On March 10th, the Guardian published a first person essay (on their Global Development page) by Issa Amro, a Palestinian who heads a group called Youth Against Settlements and claims to champion a Martin Luther King style non-violent campaign for Palestinian rights.
So, how committed to non-violence is he?
Recalling his political ‘activism’ during the Second Intifada, Amro explains, in his Guardian column, the origins of his philosophy.
This experience was important for me because I learned about the importance of tactics and became convinced about the value of non-violence as a way to resist. I read books by Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. I became convinced that their non-violent method was the best strategy for community resistance. Furthermore non-violence meant that there was a role for every Palestinian, as it is not the job of some vanguard in fighting the occupation; we can all do something.
Gandhi said, in effect, if you want to achieve liberation through violence you will achieve it quicker than through non-violence, but you should know that violence will then become a part of your society. The advantage of non-violent resistance is that it forces your institutions to be active and strong in the face of the occupation, which in effect helps us to build our state.
My campaigning, my whole philosophy, everything I do now, is underpinned by these ideas….A big part of it is trying to convince more young people to adopt our methods, and we have been quite successful at recruiting people to non-violence
However, what Guardian readers aren’t told is that, when asked recently about the violent actions of Palestinian terror groups, their protagonist sang a different tune.
Here’s Amro’s response to a question about Hamas, in an interview published in Tablet last August.
“I disagree with some points for them, I agree with some. Hamas is trying to end the occupation in their method. If the occupation ends, I won’t accept Hamas at all. But as long as the occupation lasts, I can’t tell them not to use weapons. Settlers have guns. Settlers are shooting. Soldiers are shooting. Occupation is the main feeder for violence. I need to end the occupation to have something for my people to convince them how to be non violent.”
So, it would be more accurate to characterize Armo’s putative support for non-violence not – as Martin Luther King saw it – as an absolute moral imperative, but merely as one legitimate “method” to end the occupation. The other “method”, killing innocent Israeli civilians, appears to be equally valid in the eyes of this Palestinian activist.
Indeed, Armo’s refusal to condemn Hamas violence wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with polling data indicating overwhelming Palestinian support for terrorist attacks – including suicide bombings.
- Court Orders Palestinian Authority, PLO to Pay $218 Million to American Victims of Terror (algemeiner.com)
- Verdict on Palestinian Terror Ends Abbas Masquerade as a Force for Peace (commentarymagazine.com)