Taking on Thomas Friedman over unarmed resistance

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times  published an opinion piece last week in which he argued that the Palestinians need to embrace unarmed resistance. I wrote a letter to the Times gently telling Mr. Friedman that the Palestinian have already begun to embrace unarmed resistance. The New York Times did not publish the letter.

Reading Thomas Friedman’s “Lesson from Tahrir Sqaure” last week, one passage jumped out of the pages and struck me. Friedman, the liberal Zionist New York Times columnist , wrote,

If Palestinians peacefully march to Jerusalem by the thousands every Friday with a clear peace message, it would become a global news event. Every network in the world would be there. Trust me, it would stimulate a real peace debate within Israel — especially if Palestinians invited youth delegations from around the Arab world to join the marches, carrying the Saudi peace initiative in Hebrew and Arabic. Israeli Jews and Arabs should be invited to march as well. Together, the marchers could draw up their own peace maps and upload them onto YouTube as a way of telling their leaders what Egyptian youth said to President Hosni Mubarak: “We’re not going to let you waste another day of our lives with your tired mantras and maneuvering.”

Having just returned from the Qalandia Nakba protests, I had witnessed exactly what Friedman dreams of taking place. I decided to pen a short letter to the editor of New York Times explaining what Friedman failed to mention. It was rejected by the paper.  Thanks to the internet, the letter might have a second life. Here it is:

Thomas Friedman proposes that “thousands of West Bank Palestinians march nonviolently to Jerusalem.” He promises that the protest would “stimulate a real peace debate in Israel as well as a “global news event.” I want to inform Friedman that Palestinians have been holding unarmed and largely non-violent demonstrations in towns across the West Bank  for the past nine years. These demonstrations, which are attended by Israeli Jews like me as well as international supporters, range in size from 50 to 2000. Israel invariably responds to them with harsh military repression. Since the protests began, 21 unarmed demonstrators have been killed and thousands injured while non-violent organizers have been locked in Israeli military jails under dubious charges. Two weeks ago, on the 63rd commemoration of the Nakba, thousands of young Palestinians marched from Ramallah to Jerusalem chanting songs of unity under the national Palestinian flag. They were met with a barrage of Israeli tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets. Hundreds were injured including a handful who had been shot in the face by Israeli soldiers. The unarmed Palestinian protest movement has been a reality in the West Bank for years. Yet Israeli society has failed to generate any “real peace debate,” nor has a “global news event” occurred. Instead, Israel continues to annex more Palestinian land, jail peaceful demonstrators, and deepen its occupation.

Joseph Dana Tel Aviv, Israel


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