“Refusal to be Displaced” is Nonviolent Resistance
Posted by Kevin on August 22, 2012
[Note: This is the first of two articles I wrote on behalf of Law Students for Justice in Palestine, a student group of which I was an officer during my time at Vermont Law School. I was relatively happy with how they turned out and thought sharing them here would be a good way to break my nearly two-year absence from blogging. This originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of The Forum, the VLS student newspaper, and can be found here (PDF, p.22). I have edited it slightly for stylistic reasons. For the second article, see here.]
Palestinian professor Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh has been involved with opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine his whole life. “Just by being born” near Bethlehem in the West Bank, “I was participating in nonviolent resistance,” he said, as a result of continuing to live in an area which Israeli authorities have long been allegedly trying to ethnically cleanse of its Palestinian inhabitants.
Qumsiyeh spoke at VLS on March 28 at an event hosted by Law Students for Justice in Palestine (LSJP). He is a professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities, chairman of the board of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People, and coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour. His most recent book is “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment”.
Contrary to the typical mainstream media portrayal of Palestinian resistance as exclusively violent (involving heavy reference to suicide bombings, rocket attacks, and armed groups such as Hamas), Qumsiyeh argued that such acts are exceptions. He identified roughly fifteen major Palestinian uprisings between the 1880s and the present (and thinks another is coming soon), all of which he said were overwhelmingly nonviolent even as the authorities often used violence in response.
One common method of nonviolent resistance used by Palestinians is demonstrations. Qumsiyeh frequently participates in protests against Israel’s wall, the proposed and partially-completed route of which effectively annexes West Bank territory in many areas and frequently cuts residents off from their land and livelihoods. “I’ve been in the U.S. four weeks and I’m already missing the smell of tear gas,” Qumsiyeh joked. He noted that protests are often violently suppressed by the Israeli military, with demonstrators beaten and sometimes killed. “Colonizers aren’t about to let any resistance go on,” even if it is nonviolent, he said.
Palestinians also engage in civil disobedience against the occupation. As an example of this, Qumsiyeh cited the closure of Palestinian schools by Israeli authorities during the First Intifada (a major Palestinian uprising that began in 1987). In response, Palestinians continued running and attending schools clandestinely, running the risk of jail time if caught.
Ultimately, violence on either side is just a symptom; the root cause of the violence is “apartheid and ethnic cleansing,” Qumsiyeh said. He argued that a true resolution of the conflict requires respect for what he noted were “four words that couldn’t be found” in the “road map” for peace outlined by former President George W. Bush: human rights and international law.