Western liberals often suggest that Palestinians would get further had they conducted their struggle with more non-violent resistance and less murdering of random civilians, and certainly I’ve been known to express that view. So it’s important to emphasize that recently there has been a trend toward nonviolent tactics in Palestine, as seen in the recent film Budrus that I saw this week and is now playing in New York and soon coming to LA and DC.
But of course as it turns out the IDF isn’t just folding immediately upon contact with non-violent tactics. Instead, Abdallah Abu Rahmah who was leading non-violent resistance in the village of Bil’in was sentenced yesterday to 12 months in prison. Some people I’ve spoken to here say this goes to show that non-violence is hopeless and that a return to armed intifada is inevitable. They may be right about the inevitability, but I think they’re wrong about the hopeless part. Your Gandhis, your Martin Luther Kings, and your Nelson Mandelas all spent time in prison and prevailed in the end. The point, however, is that it only works if it captures the attention of the world so here I am paying attention.
I know that a lot of decent people try to avoid commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because they find the debate too unpleasant. But I find that those same decent people tend to be the ones who like to muse about “where’s the Palestinian MLK?” and such. So if you’re one of those people, I implore you to pay attention and mention this. The alternative to there being some sign that this is catching the eyes of the world is a return to violence and counterviolence and disaster.