Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Palestinians weigh the non-violent option

By Lawrence Smallman
Friday 03 September 2004,

If Palestinians had adopted a non-violent struggle against Israeli occupation, their conflict would have been over by now, says Mahatma Gandhi's 70-year-old grandson Arun Gandhi.

The director of the Institute for Non-violence in Tennessee and naturalised American citizen visited thousands of people in the occupied territories last week with a simple message: Throwing a brick at a Merkava tank is just a waste of time and energy.

"I don't think Palestine has the economic and military capacity to confront a huge state like Israel, which has not only a powerful military arsenal but powerful friends," he told the crowd at Abu Dis, next to the illegal separation barrier.

But during a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Gandhi also criticised the Israeli Government for continuing to promote anti-Palestinian sentiment.

He observed that Tel Aviv was not using the Holocaust to fight prejudice and hate, but rather to promote anger and a fear of victimisation.

Reaction to visit

His visit proved to be a huge boost for a movement that is already making substantial progress, Aljazeera.net's correspondent in Palestine, Khalid Amayreh, said.

"Most Palestinians I have met have nothing but praise for Gandhi. The solidarity he demonstrated and his understanding of Palestinian suffering was truly extraordinary from a well-known public figure."

Amayreh believes many ordinary Palestinians are totally convinced of the strength of passive resistance.

He won many converts when he spoke to a crowd of thousands next to the separation barrier, and made the analogy with apartheid and the success of non-violent protest in South Africa.

And since the visit, various non-violent resistance movements have reported a surge of requests for training and information.

Preparation and growth

Speaking to Aljazeera.net on Thursday, the director of Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, Sami Awad, said the demand from Palestinians to learn how to practise passive resistance was greater than his six trainers could provide.


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