The Palestinians are an astonishing and impressive people. For 61 years they have survived almost entirely without outside help against domination and relentless human rights abuses by one of the most powerful and ruthless military forces in the world, a military force directed by a racist government determined to control, degrade and expel them, acting without constraint by international law due to its support, protection and indulgence by the United States.
For the first 18 years following the establishment of Israel, the Palestinian Arabs who remained within Israel lived under martial law. During this time, dispossessed Palestinian resistance fighters mounted troublesome but largely impotent attacks on Israelis near their borders, which Israel used as justification for invading neighboring countries although the Palestinians have the right of armed self-defense under international law against the invasion, occupation and seizure of their lands.
After 1967, all Palestinians have been subjected to Israeli military occupation or severe discrimination within Israel. International laws have been invoked repeatedly by the UN to censure Israel, but effective international sanctions have been routinely blocked by US vetoes in the Security Council. Thus, the Palestinians have been left without legal protection and have been denied any weapons sufficient to mount a credible defense. Moreover, they have been demonized as the aggressors - the "terrorists" - when in fact they are the victims of Israeli state terrorism including nearly 24,000 home demolitions, systematic assassination of emerging leaders, and over 60 massacres.
Critics ask, "why don't the Palestinians use Gandhian methods rather than suicide bombers?" In fact, they tolerated abuse for almost 40 years before the first intifada, which followed the Gandhian model of non-violent resistance. It was met with massive Israeli brutality. Only then, in 1993, 45 years after the Nakba, did suicide bombings begin, continuing until 2004. But even after their discontinuance Israeli violence, domination, economic strangulation, assassinations, extrajudicial imprisonments, blockades, and daily humiliation have continued unabated.
The simple cartoon figure at upper left, Handala, is a symbol of Palestinian resistance. His back is turned with hands behind him, refusing the implied normalcy of eye contact or a handshake, bearing firm and quiet witness to the crimes against his people. Palestinians adhere on a daily basis to such principles of non-violent resistance that go unnoticed in the Western press. These are not merely strategies, but a binding spiritual bedrock of their culture.
One central principle of Palestinian resistance is "steadfastness" - a commitment to never give up. Despite the long ordeal of Israeli occupation and even after the vicious Israeli assault on Gaza in January 2009, an April 2009 survey of occupied Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza found 87% declared that "the right of return AND compensation" is "essential" to any final peace settlement. Even under they iron fist of a brutal, crushing and degrading military occupation and the ever-present threat of death, they continue to demand nothing less than justice.
Another central principle of Palestinian resistance is solidarity. This unifying commitment is under systematic attack by Israel and the US, who have succeeded in fragmenting the Palestinian opposition by enlisting corruptible Fatah leaders into policing their own people, rewarding them with money, privilege and limited authority, supporting them in revolt against the elected Hamas government, and punishing Hamas supporters by withholding vital resources behind a suffocating, illegal blockade.
As a third central principle of resistance, Palestinians carefully avoid any appearance of normalcy in their relationships with Israel. Embarrassed and embattled by their abuse and oppression of the Palestinians, Israel attempts to project normalized impressions of the Israeli/Palestinian relationship to the observing world through joint artistic or other public ventures, using words such as "collaboration" and "cooperation" and speaking always of "peace" which of course both peoples want but never of "justice" which only the Palestinians want and the Israelis resist.
On an everyday level, Palestinians get up every day and go about their lives despite the nearly unimaginable conditions imposed upon them - a form of steadfast resistance stating quietly that Israel will never conquer their spirit. Joined by international and Israeli human rights activists, they stage continuous non-violent demonstrations against the separation wall, the roadblocks, new settlements, land confiscation, home demolitions, the blockade, and agricultural theft and destruction.
Christian Peacemakers and International Solidarity Movement volunteers with greater safety from settler and IDF violence intervene to protect Palestinians from property destruction and settler attacks. All face Israeli guns and tear gas with no opposition more violent than throwing stones. Some have died or suffered massive injuries from IDF bulldozers, gunfire and tear gas canisters. We who live safe and comfortable lives must honor, respect and support them however we can.
Demand Freedom, Justice and Equality in the Holy Land