Wednesday, February 20, 2008
An unarmed resistance modelled on Martin Luther King's civil rights movement could be the way to wake the world
By Jonathan Freedland
The Guardian, Wednesday February 20 2008
".....And yet here we are, nearly a hundred days later, and Israelis and Palestinians are still having talks about talks. Negotiators have not yet even broached the substance, but are instead stuck trying to agree guiding "principles". There's a big argument over whether they should be discussing Jerusalem now or later. The pessimists who thought the two sides would at least start negotiating - only for their talks to founder later - now realise they were too hopeful......
Last week Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian parliamentarian, independent of both Hamas and Abbas's Fatah, was in London, a laptop in his bag bearing an impossibly bleak PowerPoint presentation. In slide after slide, he showed what his people are up against.
To explode the myth of Annapolis, he showed how Palestinian freedom of movement is more restricted now than it was on the day of all those fine speeches. Now there are 561 checkpoints on the West Bank; in November there were 520. His figures showed an increase in Israeli attacks of 220% (largely, no doubt, in retaliation for those incoming Qassams). He counted 177 Palestinian deaths since Annapolis, the vast bulk in Gaza.
Yes, it was true that the confidence-building measure of prisoner releases happened: 788 Palestinians have been set free. But how much confidence could that build when 1,152 have been newly arrested since Annapolis?.....
So what's left? Barghouti is a longtime advocate of non-violent resistance. He and others were struck by the worldwide impact Gazans made last month when they punched a hole through the border wall separating them from Egypt. Unarmed men and women ran through and started shopping - grabbing whatever supplies they could. That prompted a discussion that reached deep into Hamas itself: what if Palestinians made a similarly non-violent assault on the border separating Gaza from Israel?
So far the idea has come to nothing. Some fear that the risk would be too great, that there's no guarantee that even civilian protesters bursting through a military border would not end up facing gunfire. Others ask what would happen once they got across: where would they go, what would they do? To sustain such a demonstration would require a degree of organisation which no movement outside Hamas could muster - and Hamas, currently besieged, is under too much pressure to pull that off.....
Perhaps there is another story Palestinians could tell, one that would win the attention of those parts of the world they need to persuade. But they need to find one soon - if their suffering is not to become one of the last, unchanging facts in a fast-changing world."