Non-violence or surrender

21-07-2010 12:00 AM

Ammon News - By Hasan Abu Nimah

One major item on Israel's menu for agreeing to talk to its enemies has always been "renunciation of violence".

Under Yasser Arafat, the PLO had to commit to renouncing violence, in addition, of course, to other harsh conditions, before it qualified to exit Israel's rejection list.

Among the many other conditions put by the so-called international community to Hamas nowadays is "renunciation of violence". Because Hamas has refused so far to meet such a condition, it remains boycotted by almost every state regionally and internationally, including Arab states.

Currently Hamas is not engaging in any form of anti-Israel violence. In fact, the organisation that controls Gaza is strictly observing a unilateral ceasefire with Israel despite the siege and the sporadic Israeli air raids often killing innocent people and destroying private property. Hamas is now often blamed by its Fateh opponents for preventing other resistance groups from attacking Israel.

The Arab states, just less than a decade ago, also collectively renounced violence. That was when they pronounced peace as their strategic choice, through their 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

That was one of the most unusual policy statements in history. Did the Arabs have other choices until they made that declaration? Were they engaged in wars and conquests against other nations before they decided to so drastically change course and have peace as their strategic choice? And with the specific reference to the Arab-Israeli conflict, was it the Arabs or the Israelis who started it?

The facts of history are still there for any verification. During the six-decade-long Arab-Israeli conflict, whose roots are in the Zionist project to turn Palestine into a national home for Europe's persecuted Jews, in flagrant defiance of Arab objection, the Arab states only started one war against Israel, Egypt’s and Syria's 1973 attempt to recover their occupied territories.

In 1948, there had been months of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population by Zionist militias before the Arab states belatedly intervened, in May of that year.

While Israel was moving from one war to another, expanding beyond the historical lands of Palestine, the Arab states often responded with verbal condemnations and empty threats, along with appeals to the ineffective United Nations.

Large areas of Syrian land have remained under Israeli occupation since 1967, in addition to the West Bank and Jerusalem, and parts of Lebanon. Since 1973, there has been total quiet - and that during a state of "war".

For all Israel's propaganda against them, the Arab states have been accommodating, some of them signing peace treaties with Israel even while their neighbours remained technically at war. Israel continues to build settlements and irreversible facts on the ground, and the Arabs continue to protest and issue statements.

In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority, which is widely recognised, by the Arab League as well, as the official voice of the Palestinian people, continues to reassure Israel that whatever it does, the Palestinian people will never use violence to defend themselves, their rights or their existence. Moreover, the armed forces, created for the Palestinian Authority under the supervision of US General Keith Dayton with donor money, are there to suppress any Palestinian attempt to oppose the occupation or resist its practices.

So what has been so un-peaceful in the Arab, or Palestinian, behaviour towards Israel that requires another declaration of peace?

Unquestionably, peace and non-violence are, and should always be, the rule in governing peoples' relations with each other. Nevertheless, neither our assumed civilised behaviour nor international law have succeeded so far in eliminating violence from our conduct as states or people.

As a last resort, violence could be used in self-defence, according to international law. The instinct of survival automatically drives all creatures to defend themselves when under attack. All states and peoples do the same. But besides that, there is the violence of choice. Warmongering remains a very active sentiment driving democratic leaders to wars against easier targets, with accountability hardly demanded when such adventures turn wrong, illegal, costly, counterproductive and disastrous.

The peculiar case of the Arab states and Arab peoples is that they volunteered to their intrinsic right to legitimate self-defence while under attack and while their lands are under occupation and their rights are repeatedly violated.

Calls for non-violence could not be but noble and right. Even in the most legitimate cases, resorting to violence should only be considered when every other option for a peaceful settlement has been tried. This is not what world powers themselves do when they use force to deal with disputes. Under no circumstance, however, should such calls require that a nation, a group or an individual renounce their right to defend their legitimate rights or to compromise their dignity.

This is precisely what Israel means when it requires its enemies to renounce violence.

While in most cases parties locked in conflict agree to mutually renounce violence as part of a dispute settlement, Israel requires renunciation of violence to enable its continued aggression unchallenged. This is exactly what happened with the PLO, and this is why the Arab states' positions, including the generous Arab Peace Initiative, are never taken seriously by Israel.

Diplomacy can only be effective when supported by force, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan used to say to justify superpower threats to vulnerable countries like Iraq. But he was right. States have armies and they stock weapons not because they necessarily prepare for war, but because they prepare themselves to go to war or to respond to threat if necessary.

If they don’t do that, they would become vulnerable and invite aggression. States or organisations that declare in advance that they will violence from their political dictionary under any circumstances have shown that they expose themselves to all kinds of aggression.

* Jordan Times

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