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.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dear Nicholas Kristof -- There is Palestinian NV Resistance

Nichols Kristof, a highly respected columnist (and also a columnist that I personally respect) from the NY Times posted a comment about Palestinian nonviolent resistance on his facebook page. Rather than coloring your response to it, I will post his comment, followed by a sampling of responses to his post. There was a furor of responses to his post, which caused him to post another 'rebuttal' post. Here is his original post:

Kristof's Post

On Martin Luther King Day, I wish more Palestinians would absorb the lessons of King and Gandhi and use non-violent but confrontational approaches in challenging settlements, etc. Non-violence is not only morally superior to terrorism, it's also more effective in challenging a democracy.

The People's Responses (if you are too lazy/bored/important/preoccupied with important things to read all of these; read the ones in italics)

-How about the US absorbing the lessons of King and Gandhi?!

-So you don't "wish" the Israelis would practice non-violence too?

-Maybe you could wish it to the Israelis as well, when they attack Lebanon and Gaza fireing on unarmed civilians.

-I wish the same for Israelis in all fairness.

-What on earth are they meant to do??? They are being wiped out be Israel. Hardly think Israel will listen to a referendum, do you??

-I think we should wish for Israeli's to show some humanity and practice non-violence. As you know, Palestinians are prisoners in their own land.

-Easy, easy to say from your privileged position--unthreatened by Israeli tanks and missiles and brutal daily violence in your streets and home, untouched by hunger and despair. People who haven't been there--and by that I mean really enduring in those hellish shoes--should not presume to preach. It makes you look morally illiterate, and I am *sure* you are NOT! Call on the Israelis, too. Hold us ALL responsible for what's happening there. Not just Palestinians.

-There are many Palestinians practicing nonviolent resistance. Villagers from Bil'in and Ni'ilin are being arrested on nearly a daily basis for their nonviolent resistance organizing. Jamal Juma', Mohammed Khatib, Abdullah Abu Rahmah, etc have recently been jailed without cause. Israel does it's best to stamp out nonviolent resistance. When you suppress nonviolent resistance with violence, what do you expect to get. See recent articles by Neve Gordon and Jonathon Pollack on this suppression of NV protest.

-Having traveled and worked extensively with Palestinians and in the occupied territories, it is one of the few times where you have actually offended me. Currently, Israel is taking great pains to detain, arbitrarily, those involved in the non-violence community. No charge. No crime. There are MANY, MANY involved in non-violent means in the occupied territories, however, OUR media doesn't seem to want to paint the picture as such. I've been there, had Israeli soldiers point guns at my face while I was REPORTING on the demonstrations -- REPORTING. The thing you fail to point out is Israel has set the situation up as such that even having a Palestinian flag is a crime. Their military court system is that of G Bay - but worst - because they detain CHILDREN. Twenty years can be sentenced for throwing STONES and at any given time, up to 50 soldiers will come into your home and take you away. Israel just cut off access via checkpoints for Palestinians to even see their legal council. And you are going to say you hope that Palestinians absorb the lessons of King and Ghandi? ANd what about the children being STONED by settlers walking to school? Or the groves of olive trees being destroyed by settlers? Or the torture done by the military to INNOCENT CIVILIANS? As a journalist, I am dumbfounded that you could say such a thing.

-When your home has been taken away and you live in a virtual prison, it is hard to smile and make nice. You have the freedom to travel the world and say what ever you please. No wonder you have a different perspective.

-Dear Israel, I wish you could remember the Holocaust and not use it as means to illegally evict people from their homes, destroy their farms, and treat the Palestinians as the inferior race. Mr. Kristof, I know you have to write some dribble to keep yourself employed, but really???

-Palestinians ARE using non-violence as a method. I know for a fact that there are non-violent organizations such as Christian Peace Team that walk children to school in the Hebron hills b/c Israel settler terrorists shoot at children and attack them without bystanders to watch and report. I know for a fact that there is another organization in Bethlehem that was approached by HAMAS to train Hamas in non-violent methods and completed the training. The problem is not that Palestinians do not use non-violent means, there are weekly if not more often non-violent demonstrations all over Palestine, Ni'lin, Birzeit, Khan Younis, Nablus. The very fact of Palestinian existence is resistance. to breath and live and go to school and marry and work is non-violent resistance. i challenge you to spend a few weeks traveling through Palestine with NGO's before you spew such lies. Please talk about Israel refusing nuclear weapons inspections and refusing to sign any nukes agreement. talk about violent methods.

-As several commentators have already noted, there are many examples of nonviolent resistance among the Palestinians which never get reported. Nick, you could do much good by focusing on these actions in your reporting. The media was a major ally (intentionally or otherwise) of the nonviolent actors in the Civil Rights movement. The peaceful strategists among the Palestinians need the same help.

-Interesting and surprising statement Nick. Let's say someone shows up at your door, kicks you and your family out, and relegates you to the back yard with a tent. Anytime you try to go somewhere, you are stopped, searched, and humiliated. Meanwhile, you see them enjoying the comfort and warmth of your home, while you and your family suffers. All this under the guise of a book and system you don't believe in. At this point, peace needs to come from both sides. But to make such a broad and for lack of a better word, ignorant statement for someone in your position is really surprising.

-Oh Nick. This is the first thing I've seen you post that I disagree with. Palestinians have been living under foreign occupation for four decades, and you think you should tell them how to react!? Would you condemn the Jews that rose up in Warsaw? How about the Algerians? The South Africans? The American Revolutionaries? I find it difficult to condemn those morally, or to argue with the effectiveness of their techniques.

-Many Palestians do use non-violence! Only a small minority are violent. I think it is very important for you to acknowledge this, Mr. Kristof.

-I have to agree with the readers who think you're off base on this one. Palestinian violence is met with outsize Israeli retaliation. Palestinian acquiescence leads to more settlements on occupied lands. The problem is NOT the Palestinians, the problem lies with the failure of Israel to develop a national conscience where the Palestinians are concerned over the last seven decades. And I am sad to say that the US is complicit (to say the least) in the whole terrible mess.

-Your post is misleading, Palestinians are not the problem AND most of them are protesting non-violently. Actually, your comment is worse than misleading, it is FATUOUS. I am hoping it's just because someone hijacked your FaceBook account. I had thought you were an intelligent and well reasoned person. Perhaps you should look into the history of. Isreal, and perhaps you should learn to count. Count the dead bodies of Israelis vs Palestinians, count the money being poured into Israel vs. what Palestinians manage to raise. Count the number of Palestinians vs. Israelis living in poverty. Count the number of Palestinians who have deeds to homes that are being lived in by Israelis. Count the number of buildings blown up in the West Bank vs Israeli territory in the past year. Then come back and talk to us about the problem of Palestinian violence. Israeli violence is far more lethal, far more effective and far more prevalent. Also - Israel, a democracy? A country that determines it's citizenry based on racial or religions background? Does not sound like "equal rights for all, special privileges for none" to me.

-If King and Ghandi had been Palestinians they would either be dead or in jail by now. That's how Isreal deals with things. Check out the past 50 years or so. Isreal has not adhered to any of its peacefully signed agreements. Get real.

-Give me a break. Many, many Palestinians use nonviolent means (see Mustafa Bargouthi as the most famous example). However, most end up in jail or dead (see: Americans Tristan Anderson, Rachel Corrie, and the countless children killed by Israelis). Et tu, Kristof?

-Agreed, Mr. Kristof. But I also wish that more Israelis would adopt non-violent approaches to solving problems as well. Occupying a foreign land (the West Bank), building settlements there, and kicking out the native inhabitants is a form of violence itself. Indeed, under international law, including the Hague Conventions, it is a form of genocide. Both Israelis and Palestinians would benefit enormously from working together in the true spirit of creative nonviolence and assertive peace work.

-Hey Kristof if you want to do your job as a reporter and interview the Palestinian version of Dr. King or Gandhi you should pay a visit to an Israeli prison where they are held without charge. Then perhaps you could write more about Israel's 'democracy'.

-I wish the situation were such that the Palestinians didn't need to challenge settlements, etc.

-You wish more Palestinians used nonviolence? The majority of them do! Not a week goes by without a nonviolent protest. Why don't you wish more Israelis would use nonviolence?

There were hundreds more responses. The great majority were criticial of Kristof's comments. There are problems for me on the multiple levels with what Kristof said, but the meat of the issue of this. There IS A LOT of Palestinian nonviolent resistance to the seizure of their lives and lands. Period. See Neve Gordon's and Jonathon Pollack's recent articles on Israel's suppression and imprisonment of those Palestinian leaders who are committed to nonviolent resistance. It's an ongoing phenomenom that Israel is invading villages on a nightly basis and arresting those Palestinians who are the faces of daily and weekly nonviolent resistance to the apartheid wall, settlements, violent settlers, etc. That is why his post is unacceptable. Nonviolent protests, demonstrations, and resistance are prevelant. Now it's time for the world (especially the mainstream media -- the NY Times and Kristof included) to listen and see and support the NV resistance that is already taking place in Palestine.

But also, it needs to be said. You can't come from a position of privilege and tell the oppressed how they are to resist. And you especially can't tell the oppressed how to resist when you have said nothing to the oppressor/colonizer. If you think you are in a place to speak with the oppressed about their resistance, you first need to call on Israel to respect the human rights and the dignity of the Palestinian people. That's priority #1.

But seriously, Nick (Kristof), there is a lot of Palestinian NV resistance. If you need a contact for a column about this, I am happy to provide it for you.

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