Among Palestinians in the Occupied Territorities, support for the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) is soaring at an all-time high of .... about 25%. When asked what future they would choose for Palestine, Palestinian voters place HAMAS' preferred solution - an Islamic state on all of Mandate Palestine - a solid last at 23%; well behind the runaway leader (the two-state solution) and even trailing the binational state, which isn't actually the official policy of any of the major players in the region. Those figures might sound surprising to an American reader, exposed to a news media that works on the premise if it's Middle East, but it isn't a suicide bomb, then it's not news. After all, when the mass media only ever uses the word "Palestinian" in the context of a suicide bombing, it is a short leap to make the erroneous identification of Palestinian = terrorist = destruction of Israel. But those numbers are actually typical of polls carried out among the Palestinian electorate throughout the Oslo/Al Aqsa intifada years. When you realise that, doesn't it make you wonder, why are the 75% who don't identify with HAMAS invisible in our news coverage?
Ha'Aretz reporter Yoel Marcus, certainly no apologist for the right-wing Israeli regime, comes up with one pessimistic answer in a recent rant, Not The Slightest Regret. Apparently, the reason that we see Palestinians only as terrorists is that that's what they are. All of them. For Marcus, "the Palestinians" are not a nation of individuals as varied as the rest of us, but one undifferentiated lump of hatred, not one of whom raises his or her voice against terror:
What I would like to know is why there is no one on the other side crying out against the Palestinian Authority's policy of hatred and bloodshed. Where is their B'Tselem? Where are the Palestinian refuseniks who object to the murder of women and children?
Fortunately, there is an easy answer, and it's this: Yoel, you need to get out more. Or maybe just stay home and pay more attention to your own local media. Open a newspaper - maybe even the one you write for - and read the public condemnations of suicide bombings by prominent Palestinians; or the (Palestinian) Jerusalem Times editorials that call HAMAS' refusal to cease its suicide attacks inexplicable and contrary to the Palestinian national interest; or perhaps listen to a couple of episodes of Home is our Home, the Palestine Radio soap opera created by the Palestinian group Middle East Non-Violence and Democracy (MEND), which gained a cult following with its stories of how ordinary people living under occupation can find creative and nonviolent ways to resolve conflicts.
Or maybe do a quick Google search and familiarise yourself with the plethora of Palestinians in governmental and non-governmental groups nonviolently resisting their status as an occupied people by determinedly building the civil society that a secular, democratic and independent Palestine will one day need. Best of all, check out Richard Silverstein's Palestinian Peace Directory at Tikun Olam. Where is their B'Tselem? It's right there in Richard's directory, Yoel, The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. Follow the link, and you're there.
There are all sorts of examples of non-violent resistance going on in the Territories, but they are largely invisible to us, because somewhere way up the news foodchain they are deemed to be less newsworthy than people blowing themselves up. When thousands of Palestinians who have had their homes demolished because they are in the way of some "Jewish only" settlement project, start over with what little they have, and rebuild (like Salim Shawamreh, who has lost three homes already, but is building a fourth), that is nonviolent resistance. When Palestinian schools are closed, but parents educate their children anyway by illegally organising clandestine neighbourhood schools, as they have done since the first intifada, that is nonviolent resistance. Or when the people of Nablus, confined to their homes while the IDF carries out a month-long unsuccessful search for a single militant (killing nineteen people and destroying numerous homes in the process), chant together in their thousands "Allahu Akhbar" from the doors and windows of the houses they cannot leave, that is nonviolent resistance too. To our Western ears, it's not as lyrical as We Shall Overcome, but it means the same.
Or how about these men, Yoel, conducting a sit-down protest against IDF activity? Where do they fit in your unvariegated mass of terrorism that is "the Palestinians"?
Palestinian men block the road while protesting the Israeli army's closure of the Tapuah junction, near the West Bank town of Nablus Sunday Jan. 11, 2004. Palestinians prevented from going through the junction sat on the road closing it and jammed the traffic of Israeli vehicles before being removed with force by the army. ( AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Don't you know that there are lots of Palestinians who are working toward peace right next door to you in the Occupied Territories? How come you've never heard of them, but the Christian Science Monitor knows them well enough to report:
Since the beginning of the first intifada, there have been Palestinians engaged in nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. When the Palestinian flag was outlawed, women wore its colors. When schools were closed for several years, children were educated in homes. Those may not be examples of nonviolence that Americans are familiar with, but indeed, they represent the best traditions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi.
Read the whole article Yoel, and sadly you'll get a clue why there are not more Palestinians carrying out the kind of nonviolent activities you want them to pursue:
Since 1999, with the start of the second intifada, a new movement for nonviolent resistance has blossomed in the West Bank and Gaza. This time it has been more effective, largely because of the participation of a small group of international activists. They protect and empower Palestinians who are frequently shot and killed when they engage in nonviolent resistance on their own...[T]he international protesters are the key. Without their protection, Palestinians will never get the chance to act nonviolently.
Who is it that is shooting those nonviolent resisters in the CSM report? That would be your country's army, wouldn't it Yoel?
When your own newspaper reported on 8 August 2003 that:
2,341 Palestinians [have been] killed and another 14,000 wounded.
...Five hundred and fifty-one of those killed were terrorists....
Did you pause to ask, like your colleague Ze'ev Schiff, Who, then, were the others?
Wasn't there a clue for you in the IDF's shooting of one of your own fellow citizens, Gil Na'amati, as he protested the Separation Wall? Your Ha'Aretz colleague, Ze'ev Sternhell made the connection, when he wrote on 2 January 2004:
The only difference between [the shooting of Israeli demonstrator Gil Na’amati] and hundreds, if not thousands, of previous similar events in the territories is really a matter of chance: If a Jew hadn't been wounded and if the incident hadn't been filmed and seen by dozens of Israeli witnesses, it would not have merited even a line in the press. Now, because of the "mishap," every Israeli knows how and why hundreds of Palestinians, including children, who may have taken part in demonstrations but not in belligerent activity, are killed every year by live fire.
I have an excuse for not making the connection, Yoel. I have an excuse for buying into the "Palestinian = terrorist" nonsense. Because I am just an ugly American, getting my views of a distant conflict from a shameless, corporate, so-called-liberal-media that will chew its own head off before it will present Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims as real people, as diverse and as different as anyone else on the planet. If a Palestinian Martin Luther King led his people to Orient House and proclaimed I Have A Dream, it simply wouldn't be reported over here. You, on the other hand, are an Israeli journalist who only has to lift his head above the Separation Wall to see first-hand the many and varied ways that Palestinians resist the Occupation, and the violent, unaccountable ways that your Army responds to even nonviolent opposition. So, Yoel, what's your excuse?