Palestinian Activists: The Secret History of Nonviolence

Below mass media’s radar, Palestinian activists have a long history of nonviolent resistance, including hunger strikes, prisoner resistance, and freedom rides.


| July/August 2013



Banksy dove in crosshairs wears bulletproof vest on wall in Palestine

Across the West Bank, in one village after another, Palestinian activists have been using nonviolent tactics to confront the occupation for several years now, often below the radar of international media. When these acts are reported, they’re presented in isolation, and rarely if ever presented as reflecting a larger movement.

Photo By Eddie Dangerous

Slowly, the small group of demonstrators approached the soldiers ...

About 75 people had turned out for this week’s protest, a mix of Palestinian villagers and Israeli activists, women and children, and a handful of reporters. The crowd was chanting and clapping as they wound their way down the road leading to the spring that settlers have seized. As they came around the last bend before the checkpoint, the soldiers came into view, 13 of them, fitted with rifles and riot gear and spread in a line across the road.

Quiet descended. Most of the crowd hung back; about a dozen tentatively pressed ahead. In several weeks of observing these protests, I’d never seen the IDF allow them to come so close.

Then gas and stun grenades went flying as a few of the soldiers broke ranks, surging forward, and the protesters tumbled back up the road through the detonations and clouds of tear gas. The protestors hadn’t made so much as a threatening gesture.

Just another Friday in al-Nabi Saleh. It wasn’t until I watched video of the moment on YouTube, days afterwards, that I realized the soldiers had grabbed one of the demonstrators and hustled him away.

Whether it’s the cry that “There is no partner for peace,” or the familiar lament, “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?” the suggestion that the Palestinians are hopelessly violent can be heard across the political spectrum. In al-Nabi Saleh and many other villages on the West Bank, those complaints seem far less convincing. On the hillsides and in the olive groves, on the roads and in the prisons, a new movement for nonviolent resistance has been struggling for traction—a movement with a path that can nonetheless be traced much further back than is commonly acknowledged. For six weeks in February and March, 2012, I traveled in Israel and Palestine, discussing this movement with Israelis, Palestinians, and the occasional expatriate, attending the demonstrations against the occupation organized every Friday in the West Bank.

robert abramson
6/19/2013 4:06:54 AM

It's easy for the leftist writer of this article to sit in Brooklyn,NY and make it sound like the Palestinians are almost too good to be true and seeking a peaceful life in Israel. The facts are very clear. From the begining of the Muslim religion 1500 years ago the koran has taught its followers to murder the infidel. The fact is that that is exactly what they have done, except for about a period of two hundred years. By using murder,rape,slavery,theft and terror they have been extreemly successful in gaining territory. In fact terrorism has worked so well they have gained control of half of the world. As the saytng goes- don't fix it if it isn't broken. Therefore, you can expect the tactics that have worked so well for 1500 years to continue. In time the Palestinian Muslims will be in a position to gain control of Israel and will murder all the Christian and Jewish population. However, I'm sure UTNE will find some other part of the world to complain about the fact that there are still Jews around