If this were an article written by a newcomer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and posted on a small blog, one could understand the ignorance implicit in a title that continues to depict Palestinians as violent. But it was written by Ethan Bronner, the New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem, a Jewish American married to an Israeli whose son is now serving in the Israeli Defense Forces.
What Bronner’s title, Palestinians Try a Less Violent Path to Resistance, says is that Palestinians, all of a sudden, in spite of evidence to the contrary, are just turning away from violence (think suicide bombing). The long history of nonviolent Palestinian protest, the recent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Bil’in and Nil’in and elsewhere, the arrest of prominent peace activists, and military raids on the offices of peace activist organizations like the International Solidarity Movement or Stop the Wall are not mentioned.
This morning the story was picked up by Huffington Post and used as its top front page headline.
The title of this article is pure propaganda, and it comes from the venerable New York Times. It leaves out mention that Palestinians have been resisting an illegal military occupation, while their lands were being confiscated for settlement purposes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It rather implies that Israel is occupying these lands to control violence, to keep Israel safe.
To its credit, the article does inform about a new Palestinian effort to resist Israeli occupation and the colonization it supports, even though it is not a turn from violence, (avoiding violence, as Bronner puts it), but a continuation of a long tradition of nonviolent protest in the Palestinian territories.
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Senior Palestinian leaders — men who once commanded militias — are joining unarmed protest marches against Israeli policies and are being arrested. Goods produced in Israeli settlements have been burned in public demonstrations. The Palestinian prime minister has entered West Bank areas officially off limits to his authority, to plant trees and declare the land part of a future state.
Something is stirring in the West Bank. With both diplomacy and armed struggle out of favor for having failed to end the Israeli occupation, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, joined by the business community, is trying to forge a third way: to rouse popular passions while avoiding violence. The idea, as Fatah struggles to revitalize its leadership, is to build a virtual state and body politic through acts of popular resistance.
Not that popular resistance hasn’t been going on for years, which Bronner conveniently ignores. But his article goes on to defame Palestinians as terrorists, as seen in these statments. “Nonviolence has never caught on here (Qalgilya), Bronner states, “and Israel’s military says the new approach is hardly nonviolent.” Burning tires and rock throwing are considered violent measures by the Israeli military.
More statements about Palestinian violence: “Palestinian political analysts say it is too early to assess the prospects of the nonviolent approach….they say, popular resistance, combined with institution-building and international appeals, is gaining notice among Palestinians.” “Of course, Hamas and armed resistance still remain a real option for many.” “The society is split. The public believes that Israel responds to suffering, not to nonviolent resistance. But there is also not much interest in violence now. Our surveys show support for armed resistance at 47 percent in March. In essence, the public feels trapped between failed diplomacy and failed armed struggle.”
What armed struggle would Bronner be talking about?
Israeli occupation forces “reject the term nonviolent for the recent demonstrations because the marches usually include stone-throwing and attempts to damage the separation barrier. Troops have responded with stun grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas and arrests. And the military has declared that Bilin will be a closed area every Friday for six months to halt the weekly marches there.”
Since protesters at Bil’in have been killed and wounded, just who is really perpetrating violence? Bronner will not say.
“We respect Salam Fayyad,” one military official said, speaking under the army’s rules of anonymity. “But we don’t want him to engage in incitement. Burning goods is incitement. Destroying the fence is incitement and is not nonviolent. They are walking a thin line.”
These statements come from a military occupier who demands passivity from the occupied, even when their lands are being stolen, their homes bulldozed, their orchards and crops ruined, their water sources exploited, in order to make way for settlement expansion.
Bronner continues, the “new” nonviolent campaign is “trying to incorporate peaceful pressure in limited ways.” Limited ways, indeed. This refers to the fact that Rajmohan Gandhi, a grandson of the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, just visited Bilin, a Palestinian village with weekly protest marches that have just been banned. Next week, Martin Luther King III is scheduled to speak in Ramallah at a conference on nonviolence.
For readers interested in how deeply the New York Times is into Israeli propaganda, may I recommend another look at the documentary, Peace, Propaganda, and The Promised Land.