then that means, by definition, it is civilized,” an Israeli official said. “We have no problem with that.” But what if the Palestinians are nonviolent and the Jewish settlers are not? “I think about the dogs unleashed on Martin Luther King in Birmingham,” Quran says. “I think about the beatings. That’s what it took for Americans to see the justice of his cause. We will be risking our lives, but that is what it takes. I only hope that we’re not too well-educated to be courageous.”
It would be more helpful to point out that these things have happened regularly for many years.