In Israel and Palestine, a nonviolent resistance movement seeks peace and justice.There is a straight
line linking the human rights struggles around the globe, and the
the past with the movements of today. And those who have lived through
the U.S. civil
rights movement, the teachings of
King and Gandhi, and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa
believe they have much
to teach Palestinian civil society and their nonviolent resistance
the occupied territories.
Just weeks before
the recent violent conflict in Gaza that left 166 Palestinians and six Israelis
more than 1,230 Palestinians injured, mostly women and children - a
civil rights veterans and a new generation of human rights leaders led
delegation to the West Bank. The
came from the Dorothy
Cotton Institute in Ithaca,
named after the colleague
of Dr. King and education director of the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference. The institute trains leaders for a global human rights
and is building a network of civil and human rights leaders. And it was
first group of civil rights leaders to meet with leaders of the
Their goals are to
increase the visibility of a nonviolent Palestinian movement that is
many in the U.S.,
share lessons between the Palestinian and American movements, connect
Palestinian leaders with their Israeli allies, and educate the American
about this movement and the need for social justice and change in the
In the U.S.,
suffering experienced by the Palestinian people is rarely acknowledged
often ignored, with the victims often dehumanized and scapegoated.
Recently, I had the
pleasure of speaking via Skype with Kirby Edmonds, one of the members of the
Ramallah. Mr. Edmonds, program director of the Dorothy Cotton
what he was witnessing and experiencing in the West
We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful
“One of the things
I’ve been impressed by is their analysis of the situation,” he told me
sophistication of those he met, also noting the Palestinians have
lessons from the struggle against Jim Crow and apartheid. “They have
adaptations,” he added.
“They’ve landed on
BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] as a most promising strategy. The
made is not shaping the narrative of who they are, and how important it
have rights. The idea that they’re thugs and terrorists is just wrong,”
provokes a violent response.”
Edmonds views the Israeli
occupation as a
global human rights issue. “The Dorothy Cotton Institute sees the need
our shoulders to the wheel for a global human rights movement. Because
state involved in it defines itself as democratic, and so there is a
of moral ground on which to stand,” he said.
“The other issue is
the place is important to two-thirds of the human population.” He
that resolving the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis
resolve conflicts around the world, making the implications much larger
the people who live there.”
And Edmonds characterized the Israeli
occupation as a humiliating one, with laws promulgated to justify
things. And Palestinians are sick and tired, echoing the days of the
South or South African apartheid.
The policies of the occupation are changing the
demographics of the area.
barred from building in certain areas, their houses are demolished,” Edmonds told me
Ramallah. “All the Palestinians in a certain area get an order saying
houses will be demolished and they don’t know when. 2:00 in the
in the morning, and they blow the house down. It is clearly a violation
international conventions. And clearly a violation of human rights,” he
“The situation in
East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem, what exists is a caste system that
discriminatory than what happened in South African apartheid,” Edmonds noted of
the Israeli system of class
distinctions. A Palestinian’s citizenship status can be lost when
abroad, perhaps if they are studying in the U.S.
for 4 years. They have to be
able to prove Jerusalem
is the center of their lives.
“People in the West
bank are barred from entering Israel
and East Jerusalem unless they get
do so. They have to pass through checkpoints to show their papers,” Edmonds said.
“It is an
example of policies that seem designed to provoke violent responses.
on what checkpoint it might be another 2 or 3 hours to get back home.
Even more serious
and problematic are administrative detentions, in which Palestinians
access to lawyers, and are not told why they were arrested - a practice
can be imposed for up to 14 times without charges ever being made.
Then there are the arrests
of children, particularly in areas in the West
where nonviolent demonstrations take place every week to protest the
occupation. “The Israeli army will show up, enter the house and say who
after, take the teen out of house, blindfolded, but them in a HUMV,
to an interrogation facility, and keep them for 4 days,” described
will do things, they may say they have a right to an attorney, and
course of hours intimidate the child into a confession. As a result,
leaders end up arrested. This is a violation of the International
Rights of the Child.”
policies of the occupation are changing the demographics of the area,
goal of substantially reducing the Palestinian population in certain
goal is reducing the Palestinian population from 30 percent to 12
“The task becomes
making life so uncomfortable for people that they just leave, not just
in Jerusalem but also in the West Bank.
Herd them into four areas so that if there is some closure on the
Palestinians are unable to manage their own state. That is the policy
creating Bantustans. The goal is to
Palestinian life so unbearable they can only live in certain places,”
Palestinians have nearly a century of nonviolent resistance to
people we’ve been meeting with are not saying Jews shouldn’t be there,”
told me. “What
the Palestinians are calling for is for people of conscience to put
so that this does not continue. ...It is what gives people hope,” he
according to Edmonds,
the Palestinian people lack the political strength to do it alone. The
government, he said, is able to behave as it does because it is a
client of the
“It is unlikely we can
persuade the U.S.
government to shift its policy because of civil society. It was civil
in South Africa
change happen, it was not U.S.
Palestinians are sick and tired, echoing the
days of the Jim Crow South or South African apartheid.
journey to the occupied territories, Kirby Edmonds and his colleagues
acting in the proudest tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King, a
Peace Prize winner, stayed true to the fight for civil
rights at home and spoke out against
the war in Vietnam.
He railed against the triple, interrelated evils of militarism, racism
economic exploitation, and understood the linkages between violence and
oppression in America
and our promotion of war abroad.
And just as King
condemned the billions spent on burgeoning defense budgets to mutilate
incinerate Vietnamese children - all at the expense of the war on
poverty - then
surely those who act in the spirit of King today can decry the billions
on America’s militarization of Israel, the occupation, and the killing of innocent babies.
Of war and violence,
King said “The
past is prophetic in that it asserts
loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.
we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we
seek, but a
means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends
peaceful means. How much longer must we play at deadly war games before
the plaintive pleas of the unnumbered dead and maimed of past wars?”
Meanwhile, in Israel and Palestine,
a nonviolent resistance movement seeks peace-and justice. Part of that
includes tearing down the walls that separate people, and building
“Israeli society can
no longer see what is happening on the other side of the wall,” Kirby
said of the current state of affairs. “The narrative that this is a
people is easy to perpetuate.”
Columnist, David A. Love, JD, is the Executive
Director of Witness to Innocence, a national nonprofit organization that
empowers exonerated death row prisoners and their family members to
effective leaders in the movement to abolish the death penalty. He is, is a graduate
of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania
Law School. and a
contributor to The Huffington Post, the Grio, The Progressive
Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media
also blogs at davidalove.com, NewsOne, Daily Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.