New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes this week about the growing trend toward self-conscious nonviolent resistance among Palestinians against Israeli occupation. But he is also quick to point out its shortcomings, as in his account of one action in Bilin:
Most of the marchers were Palestinians, but some were also Israeli Jews and foreigners who support the Palestinian cause. They chanted slogans and waved placards as photographers snapped photos. At first the mood was festive and peaceful, and you could glimpse the potential of this approach.
But then a group of Palestinian youths began to throw rocks at Israeli troops. That’s the biggest challenge: many Palestinians define “nonviolence” to include stone-throwing.
Kristof, often sensitive to matters of gender, points out that women may be leading the charge toward a truly nonviolent resistance in Palestine:
But imagine if Palestinians stopped the rock-throwing and put female pacifists in the lead. What if 1,000 women sat down peacefully on a road to block access to an illegal Jewish settlement built on Palestinian farmland? What if the women allowed themselves to be tear-gassed, beaten and arrested without a single rock being thrown? Those images would be on televisions around the world — particularly if hundreds more women marched in to replace those hauled away.
He tells of one case in which a women’s movement was successful:
Most Palestinian demonstrations are overwhelmingly male, but in Budrus women played a central role. They were led by Mr. Morrar’s quite amazing daughter, Iltezam Morrar. Then 15, she once blocked an Israeli bulldozer by diving in front of it (the bulldozer retreated, and she was unhurt).
Israeli security forces knew how to deal with bombers but were flummoxed by peaceful Palestinian women. Even when beaten and fired on with rubber bullets, the women persevered. Finally, Israel gave up. It rerouted the security fence to bypass nearly all of Budrus.
While it may be that women will play a pivotal role in future nonviolent action in Palestine, men can do it too. If Palestinians, truly want to make progress—and galvanize international opinion—against Israeli power, they should follow the lead of these women and men calling for unyielding, courageous, nonviolent resistance. If they want to continue making matters worse, they can keep throwing rocks and launching rockets.