09 July 2011

The Jerusalem of our imagination

David Shulman at the New York Review of Books blog offers hope that the Arab Spring is inspiring Arab Palestinians.

A Mediterranean variant of Gandhian-style mass protest has by now taken root among Palestinian communities in several parts of the West Bank: Ma’asara, Nabi Saleh, Dir Kadis, Na’alin, and Bil’in, to mention only a few. There is by now a clear awareness among many that non-violent resistance is far more likely to be effective against the Israeli occupation than violence; and these days the humane principles of Gandhi and Martin Luther King are frequently and clearly articulated in Arabic by grass-roots Palestinian leaders.

An eloquent statement of the philosophy and method was delivered on June 5 by Bassem al-Tamimi, one of the leaders of the Nabi Saleh protests, at his trial at an Israeli military court for organizing demonstrations. Al-Tamimi’s text will, I am sure, someday be taught in schools, maybe even in Israel; it is remarkably reminiscent of Mahatma Gandhi’s famous statement to a now forgotten British judge in Ahmedabad in 1922, when the judge sentenced him to jail for six years.

Non-violent resistance is also the official policy of the Palestinian government in Ramallah.

He isn't fooling about the statement from Bassem al-Tamimi. It's good stuff.

I organized these peaceful demonstrations in order to defend our land and our people. I do not know if my actions violate your Occupation laws. As far as I am concerned, these laws do not apply to me and are devoid of meaning. Having been enacted by Occupation authorities, I reject them and cannot recognize their validity.

Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East you are trying me under military laws which lack any legitimacy; laws that are enacted by authorities that I have not elected and do not represent me. I am accused of organizing peaceful civil demonstrations that have no military aspects and are legal under international law.
Regardless of how just or unjust this ruling will be, and despite all your racist and inhumane practices and Occupation, we will continue to believe in peace, justice and human values. We will still raise our children to love; love the land and the people without discrimination of race, religion or ethnicity; embodying thus the message of the Messenger of Peace, Jesus Christ, who urged us to “love our enemy.”

The example of the Arab Spring presents a great opportunity to break the tragic deadlock in Israel and Palestine. May we, for once, miss the opportunity to miss the opportunity.

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