In Palestine, it’s called popular resistance and has been going on for years – in fact, since 1987, when Israel began occupation of Palestinian territories taken in a six day war. Resistance tactics, once violent, changed over the years. Rockets fired into Israel abated, and the suicide bombers highlighted by the press stopped. They had served Israel well in appeals for security funding from the U.S. to build walls and supply its militia with tanks and weapons.Today, popular demonstrations and BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) replace the violent retaliation, yet financial “security” support has not diminished, nor has the non-violent approach Palestinians have chosen garnered front-page media coverage.
Palestine stands as a model for the popular non-violent revolutions spreading in the Arab world today, yet is left off the lists of rebellious countries fighting oppression; perhaps because Palestine is not regarded as a country- only occupied territory owned by Israel.
News of the revolution in neighboring Egypt came as no surprise. Last fall, on my third visit to Palestine, I lived again in my old neighborhood of Beit Sahour, a suburb of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. The peaceful neighborhood, once predominately Christian, is today a mix of Christians and Muslims – all proud Palestinians.
On the surface life was routine – people went to work, children attended school, shops and businesses opened. Over four decades seasoned acceptance of Israeli control that restricts personal freedom; but behind wide dark eyes and gratuitous smiles, resentment smolders like a pot about to boil over.
On past visits during the Bush presidency, I repeatedly heard the words that signaled the inevitable from patient, gentle people:
“We love Americans, but don’t like your government’s policy.”
Controlled by foreigners and an ineffectual government many distrust, the people I met let let me know that, as an American, I had the power to make a change.
I did. I voted and our government changed but not the policy. Hope turned to despair; Palestinians put little faith in the recent much publicized peace negotiations between leaders who do not represent the will of the people.
“What can we do?” a friend blistered, “Israel does to us whatever it wants; America lets them and no one cares.”
I saw in people who had had enough, unfurling buds ripe for revolt.