Non-violent action in Gaza
If you are a young Gazan, how do you react to siege, blockade and war? It's time to hear about the struggle to be constructive in the midst of so much hatred and destruction, and to ask how long it can survive.
26 - 08 - 2009
he Gaza Strip has lost 1,400 lives and a further 5,000, mostly civilians, have been maimed and wounded in the latest attack waged by the Israeli government. This came on top of an illegal, yet relentless siege that has dragged on and on for over two years, preventing 1.5 million Gazans from having access to the basic necessities of life, and to the wider world. You might well ask how young people respond to this blockade. Some of course resort to violence. But others have chosen a different tack.
The right to resist derives from the basic values of justice and freedom. It is not confined to the use of force. Millions of people in this world believe in solving conflicts through peaceful means, without shedding blood and causing more hatred. One day this noble struggle could even replace the violence used by humanity against their fellow human beings. Rockets, guns, tanks - as decisive as they are today - have little to say to the wider cultural struggle for a civilised existence.
The first ‘Intifada' uprising was a Palestinian show-case for a unique kind of resistance in which heavily armed Israeli soldiers were confronted by children with stones. That intifada mutated through several phases before it helped us to secure the
In the West Bank, the International Solidarity Movement inspired a non-violent movement of resistance in which locals only became involved when
Sameh Habeeb, who was coordinator for the Popular Committee Against the Siege (PCAS) when
"At first, there was just a stunned reaction of helplessness. We all rushed around wringing our hands about what could be done. We were entering an extremely challenging phase in which the question was: how to involve a wider public in our activities? Gazans are notorious for their loyalties and their endless capacity for confrontation. We thought we were in for a very difficult time indeed. But it turned out to be easy.
We realized that it was precisely at that moment, so in need of a clear way forward, that we must bring people onto the streets. We issued a call throughout
The action day arrived and began early with massive media coverage from our side: ‘Human chain to challenge the siege.' Literally tens of thousands of people of all ages did indeed respond: schoolchildren, university students, labourers, women and children and many ordinary people hurried to the Salah El Din. The chain stretched from Rafah to Beit Hanoun and was around
Since that memorable day, Jamal El Khoudary, chair of PCAS has launched numerous symbolic activities to end the siege. "Our approach to struggle has many means at its disposal. This is why Palestinian factions, political parties and individuals across the board participate in our actions. Through non-violent actions, we have been able to move the mainstream. However, you have to face the fact that you are always, at any minute, liable to be fired on." This is the price we have to pay to call attention to what is happening to us.
On January 26, 2008 the Palestinian International Campaign to End the Siege on
The campaign launched a call to gather a million signatures to end the siege of
Dr Eyad Sarraj, who is amongst various callings, an international peace campaigner said on that day, "The principal goal of this demonstration is to join the hands of both Israeli and Palestinian peace activists who want to end the siege and all kinds of violence. The most decisive factor in breaking the siege will be through a change in Israeli public opinion." The slogans were: ‘No Movement, No Life' and ‘Humanity, Not Humiliation: Peace, Not Punishment'.
By late 2008 this movement of civic protest was growing new dimensions. Seeing the Palestinians so committed to such actions, international support of various kinds began to build. The Free Gaza movement managed to send three boats into
Then there is the music. In the beginning of November 2008, the Popular Committee Against the Siege organized a candle-lit protest carried out by young children in
Many people who don't know
These are just a few examples of the kind of actions that show Palestinian aspirations for a dignified, thriving and humane life that we all hope to see one day. Many unanswered questions still fill our heads. Is this movement effective in challenging Israeli occupation? Should Gazans give up armed resistance? Will non-violent resistance bring back our rights? When if ever will
Things are looking bad in the West Bank, where
We asked three of our acquaintances in
* Nadine Rajab, a 25-year-old human rights advocate, says, "As a Palestinian citizen living under siege and under occupation in
* Muhammad Ghates, a 25-year-old young man working in the Gaza Strip has a different view. His brother was killed by the Israeli army in 2007: "
* Another young 21 year-old student living in Al Nuserat camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip says, "Our peaceloving children insist on facing up to
Ayman T. Quader
Blogger based on the Gaza Strip