- Conferences and Seminars
Violence, Nonviolence and the Palestinian National Movement
By: Dr. Wendy Pearlman.
Thanks so much for having me, it’s such a delight to be here. The story of this book, Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement, begins where my first book ends off. So, my first book, as [Palestine Center Program Manager] Nawal [Atallah] just mentioned, called Occupied Voices: Stories of Everyday Life in the Second Intifada, is a collection of interviews I did with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the first months of the second intifada. I started that before I went to graduate school and it was published in 2003, after I’d begun my graduate studies; and I did a series of book-talks for that. And I would go around the country reading excerpts from the book, which was really a series of monologues of Palestinians telling their stories of what life is like under occupation, what life was like especially under the extreme violence during those first months of the second intifada at the end of the year 2000. I was struck that again and again, when I would often do these book-talks, they often ended in the same question. People would say to me, "Our hearts go out to these horrible stories about what it’s like to live as a stateless Palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but we can’t understand the violence; what explains the suicide bombings? Why the use of violent protest? Why is there no Palestinian Gandhi, why not use nonviolent protest?"
The assumption here being, among many Americans and especially among many who identified as supporters of Israel, being that if Palestinians were to use more non-violent protests, they would win the support of Israeli public opinion, of much of American public opinion and it would be a more successful means to achieving their goals.
So there could be various kinds of intentions or, bad or good intentions behind these questions. But, I wanted to take the questions at face-value because I felt like my own explanations, my own answers to the questions, fell short. I knew from my studies of history that Palestinians had used non-violent protest as well as violent or armed kinds of protest over the long decades of struggle but I wasn’t quite sure how to explain why there had been different use of these different types of protest strategies at different points over time. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer it.
So, because at that point I was already in the midst of my studies to get a PhD in political science, I decided to make that the topic of my dissertation. And the dissertation, after many revisions, became this book that was just published last October. And, when I looked at political science type theories, I found that the theories there didn’t help me so much to explain this puzzle of variation of violent and nonviolent protest strategies.
Often people said, well, any movement, this movement or any movement for self-determination simply chooses the forms of protests that are most effective. It has goals to get some sorts of concessions from a more powerful adversary and self-determination in an asymmetric sort of struggle. And protest methods are chosen where they seem to be more efficient, more effective. On the other end, there were arguments saying that movements choose protest strategies based on some cultural dimension. There might be values or beliefs that make a movement drawn to one kind of protest or another; a culture of violence or a culture of nonviolence.
I thought that both of these fell short because they missed the internal dimension of movements. They implicitly or explicitly treated movements as if they were unitary actors; like a machine that’s either driven by some strategic efficacy or driven by culture. And there’s a lot of stuff going on inside a movement that that kind of approach missed.
Now, another line of theorizing talks about how movements are driven to different kinds of protests based on the repression and the external pressures they face from outside actors. And here there’s an often truism that movements might begin with nonviolent types of protests when they face violence and repression from the outside, they radicalize and escalate. I think that there’s a lot of truth to that and we can even see it in some of the cases in the Arab uprisings that are going on now, as well as movements throughout the world and throughout history. But this also missed something of the internal dimension. A movement isn’t simply like a billiard ball that gets knocked around by external pressures. External pressures, external repression, are certainly very, very important; but there’s also something going on inside. And all of these explanations are going to be partial unless they take seriously internal structures, internal incentives and internal movement dynamics and how that affects what movements do.
That became my argument in the book. And more specifically, there’s a two-part hypothesis of sorts focusing not just on internal dimensions but specifically the degree to which movements are cohesive or fragmented, united or disunited. And my argument goes as follows: that movements must have a certain degree of internal unity and cohesion in order to make effective a mass scale of non-violent protest. Non-violent protest requires coordination, you need to get lots of people involved, you need to get them doing the same thing, showing up at the same place. It also requires collective restraint because there can be lots of pressures to escalate to further uses of violence especially when you’re facing violence from the outside. A certain degree of unity of leadership, of consensus, is important to put constraints on that escalation and put restraints to keep the non-violent protest moving forward. So unity is necessary for non-violent protest.
On the flip-side, the more that a movement is internally divided, internally fragmented, the more likely it is that protest is going to become violent. Internal divisions create new incentives to use violent protest, often with factions or factions within factions using more and more nationalist escalatory means as a way of competing against each other. So violent protest can be almost an idiom for power-struggles and turtle types of conflict and competition.
And of course fragmentation also weakens constraints on violent protest. Without a single authoritative centralized leadership, it’s difficult to ever bring things to a close. This affects the timing of violent attacks, the character, the form. So fragmentation is certainly not a full explanation of why any self-determination movement is going to use violence. But I think that it’s difficult to understand some of the intricacies of patterns of violence without also looking at this internal dimension and specifically how internal divisions affect protest strategy. So, that’s the bottom line. Internal unity and disunity affects what self-determination movements do in their struggles, in their nationalist struggles.
A couple notes on this argument. One, I’m not saying that cohesion is enough for non-violence, non-violent protest. It’s not that every time a movement is united, it’s going to use non-violent protest. A very strongly united movement can use violent or non-violent protest. But it’s difficult to imagine that non-violent protests can exist on a mass scale, be sustained over time, be a strategy of national liberation as opposed to localized temporary incidence, unless a movement is internally cohesive.
Cohesion is difficult to measure. I tried lots of different ways to think how do I assess the degree to which this movement or any movement is relatively united or relatively disunited, and I ended up focusing on three elements: leadership – some degree that there is a recognized internally-legitimate leadership; some element of institutional structure so that there is a mechanism, an apparatus, for collective decision-making, a way to get different groups involved and come up with some sort of an agreed-upon policy for the movement as a whole; and a collective purpose, or popular consensus on goals. So, there’s a popular dimension, a degree to which, whatever sorts of strategies and policies and goals have their roots in legitimacy and acceptance by the public, the public at large.
As I settled on this argument, I found in my own assessment that it accounted two narratives about the Palestinian national movement. On one extreme, there was a narrative often heard in the media and the press and so forth, of almost that Palestinians don’t have domestic politics that matters. This was especially in the era before [the late Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat passed away. The question you would hear, why doesn’t Arafat control his people? On the assumption that Arafat could control his people. And the people in the movement really didn’t matter so much; there was one big guy on top who could push a button and make peace or make war, or make violent protest or non-violent protest. And all of these, a whole array of movement dynamics, of various groups and various opinions, and rich debate and rich pluralism didn’t matter so much because it was just one person. So that was the extreme end, the movement was so cohesive it didn’t really matter there was just one person.
On the other hand, and this is a narrative that we hear increasingly today in light of the extent of the Fateh-Hamas rivalry, that it’s all fragmented: why don’t the Palestinians ever get their act together? There’s so much fragmentation and so much division. Which I think neglects the degree of unity of the Palestinian people holding themselves together as a people against enormous odds over the years, over the decades. And the degree that which national unity is always a goal and an aspiration in society whether or not factions and different political interests are able to actualize that. Unity remains an intensely important part of the story of the Palestinian people
So either on one end, it’s all fragmented, or on the other, it’s so united it’s just a single individual. I felt that those fell short in capturing the nuance that Palestinians do have domestic politics. That really matters, that it’s not purely all factionalism. There’s a lot of strategic rationality, there’s a lot of logic to what factions do. So, with that approach, that is my framework for understanding and approaching the history of the Palestinian national movement, I wrote this book. So it looks at 90 years in the history of the movement, basically from 1918 to 2008.
It’s a work of social science, to the extent that I am a political scientist and this is the language I speak, and it’s trying to develop an argument and theories about protest, and about strategy. Looking at them in the case of the Palestinians, but looking also for generalizable theories that, in theory, can apply to any other movement. In that sense, it’s taking the Palestinians outside of history. The tools and the ideas that we can use to explain Palestinians we should be able to use to explain all sorts of movements.
And the final chapter of the book looks at the South African anti-apartheid struggle and the Northern Irish Republican Movement as a way of saying the dynamics I see in the Palestinian case apply there as well. At the same time it’s something of a political history because it covers most of the twentieth century, but told with this particular focus of the struggle for internal unity, cases and times of greater division and fragmentation, and how it affects what Palestinians do in the struggle for national liberation.
So, in the time I have I’d like to just go through that 90 year history in brief with you all. The book has five chapters; each chapter looks at a different era, so I’ll just go through those to put some of the empirical historical meat of the book on the table and then I’d be happy to entertain any questions you guys might have on the specifics of that history or on anything related to what I’ve said.
So the first chapter looks at the British Mandate period. And in this period, the often-told story about explaining protest among the budding Palestinian national movement in this era, is that as the creation of the Jewish national home, the budding Jewish state, in Mandate Palestine, as it grew bigger and bigger and more advanced Palestinians increasingly upped their tactics to face this growing threat.
So as there was more and more Jewish immigration, more Jewish land-sales, more Jewish institutional and economic development and as this Jewish state, that the British had promised to help facilitate a Jewish national home, became more developed, you have a movement that moves from an early phase that used very moderate tactics such as making telegrams, and protests, and delegations to the High Commissioner, to the Vatican and so forth, to having more acts of some occasional demonstrations that became riots and became violent, and more radical ways of trying to make direct challenge against the British to force the British to change their policy in support of a Jewish national home.
That’s the general narrative. But there’s also when you look inside the structure of the Palestinian national movement, its internal dimensions, its quest for more unity also helps explain some of the incidence over these years. So the real high point and focus of this chapter for me is the 1936-1939 Arab rebellion. And I see my dynamics of cohesion and fragmentation at work. So more specifically, in April 1936, groups of locals, and mid-tier activists, sort of a new budding educated middle-class, professionals in the growing cities of mandate Palestine, declare a general a strike, or strike that they want to continue. A general strike: no one will work until the British stop their support for a Jewish national home.
These local committees--they form committees at the local level in the cities such as Nablus and so forth--are tied to local communities. These are folks that are from the communities, they have a sort of legitimacy they can bring people in to get people involved in protest, to abide by a strike nobody works, the factory workers don’t work, the prisoners don’t perform penal labor, the auto-drivers don’t drive cars, as well as a series of public demonstrations in support of these efforts.
What was the real traditional sort of aristocratic leadership at the time was based in these Jerusalem elite families, the Husseinis and Nashashibis and others, more reluctantly come on board from this pressure of the grassroots and the grassroots committees declaring the strikes, they reluctantly come on board and form the Arab Higher Committee, which is this unified body representing the major families, representing both Muslims and Christians and different towns. And they articulate clear political goals for the strike: an end to Jewish immigration, an end to land sales from Arabs to Jews, and a single unitary democratic state in all of Palestine. So you have this element of an institutional structure of committees, a leadership body represented by the Arab Higher Committee. All the reports at the time talk about unprecedented unity of society as a whole embracing this and coming behind this and wanting to participate. That this is a mass effort, once and for all, to stop the creation of a Jewish state almost before it comes too late.
So I see these elements--the leadership, the institutions, the popular consensus--helping to allow for a six-month non-violent protest effort. Now the strike goes on. It’s not exclusively non-violent, there’s also armed bands that form and carry out armed attacks, but this kind of a six-month, non-violent protest effort is unprecedented. There had never been anything at such a large scope before then or really after then in the Mandate period and I see the unity helping to make that possible. Helping it to make it sustainable, make it adaptable, get people involved with a clear political goal articulated.
The strike ends after six months and the British send in a commission, they come back several months later with a proposal to partition Palestine in the first Peel Partition Plan of 1937, to partition Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. At that point the rebellion begins again, but these elements of unity that had existed have broken down. The rivalries between elite families have gotten so heated that the Arab Higher Committee effectively broke down. Some withdrew then it no longer existed. The British arrested or deported many of the strata of key activists that had formed committees so there were no longer these types of committees to make the strike and protest effective community by community and popular opinion was quite exhausted because the first part of the strike took a real toll.
Without that element of unity and with these seeds of division as elite family rivalries got more and more fierce. What you see in the second part of the strike or the rebellion from 1937 to 1939 is a rebellion that’s almost exclusively violent. It’s just armed groups engaging in battles with British forces, no real non-violent protest to speak of. Eventually the rivalries get so heated, with the involvement of the British as well, that you have Palestinians killing Palestinians. It’s often thought of as a Palestinian civil war. And more Palestinians are killed at the hands of other Palestinian Arabs than are at the British. The 1939 Rebellion, ending with the movement in such disarray and society, devastated economically, socially, politically, institutionally that many say that the defeat faced in 1939 was one that the Palestinians never recovered from and it was in that state, having really given it all to that first uprising, it was in that state that the Palestinians entered the war of 1948. It’s not much of a mystery why things happened as they did. Of course with many other complications involving the other Arab states and so forth. So that’s my look at these dimensions of fragmentation, cohesion, violent, non-violent protest in the Mandate period.
My second chapter moves on to the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], the revival of the Palestinian national movement from the mid 1960s onward. What we see is in the mid-1960s is the beginning of these Palestinian guerrilla groups, most notably Fateh, and as Fateh emerges in 1965 other groups do as well. Small groups of guys based in Jordan, Egypt, Beirut and elsewhere saying, it’s time for Palestinians to take the matters into their own hands after a generation of being refugees in exile. To take up arms, to struggle, to put pressure on Israel, to put pressure on the Arab states to revive an independent Palestinian national movement, to struggle for the liberation of Palestine.
The Palestine Liberation Organization was created in 1964 by the Arab League. There’s at first tension between the guerrilla groups and the PLO, which is being seen as an envelope to contain Palestinian nationalism on the part of the Arab states rather than the authentic movement. But they integrate in 1969 and you have the guerrilla movements come into the PLO, which serves as this larger umbrella, which is a new realization of cohesion and unity. The PLO gives a single address. It comes to be known as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by Palestinians themselves and then also recognized as such by the United Nations and by the Arab League. So in that sense offers a certain unity umbrella where everyone can come inside. The PLO has a parliament, it has an executive council, it has essential council. So it has institutions and rules for how Palestinians can make decisions to come up with a unified strategy, speaking for the Palestinian movement, a single leadership, a single focus. On that end, there’s a certain degree of unity. On the other end, or on the other hand, there is a fragmentation built into the very structure of the PLO. It remains an umbrella group for various factions, each of which retain their own autonomy, their own militias, their own budgets, their own patrons, which means their own alliances with Arab states, their own strategies and often their own ideologies.
So the PLO becomes a space in which these autonomous groups try to come to some least common denominator goal that would represent the Palestinian movement as a whole. They’re negotiating, they’re balancing, they’re bargaining and they’re competing with each other, each one wanting to be the leader of the Palestinian movement, but with Fateh being the overwhelmingly largest and most powerful of these factions. So in some sense, people look at the PLO as a decision maker, because it is an actor on the international scene, it is an entity, a state-like entity. On the other hand, it’s not a decision maker as much as a forum for decision making in which lots of different individual decision makers with their own ideas come together and try to work out some compromise plan.
So these dynamics of some degree of unifying and some degree of fragmenting, with Arafat on top always trying to hold the movement together, for him the worst scenario being that some of these movements would go off and do their own thing, or leave the PLO or form an alternative Palestinian competitor to the PLO as being the worst case scenario, that all Palestinians lose if people aren’t on board with the same movement. So these constant struggles of managing fragmentation and unifying, but not quite, I see as shaping every step of the way the story of the PLO from the late 1960s, 1970s, 1980s. It affects the use of international operations; the plane hijackings and those types of acts of protest. It affects the desire to move along into a diplomatic process and negotiate and Arafat’s desire for movement toward a two-state solution and be included in international diplomacy from the mid-1970s onward. So I can go into more detail on those, but that fragmenting cohesive dynamic is at play throughout the history of the PLO, including of course its involvement or embroilment in the domestic struggles of the states in which it’s hosted, first in Jordan with Black September, then, of course, in the Lebanese Civil War.
My third chapter moves on to the first intifada. So we go from the PLO in exile back to the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Palestinian communities there that come under Israeli occupation in 1967. And they have a different tradition of political organizing that is rooted in societies with roots in the economy, whereas the PLO is always going from one place to another. I see the real height of cohesion at this point in the story of the first Palestinian intifada. So over the course of the late 1970s and 1980s, you see the Palestinians developing this rich infrastructure of civil society: professional organizations, women’s organizations, student groups, community activities. You had the student groups at these new universities that emerged helping farmers with the olive harvest and cleaning the streets and so forth, to the point that people would say that nearly every Palestinian family had somebody who was involved in this type of activity, which was seen as civic engagement, but also nationalist. It was the way people got involved at the community level, to help their communities, but nationalist in the sense that this was a struggle for freedom, for independence. It was building institutions, which Palestinians could realize their independence, fight for their national struggle. Increasingly a lot of these organizations are either created or become affiliated with PLO factions. So you have the major factions in the PLO --Fateh, the PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], also the Communist Party, which wasn’t at this time a member of the PLO-- involved in creating these groups, so people weren’t just involved in civic groups, they were implicitly or explicitly involved in the PLO.
Also over this era, you see an increasing identification with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the PLO. You see opinion polls at this time of Palestinians saying the PLO is our leader, which is an important development after years in which some people were more pro-Hashemite and Jordanian, or had local leaderships and so forth. There is a clear identification and support with the PLO as the leadership of the Palestinian people by the mid-1980s with people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
As well these opinion polls you see at the time, a clear sense of collective purpose and a consensus on goals. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip want an end to occupation. They support a two state solution, an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, control over East Jerusalem. So there is real clarity on that goal.
So I see these elements --this rich institutional infrastructure, community and civic groups, a leadership of the PLO and its factions represented on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, real unity on goals, wanting an independent Palestinian state-- those are the foundations for unity, for cohesion at work when this contingent event of an auto accident in December 1987 sparks demonstrations that really take off and sparks riots and that becomes the first intifada. But given these elements, these roots and foundations and capacity for cohesion, the first intifada becomes, what I would say, the high point of cohesion to some degree of the Palestinian national movement. You have all these committees go into work or the civic groups go into work creating committees at the local level. Thousands of them in every village and city and refugee camp to coordinate an uprising, to sustain an uprising, to do what it takes to make an uprising work and to carry on a mass popular uprising to end the occupation. The presence of these PLO factions gives rise to the UNLU, the United National Leadership of the Uprising, which is an anonymous decision making leadership body consisting of representatives of the four major factions. Nobody knows who they are. They come together and make what would become the bayanat, leaflets, distributed every two weeks throughout the territories, laying out a schedule of non-violent protest actions for Palestinians to follow.
So these leaflets would say things like, “On August 3 all lawyers should reduce their fees in solidarity with the uprising” or, “Doctors should give consultations for free” or, “Poets should write poetry” or even things saying, “Students should study for exams as a national duty” and on and on. So, in this sense, a leadership that is overwhelmingly popular, recognized as legitimate despite the fact nobody knows who they really are, but with society really welcoming these statements as a constitution of what to do laying out clearly how everybody can get involved with their own capacities as ordinary men, women and children to contribute and participate toward an uprising. In that sense, it becomes increasingly amazingly empowering when people talk about the first intifada, describe it as a time when Palestinians felt they were actively, each person was actively contributing to the goal of building a state.
So with this unity, really unprecedented degree of unity on goals and clarity, the leadership and the committees, it helps the first intifada to be the largely unarmed, non-violent protest movement that it was. And I can say much more about how it enabled discipline on the non-use of arms, the sustainability and adaptability. So when problems came up, the leadership could adapt so that none of them would be obstacles bringing the intifada to a close, but rather helping it continue forward. Now Hamas and Islamic Jihad--Hamas emerging in this era--were not members of the UNLU leadership, but all the interviews I did and all the reports I’ve read talk about how there was an effective constraint, that Hamas wasn’t going to go offer any group, wasn't going to go off and do its own thing because of the power of public unity, because of the legitimacy of the UNLU. Any group that went too far from the broad consensus would effectively be risking its own popularity; it would be almost political suicide. So the unity was itself and created an incentive to stay on board a certain strategy.
My next chapter looks at the Palestinian Authority during the Oslo Process [from 1991-1993]. I see various fragmenting dynamics that come to the fore in this era. You have a lot of this engagement in civil society break down, as these civic groups give way to this self-governing apparatus that becomes the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority itself is characterized by various degrees of infighting and internal divisions and weak institutions, to some degree a personalization of power, that much power invested in Arafat the person rather than in autonomous institutions, such that various different groups and thirteen security forces and lots of divisions with Arafat on top. And would Arafat become unable or unwilling to keep control of things, the whole thing, the whole political scene could fall to pieces, which moving on to my last chapter on the Palestinian case is the second intifada and what I see as having happened.
Given the fact that when you compare the pre-history of the first intifada there were roots for cohesion that were in place that enabled cohesion in a non-violent uprising. When you turn to the second intifada you see the state of the Palestinian political landscape, the divisions and the competition between Fateh and Hamas, the weakness of nationalist institutions, a real kind of directionlessness in society on goals. Much of the goals of the first intifada were to bring about this peaceful process that would bring about the Palestinian independent state. After seven years of negotiating, when that failed to come about, you had a sense of public opinion of we’re not sure what exactly the strategy and the aim is anymore. An uprising after a peace process is not so clear. Are you fighting for another peace process? A better peace process? or something else? It was a sense of directionlessness and hope dashed after the years of Oslo. All of that then, when the second intifada begins, the peace negotiations hit a wall in 2000 with [former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon’s visit to al-Aqsa and so forth. Demonstrations begin in contrast to the first intifada there emerges no single, unified leadership. Arafat, as president of the Palestinian Authority, is in a bind. According to the agreements and negotiations, it is his job to end unrest to oppose unrest, not to embrace unrest, not to make a strategy for it. At the same time he’s nervous about any alternative leadership, so there’s no effective leadership for the second intifada articulating what its goals are, what its strategies are, what kind of protest will be used, what kind won’t be used and so forth. At that point it allowed much of the world community and Israel to say, “What is this about?” So there’s no clear unified leadership, no clear institutional structure, in which all factions can come together, deliberate and agree on policy. Instead there’s constant competition and negotiating and opinion polls showing that people are divided about what the goal of the second intifada even is. Is it a two-state solution? Is it liberating all of Palestine? Is it just to return to negotiating?
All of these fragmenting dynamics have an effect on the degree of armed activity that come to characterize the second intifada as an overwhelmingly bloody uprising. Certainly Israel’s use of violence against Palestinians is extreme and well documented and has a large role in escalating those first months into making it an armed uprising in the first place. But when shooting does begin on the Palestinian side, it’s less disciplined, less answerable to political decision than it might have been had there been a cohesive, unitary structure. There’s competition dynamics coming in to play with the factions, more and more escalatory means as way of competing against each other. Fateh, Hamas and the PFLP involved, too, as well as divisions within each of these organizations, along generational lines or ideological lines or political ambition lines. Protest and often armed protest becoming an idiom with which groups within factions struggle against each other. It comes into play, this fragmentation with ceasefires, half a dozen or more ceasefires are declared and breakdown or breakdown before they even go into effect. That’s largely because there’s not a clear enough, unified, powerful enough leadership to bring about those ceasefires and make them effective. The Palestinian Authority increasingly becoming not a leadership above the factions, not an arbiter to disputes, but just one party among others duking it out for who’s in charge, for who’s leadership of the Palestinian people. Now there’s certainly many cases of non-violent protest, most heroically the cases of non-violent protest in West Bank against the root of Israel’s separation barrier wall, having protests on a weekly basis for years. Amazing cases of non-violence. When I talk to people involved in these protests, they would say things to me like, "We were a case of the first intifada within the second intifada. That we could have these non-violent demonstrations against the wall week after week, because we were able to achieve at the local level this kind of unity." Agreement among factions, a single committee that was trusted that came up with a plan of action. It was cohesion at the local level that allowed the movement to go forth but that cohesion I would say was missing at the national level to make that same type of protest a national movement-wide strategy for national liberation and that’s exactly why non-violent protests were more localized, were more temporary, and did not take off in a way that could speak for the movement as a whole, as a strategy of national liberation.
That covers most of the history of the scope of the book. So what are some implications of this? One, and this was one of the real reasons I wanted this project, is the idea that a counter-insurgency plan or Israeli policy or whatever based on divide and conquer. Based on trying to push forward divisions within the Palestinian national movement or on giving disincentives for unity and we see this now if [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas is going to face real punishments if he makes a real meaningful compromise agreement with Hamas for example to the degree that external powers either try to foster divisions and block these internal attempts at overcoming divisions. This can be counterproductive if the goal is to end violence. The more that there is fragmentation, the more this has the potential of propelling, if violence begins, to take a more escalatory route and precluding mass non-violence. So if outside powers will do things that foster internal divisions, and this being either Israel or the United States, that provoke and foster internal divisions, they can’t then ask where is the Palestinian Gandhi why don’t they use non-violence? Internal fragmentation makes non-violent protest on a mass scale difficult. And the real implication is that a strong united Palestinian national movement is not only in the interest of the Palestinian people and the interests of Palestinian struggle for self-determination, but it’s really in the interest of Israel and the United States as well.
22 March 2012
The Palestine Center
Dr. Wendy Pearlman is the Crown Junior Chair in Middle East Studies and Assistant Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University. She is the author of Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Her first book, Occupied Voices: Stories of Everyday Life from the Second Intifada (Nation Books, 2003), was a Boston Globe and Washington Post bestseller. She has published articles in International Security and Journal of Palestine Studies, with articles forthcoming in Security Studies, Studies in Comparative International Development, and Journal of Conflict Resolution among others. Since 2011, she has spoken about the Middle East uprisings on AlJazeera, the BBC and other local and national radio and TV outlets.
Source: The Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development, 22/3/2012