Sean Gilfillan Headshot

Two Paths Ahead for the Palestinians: Nonviolence vs. Violence

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Throughout history, most people have achieved liberation and freedom through violence. The French did so via the French Revolution and ditto for the Cuban revolution, the Romanian Revolution and the American Revolution. Others today are trying the same techniques including the Tamils in Sri Lanka and currently, the Palestinians in Gaza led by Hamas' militant wing.

However, there is a different method of achieving liberation and freedom and that is through nonviolent methods. This method is best represented by India, the Philippine Revolution, the Revolutions of 1989 in Cold War satellite countries like the Singing Revolution in the Baltic States and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, the Carnation Revolution in Portugal, and more recently, the 2000 Bulldozer Revolution in Serbia, the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia and the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine.

Other nonviolent movements include Martin Luther King's nonviolent movement to win civil rights for African Americans, Cesar Chavez's nonviolent movement to protest the treatment of farm workers in California, the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon following the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005 that led to the ousting of Syrian troops from Lebanon, what were equated to peaceful nonviolent movements in several South American countries for change including Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Dominican Republic and another one in the Philippines.

Not all movements, whether violent or nonviolent, work, but a people have to decide, based on the current situation, whether they want to pursue a peaceful or violent means of achieving an end.

In the case of the Palestinians, there are two rival factions with two distinctly different ways of thinking represented by the two parties sharing power, Fatah and Hamas. Starting in the early 90's, Fatah, the leading member of the PLO, made the decision to abandon violence as a way to achieve freedom and participated in the Oslo accords. Around the same time, Hamas created the Al Qassam Brigades, which is its military branch that conducts suicide attacks on Israel.

From there, the two factions went their separate ways. Fatah decreased its role in supporting the Al Aqsa Brigades, renounced terrorism and agreed to recognize Israel. Hamas continued to represent violent resistance to Israel and capitalized on the indecisiveness of the Palestinian people and the lull in international pressure on the Palestinian Authority and Israel to increase their power and promote violent resistance over peaceful nonviolent actions.

As is apparent these last few days, Israel will not succumb to violent methods of revolution and resistance. If there is anyone on either side that is not convinced that Israel will never let itself be bullied or attacked without repercussions, then they are living in la-la land. Israel has demonstrated time and time again that they are willing to defend their right to exist and their people by any means necessary, even if it means they lose face internationally and even if it means they lose clout in the long term. The Holocaust has taught the Israelis that acting sooner, no matter the consequences, is the only way to guarantee survival.

There are only two paths ahead, one for Hamas and one for the Israelis, that each must take in order to solve this conflict once and for all. All of us in the international community must band together to push both of these actors to take their respective paths.

Hamas

Hamas must realize that there are only a few ways to gain freedom via violent resistance:

1) You are militarily stronger than your enemy
2) There is a stronger state that has influence on your enemy that backs your bid for freedom
3) Your enemy is no longer interested in controlling you; either through a change in national interest or atrophy in the enemy's will to control you

Most terrorist organizations target Western Democracies because of the 3rd key point. They believe that it is easy to wear down the will of Western Democracies with extreme spectacular violence and they have been proven right in the past. Hamas also believes this. The only difference with Israel is that they are not a Western Democracy. They are a Zionist nation determined to exist. You will never wear down their will to fight. No nation has any influence that will trump their survival and they are extremely powerful. Therefore, a violent resistance to gain your freedom will never happen. Period.

So do you give up? No, but you must change strategies. You must go the nonviolent route. Only when you give up violence will you force Israel to recognize your right to exist. In defending themselves, Israel only sees red. They don't see your plight. You must begin to rethink your strategy because it is not working, nor will it ever work. If you continue to advocate revolution via violent means, I fear that you will be fighting with Israel forever and you will isolate yourself and lose power with the Palestinian people.

Israel

Israel must realize that they need peace with their neighbors and the only way to do so is to accept and implement the full Arab Peace Initiative offered in 2002 by the Arab League and signed by every member of the Arab League (of which 18 out of 22 do not recognize Israel) and the Muslim World Summit. This peace initiative has not received much press, but it offers the only peaceful solution to the wider problem and this specific conflict within that wider text.

Every single member of the Arab League and Muslim World Summit endorsed this plan. Even Hamas agreed to the initiative.

Israel must look to normalize relations with its neighbors and this olive branch offers the greatest chance. In exchange, the EU and America should guarantee that they will protect Israel's right to exist and its right to Zionism.

We, as Americans, need to recognize that these global conflicts have repercussions on our daily lives. We need to take an active role in resolving these conflicts by not taking sides and being objective. We know that no conflict is resolved solely by the mediator. The conflicts will be resolved only by the participating parties, but it is our duty, and it is in our national security interest, to take on these conflicts one by one around the globe until we solve them all.

Israel/ Palestine. Kashmir. Sri Lanka. Chechnya. Congo. Somalia. Uganda. Taiwan. Cyprus. Darfur. Chad. Eritrea. Nigeria. We ignore each of them at our own peril.