Non-Violent Activist in Beit Sahur
So the whole theme with approchement is non-violence, the work we do since the first intifada in 1988 is all about non violence, resistence, and popular struggle and how we can promote this type of resistence more, how can we get Palestinians to reach people all over the world in order to reach the gap between Palestinians and people and change the perceptions they have about us and about the situation in Palestine.
We meet you, you tell your friends. We are starting to see the fruits of our works that has been done in the past 30 years. Of course we are not the only players in the field. There are many other organizations active and we are trying to network and the more we network the more we reach.
We are trying to do community work that is resistence work. Trying to be independent, to grow your own things, to have your own animals. To produce your own meat is also non violence, resistence by not beeing dependent of the occupator.
First intifada changed the way Palestinians resist to the occupation. Between 1960’s until 1987 when the intifada there was not so much active non violent actions. But our history, our modern history proofs that there has been organized non violent resistence in Palestine in at least in the past 130 years. So, it is not new, when we started this work, we didn´t start or invent non violence, we created solidarity movement in 2001, we built on what has been going on here in Palestine all the time. We were also inspired by movements in other countries, civil rights movements, South Africa, Ghandi and so on. So we tried to crate models of resistence of non violent resistence and one example is the victory gardens, people trained to plant in their back yards so they have vegetables, fruits regardless of other products and regardless of curphew or house arrests. This was very successful. Because we didn´t have to starve and there were also no complaints and they were able to continue to resist. Of course that didn´t cover schools because schools were closed for almost three years so the alternative was home schooling. Some houses spared rooms for school, so we continued some teaching. And when school were opened, they could continue, and this was also e very important element of resistence.
It is important that people get to know about that this happened in Palestine. We are not terrorists, sure there has been violence, and people under occupation according to international law indeed allows all kinds of resistence in order to get rid of the occupation. However, we work to remove young people towards non violence because we think it is the right way.
Now, non violence is becoming prominent. That doesn´t mean that the other methods are diminished, they are still there and we believe people has the right to use them but we ourselves believe there are better ways, to use non-violent methods.
Non violence needs resilience, needs education. If you don´t have education your are not aware of the impact of non violence of your resistence you will not do it.
One challenge with non-violent resistance is that you don´t see the result immediately. If we protest against a road block for instance, and try to remove it, we know that the military will come soon and put it back. So you feel like you wasted your time. But if you look deep into what is the impact on a psychological level and the moral level of the soldiers and also of the moral level of the village, there are people trying to move them, one time, two times, three times, at least you feel that you are not giving up, you are still resisting, your are fighting, and at some point it will be removed. When we see the impact of the soldiers. If we have fightings or throw rocks at them we don’t have any live contact with the soldiers, for us everyone look the same, wearing this uniform, helmet, carrying their guns, they all look the same, but when we start, when we are distant from them we are more afraid because they can shoot, and I am sure also that they are afraid, because they have ideas that I will either kill or get killed. If you don´t kill or attack you will be killed. When we have this face to face confrontation when we start discussion, with them, talk to them about personal issues like why don´t you go on vacation instead of being here, really this uniform, disappears, the helmet disappears, and you start to go beyond that, you break the aura around the soldiers showing to us as if they are undefeatable. For us that was a moment when we started to defeat the military uniform, the military prescence and stopped to talk to them as us and them, if you have your reasons and I have my, and we can talk, then we can win the game.
Of course you win the game temperarily on a certain level but we know that every soldier that comes here with a certain impact. Let´s not forget that most of them are 17 or 18 years old, the captain maybe 24. Mostly we have problems with the young ones more than with the older soldiers. They have children and they are maybe parents, but the young ones are coming here afraid.
So, our philosophy is to break the boundaries and try to self empower so you can be stronger and fight without harming the other side so you have less negative results after all. The more you have violened the situation the harder it will be. So this is a general introduction on our philosophy.
What made you choose and belive in non-violent methods in the beginning and what makes you choose and believe in non violent methods still despite challenges?
Start was getting involved in this organization. Before I joined this organization I met with some Israeli soldiers who refused to serve in the army. An they were imprisoned because they refused to serve in the army. That was probably 1989. I listened to them. They had principals, they were against the occupation, they were born here most of them, and they didn´t agree that by force the army, the government could confiscate land, they believed that there should be two states and all that. That was one thing. I was in jail twice, 15 first time and then 17. Beeing in jail make you think differently. I know people get affected by being in prison and some get very angry and get involved in more armed resistence. By I met people that had tradition of solving problems by non violent means and that kind of ilignement me to get involved in more of non violent resistence. Having tried that joining approchement and starting dialogue with people from all over the world having discussions, you start to think that you can have a lot of arms and the arms are your knowledge, your self confidence, and that you believe in your rights. This is really the source of our power. If we know that you have the right and you know how to argue for your rights you don´t have to hit somebody, you need to talk to somebody in order to convince them of your point. The ore you hit them, they might hit you back. They are stronger, they have more weapons. You loose. So it is calculations basically. For me non violence is not spiritual, it´s not just an old theory, it´s a tactic. It´s better now for this situation. It is better for now, better for everybody.
Why do you still believe in it?
Because I started to do it, saw that it is the right way. I wouldn´t say it is the onlky way because it might be other ways.
What do you think are key factors in order to maintain non violent discipline?
Training, but also and most important how we can work a a team, and we use to do trainings for people who want to be a part of ISM activities regardless if they are internationals or Palestinians. Training in teqniques, there are so many ways in which you can act. But also, and most important, how to work as a team so tat we can work together. On a general level it is important that non violent action is accompanied by media work, that is why we also have internationals because it is important in supporting nonviolence resistence. At lease you free that you are protesting somehow and you are knowing that there will come bad things but you know that there are people witnessing telling the story. If people don´t know about this type of activities it would have impact but not the same impact. The more people are aware of nonviolent struggle in Palestine the better probably the results will be as it changes the result, changes the perception that we kill ourselves in order to kill isrealis. It is not about harm, it is about the occupation, the unjustice and we are trying to protect our basic rights and we are using all methods but the only reported visable method is the armed struggle.