Hamas and Hezbollah beginning to appreciate nonviolent action

    Israeli troops approach a model of a ship representing the Gaza aid flotilla during a demonstration by activists in the West Bank in early June.

    At the beginning of the month, the Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article about Hamas and Hezbollah’s newfound interest and appreciation for nonviolent tactics following the Israeli raid on the Free Gaza boats at the end of May and other nonviolent actions by activists in Palestine:

    “When we use violence, we help Israel win international support,” said Aziz Dweik, a leading Hamas lawmaker in the West Bank. “The Gaza flotilla has done more for Gaza than 10,000 rockets.”


    Hamas’s turnaround has been… striking, said Mustapha Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian advocate for nonviolent resistance. “When we used to call for protests, and marches, and boycotts and anything called nonviolence, Hamas used these sexist insults against us. They described it as women’s struggle,” Mr. Barghouti said. That changed in 2008, he said, after the first aid ship successfully ran the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

    “Hamas has started to appreciate just how effective this can be,” Mr. Barghouti said.

    Hamas has started organizing its own peaceful marches into the Israeli-controlled buffer zone along the Gaza border and supported lawsuits against Israeli officials in European courts. Hamas says it has ramped up support for a committee dedicated to sponsoring similar protests in Gaza.

    Mr. Dweik, the Hamas lawmaker, recently began turning up at weekly protests against Israel’s West Bank barrier.

    Apparently, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was so impressed by the effectiveness of the Free Gaza Movement that he has called on his followers to participate in the next flotilla.

    Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, a member of the Hezbollah politburo in Beirut, said it was the first time Mr. Nasrallah had forcefully and publicly embraced such tactics against Israel.

    “We saw that this kind of resistance has driven the Israelis into a big plight,” he said. Organizers in Lebanon say they have two ships ready to sail, but no departure date has been set.

    While I’m happy to hear that these groups are beginning to see nonviolent action in a new light, I question how wise it would be to include members of Hezbollah or Hamas in any future flotilla, primarily since they have not renounced violence. Like it or not, their involvement would only make it that much easier for Israel and the corporate media to justify another attack and discredit the campaign to end the blockade of Gaza. It is clear from experience that nonviolence is most effective when it is not tainted by violence or even the hint that those involved in any given action may turn violent.

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