Thomson on non-violence
The Case for Palestinian Nonviolent Direct Action
William J. Thomson, Ph.D.
July 26, 2002
This rather lengthy paper is based on discussions held in the spring of 2001 with Palestinians at Bir Zeit University and with Israeli members of Bat Shalom in Jerusalem. It is designed to serve as a primer for the application of nonviolence theory and technique to the situation in Occupied Palestine. I invite you to discuss and debate the points raised, and to apply them creatively to your own requirements. I would welcome any feedback and can be reached at .
While much of this analysis is based on American data, my six decades of experience with individuals on five continents suggest that the concepts are essentially universal. Nonetheless, modifications may well need to be made for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I invite you to be creative in utilizing the concepts in this paper which appear to be immediately applicable, and to put the remainder on hold.
Ackerman, P. & DuVall, J. A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict. (2000)
Ansbro, J. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Nonviolent Srategies and Tactics for Social Change. (2000)
Carr, C. The Lessons of Terror. (2002)
Dajani, S. Eyes Without Country: Searching for a Palestinian Strategy of Liberation. (1995)
Gandhi, Mohandas. Gandhi on Nonviolence. (1965)
Gandhi, Mohandas. Selected Political Writings. (1996)
James, M. & Jongeward, D. Born to Win. (1973)
Phillips, D. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Leadership. (1998)
Sharp, Gene. The Politics of Nonviolent Action. (1973)
Tzu, S. (Trans. by Thomas Cleary) The Art of War. (1991)
Brief Personal Information
In this essay I will be making the argument that widespread, confrontive, nonviolent direct action is the optimal course for the Palestinian people. This is an extraordinarily controversial view, especially within the Palestinian community, and I feel that it is appropriate for me to present my credentials and biases, so that my argument may be evaluated appropriately.
My original academic training was as a mathematical psychologist, having received my Ph.D. in 1969 from Stanford University. In the early 70's I retrained as a clinical psychologist at the University of Michigan, and since that time I have been in private clinical practice and a member of the psychology faculty of the University of Michigan/Dearborn, where I teach courses in clinical areas, as well as nonviolence/violence.. The evaluation and treatment of psychological trauma is one of my particular areas of interest, and I have organized trainings for Palestinian mental health professionals in the prevention and treatment of psychological trauma in both the West Bank and Gaza. Since 1992 I have made six trips to Israel/Palestine, three to Jordan, and two to Iraq. Since my primary training is as a clinical psychologist, I tend to approach nonviolence from that perspective, although I will certainly address other approaches as well.
My own experience with nonviolence began somewhat tentatively in the 1950’s, where as a student in the American South (Texas). I began to question many of the assumptions about race and about my participation in upholding the prevailing views on that issue. To my regret, other than a few discussions with teachers and fellow students, and writing some “letters to the editor” (for which I once received a death threat), I made little contribution to the civil rights struggle in America.
During the Vietnam era, however, I was quite active, starting about 1965. At the time I was in graduate school in the San Francisco Bay area, a hotbed of anti-war sentiment, and I participated in numerous actions, both violent and nonviolent. For example, I was involved in a demonstration at the Oakland army terminal where mace pepper spray was first used, and for many years I assisted in organizing, participated in street actions, lobbied the Congress, and performed other activities.
Following the end of the Vietnamese war, I was relatively dormant (family, career, etc.) until the start of the Gulf War flare up in August of 1990. Along with many others, I worked to try to prevent that war, and since that time I have been intimately involved in the process of ending the sanctions against the Iraqi people. Two years ago I was involved in the formation of the National Network to End the War Against Iraq, and I have twice traveled to Iraq to directly witness the effects of the US/UN sanctions policy. I have also been involved in several projects to alleviate medical and psychological suffering of the Iraqi people, particularly children.
My initial focussed interest in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was stimulated by the first Intifada (12/9/87) and my first trip there in 1992, where I saw firsthand many facts that called into question what I had been previously led to believe by the US media. At the time I speculated about the possibilities of nonviolence applied to the conflict, and I proceeded to research the possibilities. This ultimately led to my initiating a course on nonviolence, which I have been teaching at the University of Michigan/Dearborn for several years now.
Many people (Gandhi / MLK) take a religious/spiritual/moral approach to nonviolence. I certainly respect that view, but I am at heart a pragmatist and a realist, and I embrace nonviolence because I believe it is an extraordinarily effective tool for promoting change and solving problems, both interpersonally and internationally. I am convinced, both by the weight of the scientific evidence and through my own experience, that violence is generally counterproductive in the long run, and that the core of human interaction, like that of most animal species, is based on nonviolent cooperation.
This essay will be divided into 5 parts:
The nature of violence.
What is nonviolence?
What are the advantages of nonviolence?
How does nonviolence work?
Applications to the current conflict.
Position on suicide bombings / martyr attacks
Before I begin my argument, I feel that it is incumbent upon me to comment on Palestinian suicide bombings / martyr attacks.
Often such attacks are cast in a moral framework, but I must admit I have some difficulty with universal moral issues. I have my own personal morality, which absolutely prohibits the killing of anything (even a biting mosquito), but my thrust as a therapist and as a humanist has always been to attempt to understand the motivation behind any behavior, which often involves trying to understand the moral position underlying certain acts. While I usually have little difficulty deciding what is moral FOR ME, I am extremely hesitant to impose my moral standards on anyone else. It is my experience that moral arguments, like historical ones, quickly dissolve to the level of "my morality/history is more valid than your morality/history", and I don't believe discourse at that level leads to productive outcomes.
With regard to suicide bombings / martyr attacks, they would be absolutely immoral FOR ME to plan or perform. I am also quite willing to say that the killing of innocents, on either side, is unacceptable (which is, I suppose, different from immoral). I can, and have (even directly to members of Fatah, HAMAS and Islamic Jihad) condemned the bombings / attacks as strategically and tactically unwise and counterproductive, and I will continue to do so. I do condemn the attacks, but not the attackers. I believe that these young men and women have been acting out of motivations that have been praised by religious and secular cultures throughout the millennia. I also readily acknowledge the courage and bravery of martyrs; indeed those are the precise qualities necessary for successful nonviolent action.
But here's where the morality gets sticky. How can I condemn the bombings as immoral, when NOT resisting the occupation could also be seen as immoral? As Thomas Jefferson said in the United States Declaration of Independence, "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations...evinces a design to reduce them the people under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their DUTY emphasis mine, to throw off such government...."
In my mind, there is clearly a better option for the Palestinians in the form of massive ACTIVE nonviolent resistance, but both the Israelis and the Palestinians have set up the situation so as to make that option extraordinarily difficult, though certainly not impossible. For many years the Israeli government (perhaps fearing the power of nonviolent action) has taken extreme measures to make sure that such actions do not take widespread root among Palestinians, including recent deportations and refusal-of-entry of nonviolent activists. They have also provoked predictable Palestinian violent responses by their targeted assassinations (most recently last Monday night in Gaza), land confiscation, detention, and other oppressive measures characteristic of the occupation. The Palestinians have periodically responded with violence, thus raising fear among the Israeli populace and providing "justification" for additional Israeli actions.
In the absence of nonviolent action, what effective means of resistance remain for the Palestinians, other than the horrible bombings? And if that is the only viable option at this point, set up in large part by Israeli government actions over many years--even decades, how can I condemn it as immoral, given that I see resistance as a moral requirement? Even Gandhi, perhaps the foremost proponent of nonviolent action in the world's history once said, "It is better to be violent if there is violence in your heart than to put on a cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence. There is hope for a violent man to become nonviolent. There is no such hope for the impotent."
However, this is an essay on NONVIOLENT alternatives, which I am absolutely convinced can work in Palestine.
The nature of violence
Before one can understand nonviolence, one must understand the nature of violence.
Violence consists of actions which are designed, in large part, to cause physical, mental, economic or other harm to others, or to benefit the self at the expense of others.
a. It always contains an element of "I am better / more deserving / more needy / etc." than the victim of the violence.
b. It usually involves a power differential, with most (but not all) of the violence going from more powerful toward the less powerful,
c. it violates the common religious/ethical concept of "treating others as you wish to be treated yourself".
d. it ends with feelings of "righteous justification" on the part of the perpetrator and "anger/frustration/helplessness/hopelessness" on the part of the victim.
Violence is not just physical, in fact, I would suggest that violence is not even primarily physical.
a. Neil Wollman and Bradley Yoder have recently constructed a violence index for the United States in which violence is subdivided into "Personal" and "Societal" categories, where "Personal" contains most of the actions normally thought of as violent, such as physically violent crimes, but also containing crimes that are not physically violent, such as burglary, embezzlement, etc. "Societal" violence is a much broader category, and contains items such as social negligence/poverty, misapplications of criminal justice, as well as environmental, economic, racial*, gender* and medical coercion. (*Not included by Wollman/Yoder). Note that, by and large, personal violence is illegal, whereas societal violence is legal. This leads to a speculation about hierarchies of violence, with types of physical violence at the bottom, and types of societal violence at the top. This allows us to construct general rules of violent interaction.
a. The lower in the hierarchy (e.g. physical), the more widely available is the form of violence. That is, physical violence is potentially available to almost everyone, and from numerous studies (e.g., Stanley Milgram's obedience to authority work) we must reluctantly conclude that almost everyone is capable of physical violence under appropriate circumstances.
b. Higher forms of violence (e.g., economic) are reserved for those with the resources to implement them.
c. In general, higher forms of violence are more likely to be successful over lower forms of violence.
d. In general, people will use the highest form of violence available to them, because it is less physically (and otherwise) dangerous, the power differentials (and likelihood of success) are greater, and it is more likely to be legal.
e. THIS IS THE KEY POINT: VIOLENCE OF ANY TYPE TENDS TO EVOKE A VIOLENT RESPONSE. Again, people will tend to respond with the highest form of violence available to them, which would sometimes be a form of societal violence, but would always include as an option some form of physical violence. Thus, the Palestinian children who throw stones, or the martyrs/suicide bombers who attack Israeli civilians are responding not just to Israeli military actions, but also (even more so) to social negligence, misapplications of criminal justice, harassment, and grinding poverty. They are responding to societal violence with the only form of violence available to them.
What is nonviolence?
To understand the nature of nonviolence, I will turn to three experts, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Gene Sharp. Both Gandhi and King approach nonviolence from a religious/spiritual/moral perspective, whereas Sharp takes a more pragmatic approach. Common to all three, however, is that the concept of nonviolence has nothing to do with passivity--quite the opposite, it REQUIRES action. Let me repeat, NONVIOLENCE REQUIRES ACTION--direct, confrontive, and much of the time, dangerous action. It is not for the weak or the cowardly, but for the bold and courageous. In addition, nonviolence is not only the absence of violence, but as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, the presence of justice.
Gandhi described a series of characteristics of nonviolence:
1. Nonviolence is active
a. "Nonviolence is the greatest and most active force in the world. One cannot be passively nonviolent."
b. "Without a direct active expression of it, nonviolence, to my mind, in meaningless."
2. Nonviolence is non-cooperative
a. "The first principle of nonviolent action is non-cooperation with everything humiliating."
b. "Non-cooperation is a measure of discipline and sacrifice, and it demands respect for the opposite view."
c. "Real non-cooperation is non-cooperation with evil and not with the evil-doer."
3. Nonviolence requires suffering
a. "The conditions necessary for the success of satyagraha (soul/truth force) are
1) The satyagrahi should not have any hatred in his heart against the opponent.
2) The issue must be true and substantial.
3) The satyagrahi must be prepared to suffer till the end."
b. "In nonviolence bravery consists in dying, not in killing."
c. "To lay down one's life for what one considers to be right is the very core of satyagraha."
d. "A nonviolent person should die without retaliation, anger or malice, in self-defense or in defending the honor of a loved one. This is the highest form of bravery."
e. "Sorrow and suffering make for character if they are voluntarily bourne, but not if they are imposed."
f. "Just as one must learn the art of killing in the training for violence, so one must learn the art of dying in the training for nonviolence."
4. Nonviolence works toward transformation, both within the society...
a. "There is hope for a violent man to become nonviolent. There is no such hope for the impotent."
5. and with the opponent....
a. "Satyagraha is never vindictive. It believes not in destruction but in conversion. Any failure is due to the weakness of the satygrahi, not to any defect in the law itself."
6. Nonviolence is all-encompassing
a. "Nonviolence is not a garment to be put on and taken off at will. Its seat is in the heart and it must be an inseparable part of our very being."
b. "True nonviolence should mean a complete freedom from ill-will and anger and hate and an overflowing love for all."
c. "For a nonviolent person the whole world is one family. He will fear none, nor will others fear him."
d. "A satyagrahi loves his so-called enemy even as he loves his friend."
7. Nonviolence sets up the future
a. "If liberty and democracy are to be truly saved, they will only be by nonviolent resistance no less brave, no less glorious, than violent resistance. And it will be infinitely braver and more glorious because it will give life without taking any."
8. Nonviolence is truth
a. "It is the law of love that rules mankind. Had violence or hate ruled us, we should have become extinct long ago. And yet the tragedy of it is that the so-called civilized men and nations conduct themselves as if the basis of society was violent."
9. Nonviolence is ultimately successful
a. "The power of unarmed nonviolence is any day far superior to that of armed force."
b. "Nonviolence, when it becomes active, travels with extraordinary velocity, and then it becomes a miracle."
c. "We will match our capacity to suffer against your capacity to inflict the suffering, our soul force against your physical force. We will not hate you, but we will not obey you. Do what you like, and we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. And in the winning of the freedom we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you. So ours will be a double victory; we will win our freedom and our captors in the process."
d. "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
Martin Luther King, Jr. likewise described several principles of nonviolence:
1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people-
It is active non-violent resistance to evil.
It is aggressive spirituality.
It is always persuading the opponent of the righteousness of your cause.
2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding--
The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.
The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.
3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people--
Nonviolence recognizes that evils doers are also victims and are not evil people.
The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil, not people.
4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform--
Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation.
Nonviolence accepts violence if necessary, but will never inflict it.
Nonviolence willingly accepts the consequences of its acts.
Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
Suffering has the power to convert the enemy when reason fails.
5. Nonviolence choose love instead of hate--
Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.
Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
Nonviolent love gives willingly, knowing that the return might be hostility.
Nonviolent love is active, not passive.
Nonviolent love is unending in its ability to forgive in order to restore community.
Love for the enemy is how we demonstrate love for ourselves.
Love restores community and resist injustice.
Nonviolence recognizes the fact that all life is interrelated.
6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice--
The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.
Nonviolence believes that God is a God of Justice.
Both Gandhi and King, because of their strong spirituality, were able to see "the God within" their adversaries. Many of their followers did not, but were nonetheless able to implement successfully nonviolent action techniques. While the Gandhi-King approach may in some sense be the ideal, I am convinced that it is possible to be successful with nonviolent techniques without requiring that practitioners see "the God within" their adversaries. Indeed, I suspect that in the initial stages of every successful nonviolent action movement (and there have been many in this century / see A Force More Powerful), the majority of the participants found it quite difficult to see the humanity of their adversary. I am certain that is currently true for the vast majority of both the Palestinian and the Israeli populations. In the absence of such recognition of the adversary's humanity, we turn to Gene Sharp for a more pragmatic approach.
Sharp contends that:
1. Nonviolent action is a technique for applying power in a conflict without the use of physical violence.
2. Nonviolent action may involve acts of omission or acts of commission-or a combination of the two. As a technique, therefore, nonviolent action is not passive. It is not inaction. It is action that is nonviolent.
3. These acts comprise some two hundred "nonviolent weapons", and without doubt, scores more already exist or will emerge in future conflicts.
4. Three broad classes of nonviolent methods exist: nonviolent protest and persuasion (e.g., signed public statements, display of Palestinian flags/colors, demonstrative funerals), noncooperation (e.g., Beit Sahour tax revolt, boycotts of Israeli goods, merchant's general strikes), and nonviolent intervention (e.g., hunger strikes, alternative social institutions / HAMAS).
5. Nonviolent action provides a way to wield power in order to achieve objectives and to sanction opponents without the use of physical violence.
6. Overwhelmingly, nonviolent action is group or mass action.
7. While certain forms of this technique, especially the symbolic methods (e.g., filling in the Birzeit-Ramallah trench), may be regarded as efforts to persuade by action, the other forms, especially those of noncooperation (Beit Sahour tax revolt), may, if practiced by large numbers, coerce opponents.
8. Nonviolent action is a technique by which people who reject passivity and submission, and who see struggle as essential, can wage their conflict without violence.
9. Nonviolent action is not an attempt to avoid conflict. It is one response to the problem of how to wield power effectively.
Sharp also describes what nonviolence is NOT:
1. Nonviolent action has nothing to do with passivity, submissiveness, and cowardice; just as in violent action, these must first be rejected and overcome. Often the most violent elements ultimately make the best nonviolent activists, since they already have learned courage and discipline. (e.g., Bashrah Kahn and the Muslim Pathans of the northeast Indian border; Gandhi encouraging his followers to join the army to learn these skills.)
2. Nonviolent action is not to be equated with verbal or purely psychological persuasion, although it may use action to induce psychological pressures for attitude change; nonviolent action, instead of words, is a technique of struggle involving the use of social, economic, and political power.
3. Nonviolent action does not depend on the assumption that people are inherently "good"; the potentialities of people for both "good" and "evil" are recognized, including the extremes of cruelty and inhumanity, which exist on each side of the present conflict.
4. People using nonviolent action do not have to be pacifists or saints; nonviolent action as been predominantly and successfully practiced by "ordinary" people. In other words, philosophical commitment to nonviolence, as "required" by both Gandhi and King, is a sufficient, but not necessary, prerequisite to successful nonviolent action.
5. Success with nonviolent action does not require (though it may be helped by) shared standards and principles, a high degree of community of interest, or a high degree of psychological closeness between the contending groups.
6. Nonviolent action is at least as much of a Western phenomenon as an Eastern one; indeed, it is probably more Western, if one takes into account the widespread use of strikes and boycotts in the labor movement and the noncooperation struggles of subordinated nationalities.
7. In nonviolent action there is no assumption that the opponent will refrain from using violence against nonviolent actionists; indeed violence is often likely or even "provoked". However, the technique is designed to operate against violence when necessary.
8. There is nothing in nonviolent action to prevent it from being used for both "good" and "bad" causes, although the social consequences of its use for a "bad" cause may differ considerably from the consequences of violence used for the same cause.
9. Nonviolent action is not limited to domestic conflicts within a democratic system; it as been widely used against dictatorial regimes, foreign occupations, and even against totalitarian systems.
10. Nonviolent action does not always take longer to produce victory than violent struggle would. In a variety of cases nonviolent struggle as won objectives in a very short time - in as little as a few days. The time taken to achieve victory depends on diverse factors - primarily on the strength of the nonviolent actionists.
Sharp goes on to make the following general points:
1. Nonviolent action produces change in three broad ways:
a. Conversion - opponent comes around to positively accepting the point of view of the actionists.
b. Accommodation - opponent chooses to grant demands without changing viewpoint
c. Nonviolent Coercion - change is achieved against the opponent's will and without his agreement - the sources of power have been so undercut by nonviolent means that he no longer has control.
1) The defiance may become too widespread and massive to be controlled by the opponent's repression.
2) The non-cooperation and defiance may make it impossible for the social, economic and political system to operate unless the actionists' demands are achieved.
3) Even the opponent's ability to apply repression may be undermined.
2. As in violent conflict, strategy is necessary for success - nonviolent action (like violent combat) works by identifying an opponents vulnerabilities and taking away their ability to maintain control.
3. For any government to function, consent of the governed is crucial. Nonviolent action leads to
a. a psychological change from passive submission to self-respect
b. recognition by the subject that his/her assistance makes the regime possible
c. building of a determination to withdraw cooperation and obedience
d. Withdrawal of obedience, cooperation and submission by subjects, if sustained, will produce a crisis for the ruler, threatening the existence of the regime. In the face of such non-cooperation, the ruler will inflict severe sanctions.
e. Governments often object less to granting subjects' demands than they do to the popular withdrawal of cooperation and obedience (e.g., IDF reaction to soldiers who refuse to serve in the West Bank and Gaza), and they fear the spread of an awareness of the power of non-cooperation in controlling political power (Gandhi's statement that, "Nonviolence, when it becomes active, travels with extraordinary velocity, and then it becomes a miracle." . This is why even "liberal" rulers react so strongly sometimes when a number of individuals act collectively in non-cooperation and disobedience.
4. Nonviolence operates by producing power changes. The power variability can be more extreme and occur more rapidly than in situations where both sides are using violence.
5. The nature of nonviolent struggle makes it possible for actionists to also win considerable support even in the camp of the opponent and among third parties. This potential is much greater than with violence. The ability to gain this types of support gives the nonviolent group a capacity to influence - even regulate - their opponent's power by reducing or cutting off this power at its source (e.g., potentially reducing/eliminating US military support for Israel).
6. Violent repression is more likely to be justified against violent resistance, but can be counterproductive against nonviolent resistance. One of the ways in which nonviolent action functions is to exhaust the opponent's means of repression and demonstrate their impotence. In this the actionist's attitude of fearlessness is crucial. Without fear of sanctions, the sanctions lose their power to produce submission.
7. As Gandhi indicated, facing repression with persistence and courage means that the nonviolent actionists must be prepared to endure the opponent's sanctions without flinching. The nonviolent actionists must be prepared to suffer in order to advance their cause.
8. When both sides in a conflict use violent methods there is likely to be a cycle of violence and counter-violence. When one side uses nonviolent "weapons" the cycle of violence is broken. More about this shortly.
9. The opponent's provocation to violence emphasizes still further the importance of strict adherence to nonviolent discipline. To resort to violence after provocation, declared Gandhi, is to "cooperate with the government in the most active manner." Nonviolent discipline can be promoted by:
a. clear lines of command and communication, and ... a clear understanding by the participants of what they are to do in a variety of circumstances, (training is available in how to do this) and by
b. "Marshals" - people who are especially experienced, able to remain calm and confident, and well-versed in understanding the nonviolent technique. They have played an extremely important role in promoting nonviolent discipline among large numbers of people who may have been new to both demonstrations and nonviolent action.
a. Nonviolent action may not work (but this is also true of violent action).
b. People may get hurt and suffer economic loss, physical injury, imprisonment, even death. Injuries, deaths, suffering and destruction, however, are significantly less - even on the resisters' side alone - when one side relies on nonviolent action than when both sides use violence.
c. Violence may break out among the actionists during the use of nonviolent action, but it is more likely to happen if no nonviolent action is used at all. It is thus necessary to take measures to try to prevent the outbreak of violence, and to isolate and eliminate such violence if it occurred. In other words, discipline is required.
What are the advantages of nonviolence?
Before considering the advantages of nonviolence, let me point out that there are certain arguments to be made in favor of violence.
1. Violent confrontation can "prevail" when the balance of violent power is in your favor. However, the current balance of violent power is overwhelmingly on the side of the Israeli government, and this balance is unlikely to change for years to come, if ever. Historically, all regimes based on violence have ultimately fallen, but many have lasted for centuries. The lesson is, if you are going to attempt to prevail with violence, you must be more violent than the adversary, and you must be in a position to be able to use your violence in an unrestrained manner. This condition certainly does not hold for the Palestinians, and with the world’s focus on the conflict, the Israeli government is not free to use its power to the maximum extent. However, one concern is that the Israeli government may decide to use its power to kill or to remove the Palestinian population to Jordan or Gaza. I have heard references to “8-day” plans, and it is not clear that the world’s response would be swift enough to save the Palestinian people.
2. Violence tends to be more dramatic and will often command immediate media attention (often drawing media away from nonviolent actions). However, skillful and courageous nonviolence actions can also be quite media intensive. In fact, media coverage is a crucial component of nonviolent actions.
3. Some violent actions require little training to implement. Successful nonviolence requires substantial organization and training.
4. Violence provides a temporary catharsis, which can relieve emotional tension. However, as we see repeated over and over in this conflict, cathartic violence evokes a violent response from the other side.
In short, violence is a high-risk alternative, especially for the Palestinians. It stands a significant chance of providing a “justification” for a genocidal reaction by the Israeli government, and it is clear that the current government of Israel would be quite capable of such actions. Even Palestinians with Israeli citizenship would be vulnerable.
Now I would like to present the major advantages of nonviolent action, based primarily on the work of Gene Sharp. Sharp provides the following list of advantages for nonviolent action:
1. Nonviolent techniques work as a force for empowering people. It can serve as a form of training--they teach an individual how to assume responsibility for their own actions and make consensual decisions about the substance of goals and the process of reaching them.
2. Nonviolent action appears by its very nature to contribute to the diffusion of power throughout society. This diffusion in turn is likely make it easier in the long run for the subjects to control their rulers' exercise of power in the future.
3. The choice of violent or nonviolent action may also have significant effects on the type of leadership likely to arise in the movement, and to carry over into the post-struggle society. Violence tends to result in a more brutal, less democratic leadership than does nonviolent action. A GOVERNMENT WHICH COMES INTO POWER THROUGH VIOLENCE IS VIRTUALLY CERTAIN TO RULE THROUGH VIOLENCE.
4. Nonviolent leaders do not use violent sanctions to maintain their positions, and are therefore more subject to popular control than leaders of violent movements which may apply violent sanctions against internal opposition. Again, A GOVERNMENT WHICH COMES INTO POWER THROUGH VIOLENCE IS VIRTUALLY CERTAIN TO RULE THROUGH VIOLENCE.
5. Effective use of nonviolent struggle may be a step in the direction of increased substitution of nonviolent for violent sanctions in that society.
6. There are also significant positive effects on the nonviolent group:
a. Ending submissiveness
b. Learning a technique which reveals one's power
c. Increasing fearlessness
d. Increased self-esteem
e. Increased group unity
f. Increased internal cooperation
7. The opponent tends to be more limited in the means of repression which they may use against nonviolent action than against violent action. As we will see in the next section, it is very difficult (though not impossible) to use violence against someone who refuses to use violence in return.
8. The nature of the opponent's means of repression are generally most effective in dealing with violent action. Individuals who are trained in violence expect, and are prepared for, a violent response. Refusing to respond as expected changes the psychological "playing field" and creates conditions in which creative nonviolent actions can prevail.
9. Nonviolence tends to win more sympathy and support, both within the camp of the opponent and with third parties. Nonviolence causes the violence of the opponent's repression to be exposed in the worst possible light, which in turn may lead to shifts in opinion and then to shifts in power relationships favorable to the nonviolent group. This concept is crucial. THE PALESTINIANS CANNOT PREVAIL WITHOUT THE WEIGHT OF WORLD OPINION ON THEIR SIDE.
10. Nonviolent confrontation is much safer. Psychologically (putting on my hat as a practicing clinical psychologist), it is quite difficult (though not impossible) to respond violently to nonviolent confrontation. However, violent confrontation sends a very strong psychological invitation to respond in kind.
11. Nonviolence, because it requires organization, training, emotional balance and concentration, typically will not "get out of hand", as violent actions sometimes do.
12. It can induce mutiny of the opponent's troops, as we have already seen in the example of the "Refusniks".
13. Nonviolence allows for a reasonable exit strategy. As Gandhi said, "we will win our freedom and our captors in the process."
14. It allows for attracting maximum participation in the nonviolent struggle (elderly, children, women). In terms of the previously mentioned hierarchy of violence, nonviolence ranks higher than any form of societal violence in terms of its power and likelihood of success.
How does nonviolence work?
The success of nonviolent action is based on sound psychological principles of human interaction. One model which makes these interactions especially clear is transactional analysis, originated by Eric Berne and described in Born to Win (above). The model proposes five, and only five, divisions of personality, or "ego states", which each of us possesses. These are:
1. Controlling Parent (CP)--The CP consists of information and behaviors about how to control other people through force or coercion (e.g., demanding "don't go on the roof (during curfew)", use of physical coercion, etc.)
2. Nurturing Parent (NP)--The NP consists of information and behaviors about nurturing and taking care of other people (e.g., saying "I love you", Arab hospitality, etc.)
3. Adult (A)--The A consists of factual and realistic information and behavior (e.g., reading this paper on nonviolent action, questions such as "what time is it?", etc.). This ego state is often called the computer, because it analyzes and responds to information in a factual, non-emotional fashion.
4. Reactive Child (RC) (originally named the Adaptive Child)--The RC consists of information and behaviors regarding how to react appropriately to the Controlling (and to some degree, the Nurturing) Parent. The RC can adapt to, model, or rebel against the Controlling Parent. Note that each of these three reactions, while superficially different, are all defined with respect to an external referent (the Controlling Parent), and are thus not independent actions.
5. Free Child (FC)--The FC consists of the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of the unfettered child. This ego state is the seat of emotions, spontaneity, defiance ("terrible twos"), fun and creativity. It recognizes no limits, and realistically must be kept under some monitoring by the Nurturing and Controlling Parent.
Understanding of these ego states is of critical importance, as understanding of why nonviolent action works and how it can be applied to potentially violent situations is based on clear understanding these ego states and how they interact with each other. If you remain unclear about ego states after completing this section, please contact me or consult Born to Win or any of the many books on transactional analysis by Eric Berne, Claude Steiner or Tom Harris.
Characteristics of ego states
1. Any thought, feeling or behavior which we produce must be under the control of one, and only one, of these five ego states.
2. Another way of stating this is that at any point in time, one, and only one, of these five ego states will be in control of our thoughts and actions, even while sleeping (FC). Commonly, the following activities and ego states will be related: for example, preparing a meal (NP), comforting a child (NP), disciplining a child (CP), arguing (CP or RC), working (A), paying bills (A), brushing teeth (RC), rebelling against a parent's wishes (RC), playing (FC), laughing (FC) and sleeping (FC). One way to practice this concept is to look at your normal activities and try to determine which of these five ego states in is in control.
3. Each of us has all five of these ego states from age two onward, though in each individual, some may be more obvious than others. In general (although there are many exceptions to these rules) females are often in close contact with their Nurturing Parent; males with the Controlling Parent. Children are more in touch with Reactive and Free Child ego states. (However, it is important to note that as young as age two, traces of all five ego states may be noticed, and of course, many elderly people have delightful access to their Free Child ego state).
4. It is possible to learn to control our actions by learning to access any particular ego state at any point in time. For example, as we will see, one way to stop an argument (typically involving the CP or RC ego state) is to move into the Adult ego state. In fact, some have defined mental health as having the ability to appropriately activate any of the five ego states at any point in time.
5. We can also use ego states to invite a particular ego state response from another person. For example,
a. NP actions will typically evoke FC responses
b. CP actions will typically evoke CP or RC responses
c. A actions will typically evoke A responses
d. RC actions will typically evoke CP or RC responses
e. FC actions will typically evoke FC or NP responses
Thus by learning to control our own ego states, we can learn to effectively control the responses from other people, and thus control transactions in general.
6. Any time that we are in an ego state and create some thought or action, we are directing that thought or action at another ego state. This is called a transaction. Thus, we can use these ego states for transactions within ourselves (e.g., FC --> FC: "Wow, another piece of baklava! Who cares if I weigh 100 Kg. Let's eat!!", or CP --> FC: "Don't eat it!!", or NP --> FC: "Why don't you save that piece for tomorrow?", or A --> FC: " That's 200 calories." In other words, we do have internal conversations and arguments which can be analyzed in terms of ego states. (Please note: the symbol "-->" means "is directed toward".)
7. We also have transactions with other people which can be similarly analyzed, and this is the heart of the application of this analysis to nonviolent action. Each interaction which we have with another person originates in one of these five ego states, and is directed at a particular ego state in another person. (e.g., A --> A: "What time is it?, or CP --> RC: "Watch out!", or NP --> FC: "I love you."
8. The mathematically inclined have perhaps already figured out that there are a total of 25 possible transactions, defined as starting in one of the five ego states and directed at one of the five ego states in the other individual. Fortunately, most human interaction is based on only five sets of these 25 possibilities. They are:
a. CP --> RC and the corresponding response from RC --> CP. This interaction is used for control, e.g., "Be quiet!" (CP --> RC), with a behavioral response of "silence" (RC --> CP).
b. CP --> CP and the corresponding response from CP --> CP. Most arguments take this form.
c. A --> A and the corresponding response from A --> A. This transaction describes routine information exchange used in business, families, etc.
d. NP --> FC and the corresponding response from FC --> NP. This is the primary nurturing transaction.
e. FC --> FC and the corresponding response from FC --> FC. This is the primary play, humor and emotional exchange transaction.
Note that the people we choose for friends, spouses, etc. are defined by d & e.
Rules controlling transactions
All transactions follow one of two simple rules. The transactions I have described thus far are defined as “parallel” transactions. A parallel transaction is one which begins in a particular ego state (e.g., NP) in the first person, and is directed toward a particular ego state in the second person (e.g., FC). If the response in the second person is received in the ego state to which it was directed (e.g., FC), and a new transaction is initiated from that ego state (e.g., FC) directed toward the originating ego state (e.g., NP), then the transaction is defined as “parallel”. For example, “Have some baklava” (NP --> FC). “Wow, this is really good!” (FC --> NP).
The basic rule for parallel transactions is that they will continue indefinitely (or until the baklava is gone). In the simple example above, additional transactions might be: “I’m glad that you like it.” (NP --> FC) “This may be the best baklava I have ever had.” (FC --> NP), etc. Note that any of the ego state pairings described in #8 above will likely result in parallel transactions. For example, arguments (CP --> CP) tend to continue “indefinitely”, as do business transactions (A --> A).
The second type of transaction is called a “crossed” (or non-parallel) transaction. In short, any transaction which is not parallel must be crossed. This can be achieved by having a transaction directed toward a particular ego state but not being received there (e.g., “Have some baklava” (NP --> FC), followed by a response of “People who eat baklava need to be more concerned about their weight!” (CP --> RC). Note that the expected FC response was changed into a CP response. This could be due to the original transaction not being received by the FC, or the second individual could have willfully decided to respond out of the CP ego state. In any case, we now have a crossed transaction and the second rule of transactions: When a transaction is "crossed", there will be a brief pause, which if used skillfully, can be utilized to redirect the flow of the transactions. This redirection can lead to negative (as in this example) or positive outcomes, but the key point to remember is that by crossing transactions, a skilled practitioner can very effectively control the entire nature and outcome of the transaction. By changing our own ego state and using the information in #5 above, which describes the likely outcome of such a change, we can effectively control the overall flow of the transaction. For example, you can often end an argument by going into the Adult ego state, since, according to #5 above, A will tend to evoke A. Or, if skillfully used, humor will almost always lead to an FC --> FC transaction, which will also end the argument.
Understanding and using crossed transactions will provide a substantial level of control in transaction exchange, but it will not always work perfectly. For example, a typical response when the transaction is crossed is for the original "sender" to escalate for his/her original ego state (e.g., “I know, but this is really good baklava!! (NP! --> FC). Or a person in an argument (CP --> RC), might escalate for the CP position. This, in turn, leads to a technique for change called “broken record”, in which the person wishing to cross the transaction (e.g., and end the argument), escalates for the A or FC position and “forces” the other person out of CP.
UNDERSTANDING AND USING CROSSED TRANSACTIONS IS THE KEY TO USING NONVIOLENT ACTION TECHNIQUES SUCCESSFULLY. I will explain below exactly how this occurs.
Before leaving the topic of transactions, however, let me briefly describe a third type of transaction. Sometimes a transaction has both an overt message and a covert/hidden one as well (e.g., your child comes home late: "Do you know what time it is?" (overt : A --> A). However, as any worried parent knows, the real (covert/hidden) message is "Why are you home so late? I’m really upset!" (CP --> RC) The key to understanding covert transactions is to note that all covert transactions are decided at the covert/hidden level. In other words, all covert transactions ultimately reduce to either parallel or crossed transactions, and the above rules apply. For example, the response "I lost track of the time" (RC --> CP) will continue the RC <--> CP exchange until the parent’s anger is vented and the child feels appropriately disciplined. Note that if the child actually responded to the parent’s original question by saying "It's 2:18 in the morning" (A --> A), they would have actually crossed the original covert message. This would result in a stop in the action, and a likely escalation for the CP position by the parent (e.g., “Don’t get smart with me!!" CP! --> RC).
Also let me note that transactions can be verbal (thinking), but they can also be behavioral or emotional as well. Thus, transactions may be controlled verbally, behaviorally or emotionally. Within each of us, the thinking, behavioral and emotional parts must at all times be in some sort of homeostasis, so if we can use the above methods to change verbal/thinking responses, ultimately change must also be reflected in behavior and/or emotion as well in order to maintain homeostasis.
Applications to the current conflict
Nations/cultures operate with the same ego states as do individuals. With nations, however, the most common transactions are reduced to three:
a. CP --> RC: Used for control. (Military/economic force)
b. A --> A: Used for routine information, business, etc.
c. NP --> FC: Used for nurturing. (Economic/military support, etc.) In many cases this would really be a CP <--> RC transaction, since something would be expected for the “nurturing”. An example of this would be US aid to Saudi Arabia/Jordan/Turkey with the expectation of aid (e.g., air bases) in a possible attack against Iraq.
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict
In the present conflict, the primary transaction is CP(Israel) < --> RC (Palestine). Israel uses military force and many other forms of violence (see Section 1) and expects the Palestinians to capitulate (adaptive part of the RC). Many Palestinians do adapt, with some rebellion (rebellious part of the RC), but in any case, it creates a parallel transaction, which as we have seen above, will continue indefinitely. Also note that even the overt transactions (as seen by other countries?) which are ostensibly A(Israel) --> A (Palestinian), such as requiring building permits, permits to enter Jerusalem, using terms such as “administered", rather than "occupied" territories are really covert CP(Israel) --> RC (Palestine), and as such, will be decided at the covert level, with either an adaptive or a rebellious response.
Another way to state this is that Palestinians are coerced by Israeli violence (as broadly defined in Part 1) to respond violently (using available violence, which is usually physical violence), an RC (rebellious) --> CP response. According to the above rules, this CP <--> RC interaction will continue indefinitely, and in CP/RC interactions, the CP almost always prevails.
There are three primary ways in which Palestinians could change the CP < --> RC interaction :
1. By responding from FC (e.g., suffering), Israelis will be "coerced" into responding from NP. This is the concept underlying Gandhi’s comment that the nonviolent actionist “believes not in destruction but in conversion”. Or, as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, “Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. The end result…is redemption and reconciliation”. The more pragmatic Gene Sharp describes “conversion” as occurring when the opponent comes around to positively accepting the point of view of the actionists. Each of these views, in psychological terms, means that the Israelis are invited/psychologically “forced” to move into the NP position.
Gandhi put it most succinctly, "We will match our capacity to suffer against your capacity to inflict the suffering, our soul force against your physical force. We will not hate you, but we will not obey you. Do what you like, and we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. And in the winning of the freedom we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you. So ours will be a double victory; we will win our freedom and our captors in the process."
2. By responding from A, Israelis will be coerced into responding from A.. Gene Sharp describes this as “accommodation”, a situation in which the opponent chooses to grant demands without changing their viewpoint. Also, by responding from A, the Palestinians could evoke Sharp’s “nonviolent coercion” change in the Israelis. In the words from the movie “Godfather”, the Palestinians would make offers to the Israelis which they cannot refuse. Last week’s aborted declaration of a unilateral cease-fire by the Palestinians is just such an example. The violent attack on Gaza with which the Israeli government crushed the possibility of this proposed action shows just how much Israel fears this approach. Another example of an Adult ego state response is to simply refuse to accept the CP demands of the Israelis. For example, it was reported that on July 28, 2002, the residents of Hebron refused to cooperate with the Israeli-imposed curfew. This could be interpreted as a response from the Adult ego state which said, in essence, “I am going to go about my business and accept the consequences.” If people are unwilling to abide by the CP rules imposed by their “captors”, ultimately the CP will have no choice but to move out of the CP position. Gandhi grasped this idea quite clearly when he stated that "The first principle of nonviolent action is non-cooperation with everything humiliating."
3. By responding from NP, one can often evoke an FC response in the adversary. For example, on my last trip to the West Bank (Spring 2002), I engaged many Israeli soldiers with an eye to conversion or accommodation. I would often initiate conversation by stating "It must be tough being a soldier under these circumstances--very boring and occasionally dangerous”. The idea here, once again, is to move the soldier out of the CP position for which they are trained, and move them, in this case, to an FC position. This, by the way, is an important tool for nonviolent activists in individual interactions. If a soldier can be moved out of the CP position, by engaging him/her with an A (factual), FC (humor) or an NP(nurturing) response, the dangers inherent in the situation will be dramatically reduced.
In each of these examples, the key to success, from a transactional perspective, is to move the individual soldier, or Israel in general, out of the CP ego state for which they have been so extensively trained. They expect an RC response (adaptation, modeling or rebellion) and are well equipped to deal with it. Therefore, the first step is to refuse to make an RC response (e.g., rebellion), which will perpetuate the CP <--> RC transaction state. By moving to FC, A or NP, you can usually move the opponent (whether individual or state) out of the dangerous CP position. By utilizing nonviolent action, one avoids an RC response and forces the adversary out of the CP position. FROM A PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE, NONVIOLENT ACTION WORKS BY FORCING THE ADVERSARY OUT OF THE POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS CONTROLLING PARENT POSITION.
Recently I distributed some comments on the book, The Lessons of Terror by Caleb Carr.
Carr defines terrorism as "warfare deliberately waged against civilians with the purpose of destroying their will to support either leaders or policies that the agents of such violence find objectionable." Carr recognizes that such terrorism can be perpetrated by individuals, groups or states, and he makes a powerful and cogent argument that such actions are NEVER successful in the long run. This brief book contains a concise history of warfare dating back to the Roman Empire, and categorizes major wars and warriors as either destructive (terrorist) or productive. While Carr says little about nonviolent movements, I believe that analogs to his ideas also exist within nonviolent paradigms.
I offer several quotes from the book:
"Karl von Clausewitz was a young Prussian officer who wrote perhaps the most influential book on military action ever published, "On War". In this book he argues forcefully for the concept of total (terrorist) war, describing the aims of war as a) to conquer AND destroy the enemy's armed force, b) to get possession of the enemy's material elements of aggression, and c) to gain public opinion....The first two of these goals could be made to dovetail nicely together within Clausewitz's theories; the third was a very tough fit....Yet, as J.F.C. Fuller noted, Clausewitz's conception of war was fatally flawed, as was Napoleon's by a consuming passion for war itself. The young Prussian, Fuller correctly observed, 'never grasped that the true aim of war is peace and not victory'." (pp. 128-129)
"There is an irony concerning most of these anti-Roman rebel leaders that also holds enormous implications for our present experience: the most dangerous and effective of them were men who had been trained by Rome itself, usually in the ranks and often in the officer corps of the legions. It was this training that enabled them to organize their warriors into disciplined units capable of combating the Romans with their own methods. The clear lesson here is one that has stood the test of countless brutal struggles over the ages: a nation must never think that it can use (and especially train) the agents of terror when convenient and then be rid of them when they are no longer needed" (p. 23). As when Israel supported HAMAS as a counterweight to the PLO, or as the US trained Al-Qaeda to confront the Soviet Union--BT
Chapter 10 deals with Ireland and Palestine:
"In truth, the IRA's greatest hope for the advancement of their cause lies in the extent to which their Unionist enemies are willing to imitate their tactics and thus alienate the public. But as for the terrorists over whom such leaders as Adams either cannot or will not exercise control, they have gained nothing more through such tactics than did Michael Collins. Collin's one chance for greatness, for true achievement, lay in limiting the Irish cause's violence to a guerrilla campaign aimed at British soldiers and officials; and indeed, during the fleeting moments when he was able to so limit it, he came within reach of remarkable results. But when he let the conflict bleed over into terrorism, all the ground he had gained was lost, and he proved far less effective an advocate for Irish rights than the members of the INP, who had struggled for so long in Parliament" (pp. 206-207)
"Indeed the only periods during which Palestinian organizations were able to drum up meaningful Western support came when they engaged Israeli conventional military forces--or, as in the case of Black September in 1970, other Arab military units. The internecine war between Arafat's feyayeen--'those who are ready to sacrifice themselves'--and King Hussein of Jordan's Western-modeled Arab Legion happened to coincide with an unusual multiple-airplane hijacking by the PFLP, during which the Palestinians removed the passengers and released many of them before destroying only the planes and then opening communication with reporters and making demands for the release of various comrades in Europe. They thus sent a signal that their priority, even their intention, might not be murder but rather serious international attention for their plight. The tactic served them, as it resulted in not only the release of their comrades but considerable television interview time, which would likely not have been possible had they gone on a killing spree aboard the planes."
"More recently, the men orchestrating and the youths participating in the Palestinian intifada movement have discovered that the world is willing to pay attention to--and even admire--their actions when they take the form of guerrilla attacks against the Israeli military. Public-opinion polls in America alone showed a significant spike in favor of the Palestinians when the intifada campaigns were launched and the airwaves became dominated by pictures of young men armed with nothing more than rocks and slings facing up to combat troops and riot police. The biblical parallel was obvious and effective; but change in American and Israeli policy did not follow the change in American public opinion fast enough to suit the Palestinians, who have since resorted to the tactic of blowing up Israeli civilians--specifically, on some occasions, young people--with equally young suicide bombers. It is a doubly bestial and doubly counterproductive tactic, one that has led to a predictable plummet in the perception of Palestinians among Westerners; and an equally predictable maintenance of pro-Israeli policies." (pp. 216-218)
Carr has much more information and many more insights into methods for using violence (and I would submit, nonviolence) for achieving political ends, and I heartily commend this book to your study.
I would add some quotes from "the Art of War" by Sun Tzu, a brief manual of warfare that has been studied by military strategists for two millennia. It will provide some insight into both current Israeli and perhaps future Palestinian strategy.
"Therefore those who win every battle are not really skillful--those who render the others' armies helpless without fighting are the best of all."
"Therefore one who is good at martial arts overcomes others' forces without battle, conquers others' cities without siege...."
"A surrounded army must be given a way out."
I would submit that the optimal way to achieve Sun Tzu's maxims is through powerful, confrontive nonviolent actions. Using terror will, I believe, only lead to a hardening of positions, counterproductive prolongation of the conflict, and further loss of both Palestinian and Israeli life.
Once again, I would argue that both Carr and Sun Tzu are suggesting that in order to achieve victory in any conflict one needs to be creative in manipulating the opponent and in avoiding being fixated in a position that provides greater advantages to the adversary than to oneself. As a psychologist, I tend to translate this into the above analysis, and state that we need to be facile with crossing transactions (expectations), and to avoid being stuck in the rebellious RC position that the Israeli opponent would prefer.
It is clear that a successful Palestinian nonviolent action movement will need to meet some basic requirements:
1. The cause must be true. The Palestinian case is well established in international law, UN resolutions and and basic humanitarian rights.
2. There must be a clear and unambiguous statement of nonviolent intent. Many Palestinians have been engaged for some time in nonviolent action, but major organizations, especially Fatah and HAMAS, have never made a declaration of nonviolent intent. I can think of no action which would have as positive an impact on Palestinian aspirations as such a declaration. At one fell swoop, it would remove the validity of Israel's greatest asset, its military power, and would put it perpetually on the defensive in combating Palestinian nonviolent actions.
3. >From Sun Tzu we are instructed to know your enemy--their fears, strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own strengths and weaknesses (see below). It is clear that in their mutual demonization of the other, neither Israelis nor Palestinians understand their adversaries very well. Each sees the other as less than a human being. Such blanket assumptions will make it impossible to find areas of true vulnerability in the opponent.
4. It is crucial to have clearly defined goals. Within the Palestinian population (as within the Israelis) there are a variety of viewpoints on what would constitute an acceptable endpoint to the conflict. Realistic and painful decisions will have to be made.
5. Organization, training and discipline are very important. Many of the various Palestinian organizations meet this criteria, but overall much more can be done. Gandhi was quite clear about this point, and suggested that some of his followers join the British army to achieve the necessary training and discipline before joining his nonviolent movement.
6. Related to #4 above, there must be cooperation and compromise with compatriots.
7. For nonviolent action to succeed, there needs to be a clear understanding of the principles and tactics of nonviolence. A thorough study of Gene Sharp's volumes (above), in particular, would be important for the nonviolent leadership. Nonviolent action should be approached with the same spirit of training as a military campaign.
8. Ultimately, there needs to be large numbers of participants. However, all nonviolent movements start small, and as Gandhi put it, "Nonviolence, when it becomes active, travels with extraordinary velocity, and then it becomes a miracle."
9. Media coverage is crucial. The extent to which Israel has taken measures to limit media coverage indicates the concern they have on this matter. However, I do not believe that they would ultimately be able to control the local and world media in the face of a massive Palestinian nonviolent movement.
There are many strengths which Palestinians bring to this conflict.
1. Palestinians are creative, ingenious and resourceful people. I do not mean this to sound as cloying as it may, but it is a fact that the Palestinian people have been hardened by decades of oppression, perhaps for a longer time and more intensively than any other population in the world. As has been said, "If adversity does not destroy me, it makes me stronger."
2. Palestinians are facing an adversary whose policies are fundamentally unjust and flawed, and whose only realistic option for maintaining injustice is the use of physical force (the "iron fist").
3. Israeli society is divided and, I believe, open to persuasion by Palestinian nonviolent actions.
4. Most Israelis and American Jews have a core belief in humanity and justice that I believe could be brought to bear by Palestinians' directly and actively seeking out suffering at the hands of the more militant Israeli elements.
5. Certain groups in Palestinian society, both militant and otherwise, are well organized, courageous and disciplined, and with a commitment to nonviolent confrontation could present a powerful counterpoint to violent Israeli actions.
6. Many Palestinians have wide experience in nonviolent strategy and tactics (e.g., the International Protection Force, organized and led by Palestinians).
The Palestinian group Justice Now also points out weaknesses in the Palestinian position, particularly regarding the use of violence.
1. Violence prompts an overwhelming Israeli military response, and the Palestinians do not have the means to win a military victory.
2. In this unequal confrontation, the Palestinians pay a very high price, both in terms of deaths and in terms of injuries.
3. The use of firearms by Palestinians seems to justify the Israeli military response in the eyes of many Israelis and foreigners.
4. Violence locks both sides in a vicious pattern of retaliation and counter-retaliation that bears the seeds of escalation into a disastrous all-out war.
5. Violent protests lead to an image of Palestinians as a fundamentally violent and irresponsible people, a people with whom it is not possible to make peace.
6. It diverts attention from the real issue--the injustice endured by the Palestinian people--to its manifestation, the violent outbreaks.
7. Violence also puzzles the natural allies of the Palestinians in the Israeli political scene and in the world. Throwing stones does not constitute well-phrased political demands, and many people in Israel and the United States do not understand what the Palestinians want from their impulsive demonstrations of anger.
8. Violence triggers reactions of fear that alienate the Israeli people and provoke a right-wing shift of the Israeli public and electors, decreasing the will and the ability of Israel to make concessions and compromises.
9. Suicide attacks, whether in the occupied territories or inside the Green Line, decrease the support of the international community for the Palestinian cause.
Let me close by expressing a concern. The darkest scenario is that Israel will find a pretext to slaughter the Palestinian population or to expel Palestinians, including Israeli Arabs, to Jordan and/or Gaza. Such a scenario could come about under the cover of a US attack on Iraq, proposed for any time from October 2002 to the beginning of 2003. Serious decisions need to be made now in order to forestall this possibility.
In a situation determined by violence, the party with greater violence at its disposal will prevail. That party is, of course, Israel. In a situation determined by nonviolence, the party with greater nonviolence at its disposal will prevail. Nonviolent action can defeat violence force; history is filled with such examples. I would submit that nonviolent action is the best, and perhaps the only way in which the Palestinian people can achieve their destiny.