Are the Americans living in a world-class bubble?

 President Obama is under immense pressure from Netanyahu and his allies in the U.S. Congress, AIPAC, Christian Zionists and Republican candidates for the presidency to give Netanyahu private assurances that if the U.S. strategy to stop Iran from developing the capacity (not the actuality) for nuclear weapons doesn’t work, the U.S. will back an Israeli first strike.

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Khader Adnan spent 66 days on hunger strike, a symbolic, self-denying act of non-violent resistance to Israel’s practice of “administrative detention” or imprisonment without charge. His story quickly became well known and began to inspire other Palestinian political prisoners to follow his non-violent lead.

But Adnan’s is merely the latest episode in a growing wave of Palestinian non-violent resistance. While Palestinian non-violence has been a historic part of the struggle for Palestinian rights, armed struggle has been a component of resistance that often dominated the headlines.

Today things are changing significantly. More than ever, polling data shows, Palestinians are supporting non-violent resistance. A series of polls of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza which included a question on non-violence reveals an undeniable trend in the past 18 months. In June of 2010, for example 51 per cent of Palestinians polled responded that non-violent resistance was a preferred alternative to stalled negotiations. In the most recent poll conducted at the end of 2011, that number jumped to over 61 per cent.

 Palestinian prisoner ends hunger strike

There are several factors that contribute to this undeniable shift.

First, there is a continued call by Palestinian and international civil society for non-violent resistance. Advocacy and solidarity along these lines has reverberated through Palestine and internationally thanks to the internet and social media. It took several days of the twitter hashtag #KhaderAdnan trending globally before international mainstream media took note, forcing the Israelis to address what had become an embarrassing situation by cutting a deal with the hunger striker.

Second, we can not discount the effect of the Arab Spring and especially the success of revolutions in Tunis and Egypt where people power triumphed over repressive regimes and relatively light force was used before the multitudes brought swift change upon the regimes.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, Palestinians have seen firsthand the difference in effect non-violent resistance and armed resistance has on them and the Israelis. Armed resistance to the occupation, while encouraged and supported by some and protected by international law, can come at a high cost.

The Israelis are well armed with F-16s, tanks, Apache helicopters, drones, laser guided missiles, and armed robots (most courtesy of the US). But the killing of several civilian non-violent activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla, the shooting of several unarmed demonstrators in the Golan, Lebanon and Gaza at events commemorating Nakba Day last year, and the routine arrest, beatings and often killings of non-violent protesters in the occupied territories has proven the old adage, “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

This sentiment was reflected by Major Amos Gilad, an Israeli military official, to American diplomats in a WikiLeaks cable last year when he confessed “we don’t do Gandhi very well”.

Non-violent resistance is like Judo – the Japanese martial art based on using an enemy’s strength and momentum against him – and the Palestinians find themselves facing a 300 kg Sumo wrestler. It is a strategic choice to resist the occupation.

Increasingly, Palestinians are realising the effectiveness of this strategy. Large swaths of the Palestinian public are in support of these non-violent methods today, but for how long?

For years, many asked where the Palestinian Gandhi is. Well, today, you are starting to hear about the ones imprisoned or shot because the internet has levelled the information battlefield.

Fadi Quran, a non-violent protester who was forcefully arrested this week under false pretenses, was released on bail by the Israelis after a YouTube video of his arrest – rifled around the world through Twitter – was published. It showed Fadi was pepper sprayed and forcefully arrested by Israeli officers for no crime at all. Had this happened 10 years ago, Fadi might still be in an “administrative detention” and we would have never have heard of him.

Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor.– Dr Martin Luther King, Jr

In nearly each and every high profile act of Palestinian non-violent resistance the official Israeli response has been demonisation of the protesters while the American response, more often than not, has been silence.

As the great Dr Martin Luther King taught us, “silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor”.

Today, however, the cost of remaining silent for the United States is not merely complicity with the oppressor, but also missing a critical opportunity. This is a moment when Palestinians are increasingly choosing non-violent resistance, a point President Obama highlighted in his important Cairo speech in 2009, and the United States should support this effort.

The window, however, to grow Palestinian support of non-violence may close as quickly as it opened if continued Israeli repression is not condemned forcefully by Israel’s principal ally. Should the US continue to support repressive and colonialist Israeli policies, the pendulum of public opinion may soon swing back to armed resistance as another generation of Palestinians grows up dreaming of freedom from occupation.

This is the moment for peace oriented voices to speak out and say no to an Israeli first strike with American overt or covert backing. We at Tikkun magazine and our Network of Spiritual Progressives have launched a national campaign to say no! We are attempting to buy space in major newspapers and electronic media on the web to launch this campaign quickly before Obama and Netanyahu meet next week. Please get involved here.

There is a non-violent way to deal with all this. The background info:

Apparently the U.S. and Israel are debating the best method for coercing Iran to stop developing the capacity for nuclear weapons. Israel believes that goal requires a military strike; the U.S. talks of “crippling” economic boycotts. Other military and strategic experts have argued that neither path is likely to succeed in the long run as long as Iran finds itself in a world in which nearby China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel all have powerful nuclear military capacities. And with Iran certain to face nuclear obliteration should it use its nukes in a first strike against Israel or anyone else, it is more likely that continuing extremes of poverty, oppression from Western supported elites, and social injustice, rather than the threat of Iranian nukes, will continue to be the primary destabilizing factor among the tens of millions of Middle East Muslims in the coming decades.

Imagine instead if the U.S. were to announce our new non-violent path to homeland security: a strategy of generosity, acknowledging the pain and distortion hundreds of years of Western colonialism has brought to the region, particularly to the Palestinian people, and simultaneously launching a Global Marshall Plan (already introduced to Congress by Hon. Keith Ellison as House Res. 157) aimed at ending poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate healthcare both at home and around the world. Dedicating 1-2% of our gross domestic product each year for the next twenty (to be collected not through taxes on ordinary citizens but a 1% Tobin tax on all international transactions of one million dollars or more).

The first location for launching this program ought to be both the U.S. domestically and the Middle East, seeking not only to rebuild Palestine, to compassionately address the huge gap between rich and poor in Israel but also to end poverty in Egypt, Pakistan, Lebanon and Jordan — with the people of these lands deciding in cooperation with the international community on how best to implement programs to eliminate poverty and provide adequate education and health care for all.

The U.S. and Israel could use Israeli expertise to offer to build alternative energy projects in Iran sufficient to offset any loss of energy that a reduction in some of its nuclear aspirations might entail. Meanwhile, Israel could acknowledge its responsibility to Palestinian refugees some of whom fled voluntarily, others of whom were forced from their homes in 1948 and never allowed to return by Israel, and both Israel and the U.S. could accept Palestine into the U.N. Iran would be asked to renounce publicly any intention to use military force to destroy Israel. And Israel and the U.S. could announce the creation of an international fund to provide reparations for Palestinians who fled Israel in the period 1948-1967 or who were pushed from their homes during the post-1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, allow 20,000 Palestinians per year for thirty years to return to inside the pre-67 borders of Israel and help find them housing, and provide reparations for Jews who fled Arab lands from 1940-1978.

Imagine if the U.S. and Israel were to say that they were doing this because: (1) we’ve come to realize that we cannot address the environmental crisis facing humanity in a world in which non-sustainable choices will be made by underdeveloped countries choosing to alleviate poverty even at the cost of long-term environmental disaster unless we take their suffering seriously (2) Because immigration strains on the U.S. can only be reversed by making the countries from which immigrants are fleeing economically successful enough so that they don’t have to come here to have a decent economic standard of living. (3) Because both Americans and Israelis now understand that our well-being depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet, and so we want to be “number one” in overcoming the need to be “number one.”

If we followed this path, the U.S. could become a powerful model and inspiration, and earn the moral high ground to make the kinds of claims for global justice, human rights and democracy that its current domination subtext discredits.

This change in America’s approach to the world, coupled with withdrawing from economic trade arrangements that benefit us at the expense of developing nations, would make an impact on Iran far greater than bombing its nuclear facilities. It could empower the democratic forces that risked their lives against Iran’s repressive regime after the last rigged election if they no longer faced the charge of being agents of a West that sought to dominate Iran. A path of generosity and caring for others is actually less utopian or unrealistic than yet another set of wars, like our disastrous military failures in Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan. Giving generosity and moral responsibility a chance (for the first time) is far more rational than giving Israel and American militarists yet another chance to prove how violence only begets more violence.


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