The leader of Gaza’s Great Return March holds a rare conversation with Israelis who refuse to serve in the army because of the occupation. ‘Those who refuse to take part in the attacks on the demonstrators in Gaza — they stand on the right side of history.’
It is difficult to imagine today, but meetings between Palestinian and Israeli activists used to be routine. The younger generation of Palestinian and Israelis, however, were born into a world of walls, fences, and segregation, where even a simple conversation can be complicated, and at times, impossible.
That stark reality was on display two weeks ago when dozens of Israeli activists, including past and soon-to-be conscientious objectors held a rare conversation with Ahmed Abu Artema, one of the main organizers behind Gaza’s Great Return March. For many of the younger conscientious objectors, the Great Return March served as an inspiration for their personal reasons to refuse enlistment in the Israeli army….
The strategy of The Great March of Return, Palestinians in Gaza demanding their right of return to their villages and towns, curiously parallels the nonviolent resistance methods taught by Mubarak Awad before Israel exiled him in 1988. (Posted two days before Memorial Day in the United States, a day dedicated to participants in violence, honorable people no doubt but perhaps misguided.)
Here’s part of an interview conducted in 2000:
An old man came to me whose land the Israelis had taken. He wanted it back. So I told him to get 300 or 400 people from his village—children, young people, old people—anybody who wanted to come.
The settlers had put a fence around the land. We could take the fence down and just sit there and if the Israeli military wanted to kill us, let them kill us. I told him, on one condition: Not a single person should throw a stone.
If we are all going to be massacred, let it be. And we did that; we took the land back from the settlers. That created an echo with a lot of Palestinians, who started coming to me at the Center instead of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Taking fear away from people and replacing it with courage is the essence of nonviolence.
Mubarak Awad is the founder of Nonviolence International. Meir Amor, an Israeli peace activist living in Canada, interviewed him.
In May 1988, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir ordered Awad arrested and expelled. Officials charged that Awad broke Israeli law by inciting “civil uprising” and helping to write leaflets that advocated civil disobedience that were distributed by the leadership of the First Intifada. No evidence was provided to support the charge and Awad appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The court ruled that he had forfeited his right to residence status in Israel when he became a U.S. citizen and he was deported in June 1988. (Wikipedia)