Breaching the other border: on non-violent resistance and mass mobilizing in Gaza
As gas ran out over the weekend in Gaza again, Haaretz reported "fears" amongst the Israeli military establishment of a mass civil protest, this towards Gaza's border with Israel.
The Army apparently "beefed up troops along the border with Gaza, fearing thousands of Palestinians may march on the border in protest Israel's economic sanctions."
Many people have been calling for such a mass march, seeing it as the most effective way to break the blockade and draw global attention to the plight of Gaza.
Apparently, so does Hamas now.
Some 40,000 Palestinians are expected to march along the Gaza Strip's border beginning at 10 A.M. on Monday, including women and children.
The felling of the Rafah wall was powerful, but just a temporary respite and ultimately a distraction from the underlying issue; Gaza cannot continue to hover just above the brink of disaster, surviving from truckload to truckload of aid, from trickle to trickle of fuel; and even if it does, it does not change the fact that the occupation is still in place; that the "status quo" of "accepting a harmless slavery, in fullest liberty!" to quote Mahmoud Darwish, is no longer acceptable.
And unless it can be followed through with international action and a change in government policies of major powers, so too will a mass march towards Erez. However I still feel such a march has enormous symbolic power. I think perhaps the Israeli army would fear such an act of massive civil resistance more than anything, because it is not something they can easily "retaliate" against without drawing global criticism (though the world has largely been ok with the genocide Gaza is being subject to so far).
I often get asked why there is not more "non-violent resistance" in Gaza. Its a tricky question to answer-but essentially, I think the thinking has been that the world isn't necessarily listening-or reacting-anyway, so fight "fire with flowers" when you can fight "fire with fire". At least I think this was the common notion when the second Intifada started where Israel was utilizing far more militarized and deadly force
Another perspective on this is that I don't think one can necessarily place the burden of what kind of resistance to choose on a population that is being subject to the military force of the world's fourth largest army (meaning, strategy and effectiveness aside, it comes across as almost self-rightouss to dictate what and how an occupied people should resist).
This is not to say that non-violent resistance has been wholly absent from the Palestinian struggle. The first Intafada is a prime example, but so too was the second Intifada-despite the fact that it was notably much more militarized.
An excerpt from an October 2007 article by Ben White in the electronic Intifada notes that
"It is not just contentment (for the few) or sheer fatigue (for the many) that makes mass mobilization a challenge. Palestinians also fear that two critical elements for the success of nonviolent popular struggle are missing in their case: international coverage and limited repression on the part of the oppressor. As previously mentioned, "popular struggle" has always been a part of Palestinian resistance to occupation and colonization -- but receives only a fraction of the press coverage afforded to violent resistance."
I have noticed that the tide's a changing though. Hamas seems to be making a more concerted effort at such mass mobilization in Gaza, while making it clear that they shall not relinquish their "legal right to other forms of resistance" (quote from an interview with Khaled Meshal that I will post soon).
A prime example was the felling of the Rafah wall-initiated by a group of women and children. So to was the effort of dozens of unarmed women of the Islamic movement (including MP Jamila Shanty) to shield and help rescue several fighters under siege in a Beit Lahiya mosque a year and a half ago.
Two of the women were killed by Israel.
And notably-Hamas was the first Palestinian group to initiate a "no arms" policy in their public protests.