Huwaida Arraf on non-violence (and Finkelstein too)

Israel/Palestine
on 13 Comments

The Nation has distinguished itself by insisting on running the voices of Jews and Palestinians on the conflict. Here is a great piece by Huwaida Arraf on the blocked passage of the "Spirit of Humanity" boat to Gaza last month. She talks about her husband, Adam Shapiro, and the issue of non-violence:

Adam did not fight
back. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school, threw out Manny
Ramirez stealing second and is one of those rare individuals who bring a
football player's intensity to peace work. But like the rest of us, Adam
insists on using nonviolent means to resist Israel's military
occupation. And though in his widely hailed Cairo speech President Obama
made an implicit call for nonviolence as the means to challenge the
Israeli occupation, the Obama administration made no public statement on
our behalf — nor did it do so three months ago, when my dear friend
Bassem Abu Rahme was killed while nonviolently protesting Israeli
expansionism in the West Bank that threatens to destroy his village of
Bil'in.

Perhaps we were politically inept. Had we sailed toward Iran to offer
assistance to civilian protesters there, we would have been a cause
celebre if the Iranian government had arrested us. Iran, however, for
all its troubles, is not now under foreign occupation as Palestine is.
Yet as I watched the demonstrations in Iran, I could not miss the
similarities to Palestine's nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation.
I cannot count the times I have marched peacefully, waving a flag and
demanding freedom for my people — with only my voice and my presence as
my weapons. And sadly, the number of friends I have lost — killed by
Israeli forces as, like Neda Agha-Soltan in Iran, they nonviolently
demonstrated for freedom — is becoming too great a pain in my heart.

My colleagues and I invested time and energy in this difficult journey
and put our lives at risk because for too long the international
community has been complicit in Israel's crimes against the Palestinian
people.

If you look at the smuggled video of the boat's harassment at night, you see a score of brave people calmly awaiting their fate. Would you be there? Would I? I don't know. To go on the Spirit of Humanity was to risk your life, as Arraf says.
This touches on something that Norman Finkelstein said on Monday night at the Brecht Forum re non-violence. I know that Finkelstein is getting criticized in the pro-Palestinian community for prescribing non-violence for others when he lives in Brooklyn (as Finkelstein himself points out, in his Gandhi lecture of last year). But Finkelstein himself intends to take part in a nonviolent march inside Gaza later this year, at some risk; and it must be said that some westerners have been willing to die in order to advance this cause. When we were in Gaza, we met the ISM volunteers, including the great Eva Bartlett, who chronicled the slaughter earlier this year as a citizen-journalist; and a Greek volunteer spoke proudly of ISM's "martyrs," including Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie.
On Monday night Finkelstein said that non-violence was effective when popular sympathy is on your side. So while there are people who are willing to die to block an abortion clinic, or to keep one open, he said, that willingness won't bring others to the cause. Others might think it's sad you died, but they're not going to change their minds on that basis.
"You can only move public opinion to act if they agree on the legitimacy of your goal… And enlightened public opinion is on the side of the Palestinians. It is not any longer on the side of Israel."
It was the most optimistic Finkelstein has been about this struggle; and resonates with the images of those brave friends of Palestine facing guns to sail to Gaza.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

    Leave a Reply