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A letter from the Palestinian Nonviolence Resistance

an article by Elias Deis

[slightly abridged from the original which is online at Wordpress.com]

In Palestine, we were taught how to be nice to people and how to respect human beings. I was taught every thing is possible and that we can make the impossible, possible. While I was a child I heard of people talking about peace and coexistence with Israel. Many groups of people tried to achieve it, but I am convinced that Israel is the reason peace has not been accomplished. Israel has not acted like a willing partner in this struggle for peace.

Holy Land Trust organizes weekly nonviolent demonstrations against the Israeli Occupation and building of the apartheid wall over Palestinian land and farms. Since January 2007, Holy Land Trust has organized this event, but I canít remember, even for one time, that Israel used a nonviolent way to stop us! The armed soldiers, it seems, are always ready to shoot, or use wooden sticks and tear gas.

I have participated in the nonviolence resistance since I started working with Holy Land Trust in March of 2007. I am very happy to see my People (the Palestinians), with the help of some internationals and Israeli peacemakers, to join the nonviolent resistance against the occupation. The number of the participants are increasing, and the idea of resistance against the occupier in a nonviolent way is becoming steadily popular among the society. But the question still lurks: How are the Israeli soldiers supporting these actions? What is their opinion toward the Palestinian nonviolent resistance?

To answer this question I need to begin in 1948, when Israel occupied Palestine. Israel used military tactics to defeat all kinds of Palestinian action against the occupation. Since Palestine is not a armed country and does not have equal power with Israeli, Palestinians had very few ways to defeat the Israeli occupation and gain back their rights and lands. Personally, I have experienced the Israeli violence against Palestinians in the first Intifada when the Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers. Many people were killed in this period, but now we live in a new period. In this new period Palestine is trying a new resistance against Israel, the nonviolent resistance.

Even non-violence does not stop Israel from using violent measures against our peaceful resistance. On Friday, January 25, 2007, I joined the weekly demonstration in Al-Khader village, on the western side of Bethlehem. Demonstrators called to end the Siege of Gaza and to create one land living in Peace. The event proceeded when the Muslim population had their Friday prayer. After, we walked towards the Israeli segregation wall, calling, "End the Siege of Gaza" and "Free Palestine". The Israeli soldiers prevented us to cross to the main road to protest, so we had to start moving back to leave. As we were leaving the tear gas started going off. one of the bombs landed right in front of me. I couldn't breathe and I was running away while my eyes were shut due to the tear gas. I sat on the sidewalk, eyes bloodshot, for 15 minutes trying to breathe fresh air, I felt like I was dying.

Typically, this is the method Israel uses to stop us. Our calls for peace is something dangerous for Israel. I am going insane because I donít understand what we should do to end the Israeli Palestinian Conflict. I feel defeated by them. While reflecting on the previous methods of resistance by Palestinians, I conclude; throwing stones did not work and suicide bombs definitely did not work. In this new time period we must use the nonviolence method, but even that seems aggressive to the Israeli occupiers. I feel they donít want us to be peaceful, but I believe that if peace is going to prevail, nonviolence is the only way we can solve our problems.

DISCUSSION

Question(s) related to this article:


How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?,

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Latest reader comment:

The following excerpts come from remarks made recently by Alan Baker to a conference in Istanbul on "Conflict Mediation through Cultural Diplomacy in Current Areas of Conflict". †Baker is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, former Legal Adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador of Israel to Canada.

Over the past 30 years I have been a participant in virtually all Track I peace negotiations with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians, involved in negotiating and drafting peace-process documents Ė peace treaties, interim agreements, and the rest.

Peace cannot emanate only from documents signed by leaders alone, but from mutual good faith and credibility among the peoples for whom the agreements are signed.

All the Middle East peace negotiations have, from the start, always aimed at neighborly, mutually respectful, "people-to-people" relationships, and each agreement includes appropriate provisions on mutual respect of religious beliefs that can serve as guidance to others. Our agreements include provisions for free access and respect for holy sites, respect for and upkeep of graves and memorials for fallen soldiers, and respect for religious beliefs and practices.

The UN Role

The aims of this conference were set out in the preliminary documentation, including the "Mideast Peace Process Berlin Initiative." The UN resolutions adopted with a view to elaborating a culture of peace, as listed in the Berlin Initiative document, are most important and constitute the genuine implementation of the aims and purposes of the UN Charter as set out in its first two articles. These resolutions need to be given greater attention, visibility, ongoing review, and accentuation.

These resolutions include, inter alia:

 Promoting Religious and Cultural Understanding, Harmony and Cooperation (UN General Assembly resolution 58/128).

 Elimination of All Forms of Religious Intolerance (UN General Assembly resolution 59/199).

 UN Millennium Declaration: Principles of the UN Year of Dialogue among Civilizations (UN General Assembly resolution 53/22).

 Culture of Peace (UN General Assembly resolution 53/243).

 Dialogue among Civilizations (UN General Assembly resolution 56/6).

 Madrid Declaration (December 2000).

 Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (UN General Assembly resolution 53/25).

 Protection of Religious Sites (UN General Assembly resolution 55/254).

 Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace (UN General Assembly resolution 60/L.4).

 Promotion of Interreligious Dialogue (UN General Assembly resolution 59/23).

 Rights of Indigenous People (UN General Assembly resolution 61/295).

. . . . .

Cultural Diplomacy and the Aims of This Conference.

The goal of this conference, as set out in the Berlin Initiative document, is to "define Track III Cultural Diplomacy and its relevance to the Middle East peace process and its importance as a model for conflicts around the globe," and the "search for common values and principles in the arenas of religion, law and education among the conflicting parties to the dispute" Ė this is indeed the crux of what cultural diplomacy must do.

In order for it to succeed, practically, it needs to include a compilation of those elements covered in the various UN resolutions listed above on aspects of cultural diplomacy, including:

1. First and foremost, and as an appropriate sign to the general public, an acknowledgment by political and religious leaders that peace, justice, and mutual respect are basic values in all religions, as well as central assumptions in international law and diplomacy. Negative public pronouncements against other peoples and religions by religious and lay personalities and leaders must end.

2. Mutual, reciprocal acceptance and respect by each religion of the others, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Bahai or any other.

3. Ongoing spiritual and practical dialogue among religious leaders, clergy, and lay leaders to establish common principles and interests among their communities.

4. Ending religious incitement and hatred through appropriate guidelines for religious leaders, clergy and other religious staff, such that all places of worship of all religions become centers for positive and constructive religious interaction and tolerance, rather than centers for hatred and incitement of the masses.

5. Educational programs geared to home, kindergarten, school and college, towards mutual respect and acceptance.

6. Ending negative public propaganda. Use of media and social networking to advocate mutual respect, rather than the opposite.

7. Acknowledgment of the rights of all indigenous peoples to their indigenous lands, resources, and properties.

8. Enabling unfettered religious and cultural tourism and visiting holy sites.

Conclusion

These must be the components of any practical and viable road map for cultural diplomacy and peace. They all emanate from UN General Assembly resolutions on the culture of peace. This compilation needs to be expanded at future meetings with practical measures to attain positive results. As a Track I negotiator I'll be happy to lend my hand and assist in this endeavor.


This report was posted on January 30, 2008.

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