Mohammad Ahmad" />
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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Palestinians need non-violent leader

Basic survival instinct has taught all living creatures that if it hurts, it’s bad for you. Yet it seems Israelis and Palestinians have skipped that evolutionary lesson. After 60 years of bloodshed they’re still going at it with an opaque belief in violence as the sole option to achieve their objectives. The sophistication required to act on the desire to destroy an enemy as a means to force compromise seems as profound as the need to relieve oneself.

This conflict can be resolved if all the players bluntly face the facts; the root of the problem lies in the maximalist position adopted by both sides, where even a sliver of compromise is tantamount to complete ideological surrender. The Zionist movement, for example, believes that divine real estate was promised to them. To give up even a grain of this veritable paradise of sand with its occasional water hole, is to displease their deity. With almost youthful zeal, the Palestinians have foisted their own claims onto the conflict. Giving up the Al Aqsa mosque, the so-called third holiest site in the Muslim world, would displease their deity. The irony is that religious elements in both camps are attempting to curry the favor of the same Old Testament god.

I am waiting for the day when both sides cease haranguing critics with horror stories of atrocities committed by their ancestral cousins as justification for continued violence. In fact, a brief survey of the politics of the oppressed shows non-violent movements to be the optimal solutions to conflict. In particular, the Palestinians need to ask themselves where their Mahatma Gandhi is. Where is their non-violence movement? At most there are fringe groups, including in the Israeli camp, but they lack mass public support.

Gandhi led a spiritual and political rebellion against the British, who insisted on clinging to their colonial notion of civility. Therefore they did not succumb to temptation like Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler. Israel, I am sure, considers itself similarly justified and cannot afford to be alienated from its main ally, the American people. This is why a Muslim Gandhi would not only be successful in Palestine, but overwhelmingly so. Gandhi’s approach was successful two reasons: he spiritually inspired an inordinate amount of people and he made them into a potent force that won public sympathy and moral support.

Now imagine a benevolent Muslim leader who does not have the taint of violence in his or her history, who continues to preach disarmament, organizes massive civil marches across Israel from the West Bank to Gaza, religiously inspires Palestinians to break down the illegal wall and throw roses instead of stones at the Israeli military. I guarantee the public-relations impact of the latter act alone will far outweigh the sympathy earned by the first Intifada.

The sad fact is that there are a few stragglers in the Palestinian camp who do believe in this approach, but lack a figure that could rally such a mass movement. The psyche of Palestinians has been so well frayed by oppression and violence that it is difficult to imagine them heeding calls for non-violence. It is the same case with the Israeli population, although they are the ones in power. They are being terrorized instead of oppressed, so they don’t need a Gandhi.

Israel needs a Nelson Mandela. He had the wisdom to see what was better for his nation over the moral demand to punish the aggressors. Such a leader would be required of Israel if it were to meet the devastating political force the Palestinians would become under their Gandhi.

Palestinians can hence take control of the political game. For that to happen, they need to change their social attitude by delving deep into their spiritual psyche, to support a powerful leader of non-violence. Violence hasn’t achieved anything for the Palestinians or the Israelis. When are they going to try something different?

Ahmad, a political science senior, can be reached via [email protected].

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