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Palestinian Shift Toward Nonviolence

August 10, 2007

Had the Palestinians had the good fortune to have a Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Mandela in their midst, they could have long since had a homeland and peace. Instead they were led by men who espoused armed conflict. In a potentially profound shift, the new Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is rejecting “resistence” (mukawamah) and stressing “steadfastness” (a tactic of peaceful, civic resistance to any taking of their land or livelihoods). The idea is to use resources to give the Palestinian people a better life so that they will reject bombing and killing as a way forward. This, indeed, is good news and to be celebrated. But to achieve their goal of a reasonably just end to this tragedy, even more will likely be required of the Palestinian people in the form of Gandhian satyagraha—willingness to use nonviolent, civil protest that at least initially may result in even more suffering by the Palestinians. That’s the way of nonviolent change of unjust situations. As Martin Luther King put it to explain civil rights workers’ willingness to be jailed or beaten: “We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our ability to endure suffering.” (PNCR) Los Angeles Times, 1 August 2007, Richard Boudreaux, “Shopkeepers enlisted in West Bank Struggle.”

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