If Palestinians adopted a Gandhian nonviolent strategy, could they reshape the entire conflict with Israel and finally realize a two-state solution? If so, why haven’t they done so? Or perhaps they really have at certain times and places, and Israel has broken that form of resistance as well?
Those questions have been asked for years, in variations of tone and wording, by moderate Israelis and Palestinians and by concerned outsiders. A while back, a colleague suggested that I investigate the issue in depth.
Here’s the opening:
They marched southward from Ramallah one windy morning in March 2012. Sheikh Nasser a-Din al-Masri led them–a slim man with a short black beard that half-hid a puckered scar on his neck. They filled the road to Jerusalem, a long procession of men, women, and children wearing white robes to show they were on a pilgrimage and that they had no pockets in which to hide weapons. They carried their flat bread in clear plastic bags for the same reason. A Reuters reporter said they numbered 20,000. They chanted as they walked.
When the sheikh saw the Israeli troops massed across the road in the distance, he turned and spoke into a megaphone. “Remember the two brothers, the sons of Adam,” he said, and then quoted the Koran. “One said, ‘I will surely kill you.’ The other answered, ‘If you stretch out your hand to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against you to slay you. For I fear Allah, the Lord of the worlds.’ ”
The river of marchers streamed forward. From the troops came the voice of another megaphone, proclaiming “Halt!” in Arabic and Hebrew. Al-Masri answered, “We come in peace to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque, as is our sacred right.” Soldiers lifted their guns.
You can read the full essay at the Weekly Standard, and come back to South Jerusalem for conversation about it.
(An aside: Yes, the Weekly Standard is a surprising venue for me. The reasons the essay appeared there have everything to do with boring technicalities of publishing schedules and magazine staffing, and nothing to do with politics. Suffice it to say the WS was absolutely respectful of my perspective and writing.)