Natalie abu Shakra
27 November 2009
The choice of civil resistance in challenging the Israeli occupation is considered by some as a form of “surrender.” In an interview [in Arabic] on Al Aqsa, Palestinian activists Mazen Qumsiyeh and comrade Haidar Eid answer these questions.
Eid was asked about the meaning of civil resistance of which he spoke about the numerous terms coined to non-violent resistance, civil resistance, non-violent struggle and therefore multiple definitions to each term. There is, he says, the Gandhian non-violent struggle, Satyagraha, which is to depend totally on people power and the strength of economic boycott of the occupier’s products. “What happened in South Africa was that this concept was further developed to include multiple and different forms of struggle, of which complete one another. And there was an emphasis in the later part of Apartheid, during the eighties, on Boycott [in all its forms].” Eid emphasized that the four pillars of struggle in South Africa should be taken as a model to learn from in the Palestinian struggle.
In the Palestinian context, the word “peace” has come to have a negative connotation, and Eid explains that this is due to the “industry of peace” processes that the Palestinians had to face constantly, and particularly from 1993 till now, where peace as a process was not linked to the attainment of justice for the Palestinian people, and the right of return of the refugees with reparation of the decades of suffering, estrangement, refugeehood and exile. “When we speak of peace, we will speak only of peace that leads to the implementation of Palestinian people’s legitimate rights.” What the settler colonial policies and direct military occupation of the WB and GS since 1967 require, says Eid, is an amalgam of the different forms of struggle. And, as such, the Palestinian call for Boycott, which brings together and is a common ground to all Palestinian national and Islamic factions, was initiated and appeals to the official and unofficial international community to boycott Israel. As a result of this initiative, the BNC [BDS National Committee] was formed in 2005 of which held the participation of all Palestinian national and Islamic factions.
“I believe that we in Gaza, unlike the WB, have not invested much in other forms of resistance. I don’t believe that armed struggle, of which I do not oppose and believe to go hand-in-hand with other forms of resistance, is enough taking into consideration the absurd imbalance of power between the Israeli state and the Palestinian national and Islamic resistance-there is a need to turn to people power as well.” Eid mentioned that if a minority involve themselves in armed resistance, then the majority of the people “from farmers, academics and intellectuals” need engage more in civil resistance against occupation.
“Can we imagine the Palesitnian people without Edward Said, Ghassan Kanafani, Mahmoud Darwish?” Eid asks. “What makes those Palestinians stand-out is their emphasis on the fact that the struggle against the Israeli occupation is an ideological struggle: we must defeat the Zionist mentality that this land is for the Jews, and that, we as Palestinians, should prove to the world that we posses the higher moral ground, that the Palestinian people in their resistance, whether armed or civil, will re-humanize the Israeli, unlike the latter whom strips the Palestinian off her humanity.”
Qumsiyeh, answering to “what is civil resistance,” mentioned that the Palestinian struggle has, since the British mandate till this date, involved resistance in all its forms: from civil to armed.
“Sumuud [endurance] by itself is resistance,” says Qumsiyeh. Simple acts as “getting married, going to school, reading a book” become acts of resistance. “When a student comes to my class at eight in the morning after passing numerous checkpoints- that is resistance,” Qumsiyeh notes.
Civil resistance is inclusive[at a time when exclusivity seems dominant]: from a woman, to a child to an elderly – all can resist. And that was what both academics and activists implied.
“We all need to look at Bil’in, ” says Qumsiyeh, “the demonstrations against the wall occurring all those years, unhesitatingly and consistently.” Not only in Bil’in does this civil resistance emerge but, more recently, in Gaza, says Eid, when the Palestinians in the Strip attempted to break the wall separating them from Egypt, twice, in forming a human chain from the beginning till the end of the Strip. Beit Sahour, the town of which Qumsiyeh is from, was exemplary in its civil resistance and civil disobedience, during the First Intifada, according to Eid. “When the Palestinians from Beit Sahour gave up their IDs to the military officer there,” this, Eid says was an example of civil resistance.
What about the use of bodies and human shield? Eid says that this is one of the most sublime forms of civil resistance, using the body in fighting off the bullets the bombs, in protection and defense of home and land.
A question arises of whether or not this kind of resistance creates a battle within the psyche of the occupier. This, Eid says, was something Mandela wrote about in his diaries and something which Said questioned a while before his death: “who possesses the higher moral ground: the colonized or the colonizer; the occupied or the occupier?” According to Eid, that as a civilian struggling for your moral and legal rights possesses the higher moral ground and, therefore, psychologically attacks the occupier. “This was what happened with the Nazi German, this was what happened with the White South African colonizer,” Eid says.
Eid mentions that “Israel is one of the societies of which domestic violence is most encountered” and “that there is a direct relation between domestic violence and suicide cases in the Israeli society and between the occupation in the WB, GS and 1948 lands.” He continues, “I think this is very important. For instance, there are many US soldiers who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan who commit suicide shortly after their return.” Thus the occupied possesses a moral and psychological power that should be invested against the occupation itself.
Eid re-emphasises that the obvious, huge imbalance of power in the Israeli-Palestinian case requires the moving away from negotiations that are but a waste of time:
“Israel has more than 450 nuclear heads, it has Apaches, it has F16s- it has the most strategic alliance with the USA. I mean, how can we as 10 millions Palestinian, more than half living in the Diaspora and in refugee camps living under horrendous conditions, fight that? People power.”
This inclusivity which brings together and encourages Israeli Jews against Israeli Apartheid and policies of colonization, with 1948 Palestinians, along with the farmer, the student, the fisherman, and all supporters of these universalistic rights share together this moral grounding, and can channel their suppression through civil resistance, through boycott – which is but the simplest of forms of resistance, and one of the most powerful simultaneously.
According to Eid, “if you hit the occupation in the core of its existence, through its strategic relations with the USA, through US boycott of Israel in all its faces […] if all the Islamic Palestinian factions, for instance, from Islamic Jihad, to Hamas, which all have a supportive stance from Islamic movements worldwide, promote BDS in their discourse, when every leader of an Islamic movement speaks and it was demanded to boycott US & Israeli products till the implementation of every basic Palestinian right-” then we can talk about the road to liberation.