Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Friday, August 07, 2009

"We reserve the right to resistance, legitimate under international law".

Israeli and Palestinian news outlets have been abuzz with information leaking out of the Fatah conference, currently being held in Bethlehem. The most discussed aspects of the conference were surrounding Mahmoud Abbas’ statements about many forms of resistance being legitimate if the peace process fails to yield results. Abbas said, “The popular resistance being carried out by our people against the settlements, the separation fence, and the destruction and expropriation of homes is an example of our people's ability to conceive various forms of struggle that can penetrate the conscience of the world and mobilize the support of the peoples.”

"I salute and express my esteem for our people in [East] Jerusalem, in Bil'in, in Ni'lin, in Ma'sra, and everywhere defenseless demonstrators armed only with hope, determination, and belief in victory [participate] in demonstrations that express their opposition to the deeds of the occupation.”

Abbas later expressed that armed resistance is one of those means of legitimate resistance, saying that that “military option has not been abandoned.” The Israeli media took this statement and ran with it. Israel Harel, writing for Haaretz, commented that the Israeli right had intentionally allowed the conference to take place and permitted delegates to attend in hopes that Fatah would show it’s true colors, namely that Fatah is full of a bunch of terrorists. Harel concluded that Abbas’ statements proved that “he was and remains a terrorist.” Thus, the delegates at the Fatah conference, namely Abbas, demonstrated to Israelis and to the world that there is no Palestinian partner for peace.

To provide some context for Abbas’ words, the official political platform of Fatah states, “the struggle stems from the Palestinian people's right to oppose the occupation and the settlements, the expulsion and the racist discrimination – and this right is [a] right guaranteed by international law. Our revolutionary struggle began with armed struggle against the armed robbery of our land; however, it was never limited to armed struggle alone, but included various means and methods, such as struggle by peaceful means with limited violence: intifada, demonstrations, strikes, civil uprising, clashes with settler gangs, political, media, judicial, and diplomatic struggle, and negotiation with the occupation authorities.”

So rather than immediately calling Abbas’ a terrorist, one should compare the Abbas’ statements and the Fatah charter with international law. In 1960, the United Nations passed the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. The first two articles have the most relevance for us. Article 1 states: "that the subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights." Article 2 states: "that all peoples have the right to self-determination, but that this necessarily includes the right freely to determine their political status and freely to pursue their economic, social and cultural development."

Therefore, the Palestinian peoples’ right to resistance is directly linked with the denial of their fundamental human rights, specifically the right of self-determination, by the Israeli regime.

(As a side) I would caution Israel Harel of Haaretz from throwing around labels like ‘terrorist,’ when the Israeli military just completed its onslaught in Gaza in which the majority of those killed were civilians. The killing (or attempted killing) of civilian targets is what many mean by ‘terrorism,’ and if these labels are to be used, then national militaries should not be excepted.

Marwan Al-Barghouti, a senior Fatah member imprisoned in Israel, summed things up succinctly when he said that "resistance to the Israeli occupation is a national obligation, and it is a legitimate right.” And in terms of which forms of resistance, "Fatah believes in a combination of all forms of struggle, and it will not abandon, thwart, or rule out any form of struggle. As long as a single Israeli soldier or settler remains on the Palestinian land that was occupied in 1967, Fatah will not relinquish the option of resistance.

International law permits resistance to occupation, domination, subjugation, and denial of human rights. The forms of resistance that Palestinians’ choose is uniquely their choice. Yet the words of Muhanned ‘Abd Al-Hamid provide some valuable insight in my estimation.

The result of armed resistance like in the second intifada was: 11,000 prisoners, 4,000 martyrs, the building of the racist separation fence, the Judaization of Jerusalem, the doubling of the number of settlers, and the destruction of the infrastructure of society and of the government. Doesn't this demand that we stop for a minute, in light of these tragic outcomes? Isn't the aim of resistance to defeat the occupation – not the society that carries out the resistance? Why don't we think about other forms of struggle when the resistance is not accomplishing its goals?

"Resistance is survival and steadfastness. It is planting trees, developing education, boycotting Israeli products, [launching] a popular uprising against the racist separation fence, building homes in [East] Jerusalem, reopening the institutions [there], struggling against all forms of corruption, boycotting companies that contribute to the Judaization of Jerusalem and also to the building of the fence and the settlements, and also boycotting companies that supply arms and equipment to the occupation army. There are a hundred more ways of resistance that will damage the occupation more than they will damage us, and that will make ending the occupation an achievable goal – while preserving the legitimate right of resistance under conditions that will not harm the security and interests of the [Palestinian] people.

*Thanks to MEMRI for much of this translation

4 comments:

IsraeliMom said...

It's not about the right to resist, IMO. It's about how to do it effectively, in the way that will get both Palestinians and Israelis - all people of this region, to a stable peace where all can prosper.

Of course they have the "right" to defend themselves. Just as Israelis have the "right" to defend their own. So, where does that get us all exactly?

I'm getting sick and tired from the Palestinians wanting to be "right" and obsessive calls for some perfect "justice". To quote a popular slogan in Israel about road safety: it's better to be smart than right.

JD said...

What other justice is there besides perfect or right justice?

What good is it to be smart if being smart is unjust?

joshhough said...

"A good heart is better than all the heads in the world."
-Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873)

"What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?"
-Jean Jacques Rousseau, philosopher (1712-1778)

"Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom."
-Theodore Rubin, psychiatrist (1923- )

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