Thursday, April 24, 2008

Non-Violent Protest in Gaza

Recently, as has happened many times before, Hamas has shot rockets into Israel. Israel, in response has prohibited export and import to and from Gaza, and also electricity and water have been shut off. In order to enforce these sanctions, land inside of Gaza has been cut up by a large 25 ft. wall. Hamas (although many nations don't like to admit it) is the democratically elected authority in the Palestinian territory, and they lucky for both sides have chosen a more just and non-violent way of combating the cutting up of Gaza.

- Why are Palestinians opposed to the sprouting "security zones"?:

Although it is not well known, there is seemingly an underlying agenda for the IDF to seal off portions of Gaza's land other than national security. A law dating back to the time of Ottoman rule states that if a land is not occupied by its owner for a certain period of time, and somebody squats on that land for a certain period of time, then that land is then owned by the squatters due to neglect by the original owner. Although this law may have had good purpose or intention at the time of its creation, it is clearly unjust in the context it is used. Hypothetically, (but not really) if Israel splits a farm with a 25 ft concrete wall declaring the area a "security zone", this makes the reality concrete, (zingy pun) that the Palestinian farmer will not be able to see or tend to his land. Even if he manages to get around the wall or if there is not a wall but only a temporary barrier, history indicates that he or she is often discouraged by various means from revisiting their old properties. After the certain amount of time deemed by the law has passed, the cut off land is then officially confiscated by Israel due to "neglect" by the owners, and Israeli settlers are then free to buy the newly captured land.  

-Details on the confiscation Law
-Link - Palestinian shepherds resist expansion with non-violence 

Violent Response to Planned Non-Violent Resistance:

Hamas has planed to gather mass numbers of Gaza inhabitants to protest the creation of the wall. The plan was to simply march to the fence and protest with non-violent means (signs, chanting, etc.) This plan however was uncovered by the Israeli Defense force and the planned response seemed a bit radical. - Link to the story from Israeli Newspaper
- Some clips from the article:

Israel is already enforcing sterile buffer zones near the fence, especially in areas near Israeli settlements. Which is to say the IDF shoots anyone who attempts to approach the fence in those areas... the IDF has also carved up the area inside the Gaza Strip.

The army intends to prevent the marchers from advancing on the fence when they are still inside the Strip, using various means for crowd dispersal according to a ring system: The closer the marchers get to the fence, the harsher the response. The army plans to fire at open areas near the demonstrators with artillery that the Artillery Corps has been moving to the area over the past couple of days. If the marchers continue and cross into the next ring, they will face tear gas. If they persist, snipers could be ordered to aim for the marchers' legs as they approach the fence.

I wonder how accurate those artillery shells are trying to hit the "open areas" near a massive  number of demonstrators. How about if those snipers are having a bad day and aim a little higher than the legs? - Clearly these means of crowd dispersal are a very extreme response to a non-violent protest. I was sad to see that such warnings of extreme response had an adverse effect on the originally big plans for this protest. Originally there was a plan to form a 25 mile long human chain of 50,000 demonstrators to march on the fence. The actual numbers were reported to be only around 5,000 which was also a result of bad weather on the day that it was planned (Feb. 26th). I was also disappointed that I had never even heard about this until I was looking for something to write my blog on. This story should be big news especially because it is a NON-VIOLENT protest lead by the infamously violent terrorist group, Hamas. I can't remember the last time I heard about non-violent protest done by Palestinians in the news, but stories on Hamas firing rockets can't be missed. We hear about so many atrocities committed by both sides in the daily news, yet here is an one example of an effort at non-violence, and it is hardly covered, especially by American media. I wonder how many similar events have gone unnoticed. We have learned how media is an incredibly effective weapon  in non-violent campaigning, and the protesters in this case have been denied this incredibly effective weapon. Because of the lack of attention that this event received, I am sad to say that I can't consider this protest to have been successful. Maybe if the protesters had marched to the fence, and the IDF had made good on their threats then they would have received attention from the media. It's sad and ironic to think that such incredible violence and sacrifice is needed to have peace.

Video: See What They're Protesting Against- 


Colleen Reding said...

I'm glad you brought up this topic as it has been receiving increasing media coverage recently. I think it is especially interesting how not only do we find the Israel/Palestine question coming up in terms of the presidential election, but a certain former President is also making his mark.
Jimmy Carter, who received a Nobel Peace Prize for his peace talks in the Middle East during his presidency, recently made a controversial decision to meet with Hamas in an attempt to get the peace discussions moving again. Jimmy Carter was pleased with his meeting with the military group Hamas and said, “If the agreement calls for a two-state solution and the recognition of Israel and Palestine, Hamas will, in effect, recognize Israel, if the people agree on the plan." He did acknowledge that he did not really make any serious breakthroughs though.

Colleen Reding said...

For more information on Carter's role, please follow this link.

I think it is impressive that even though Carter is no longer in public office, he is still using his position to make strides in the peace process. Even if he was unable to bring about significant change in these early stages, his presence creates more mobilization and efforts to really look at what needs to be done to negotiate peace.