June 2010 
Year 16    No.152
Freedom Flotilla

Satyagraha in Palestine

The government of Israel uses fear to pursue a policy of domination and expansion


The settlements, walls and separating roads loom larger and more oppressively than I had imagined. The settlements in trude everywhere and dominate the landscape.

The range of Palestinian non-violent activity against occupation is larger, and richer in creativity, than I had imagined. Non-violence is a superior strategy. (I gave examples from the lives of Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.)

The work being done by Palestinians for strengthening civil society – through educational and public health programs – is larger than I had realized.

Many Palestinians I have met seem to hold both weapons in their hands – in one hand the weapon of non-violent resistance and in the other the weapon of constructive work, of strengthening civil society.

No matter how small, the victories achieved through non-violent struggle and in strengthening civil society have enhanced Palestinian confidence.

The spirit of the Palestinians I have met, including their ability to laugh amidst hardship, is remarkable.

Faced by the looming settlements, I find it hard to believe that the government of Israel is serious when it talks of wanting an independent Palestinian state. The settlements, walls and separating roads negate and nullify such a claim and will obstruct the creation of a Palestinian state.

The government of Israel has used fear – genuine fear – to pursue a policy of domination and expansion. This policy sees Palestinians as an inferior race, less than human, not meriting equality or respect.

In fact this policy is interested in Palestinian land, not in the Palestinian people. In the past, colonialists claimed that colonialism was good for the colonized. No such claim is being advanced in justification of Israeli policy.

Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Mandela said that the liberation of South Africa is incomplete without the liberation of Palestine. I would say the same about the liberation of India and Pakistan.

I become smaller in my own eyes if I don’t fight for justice. Also, I will meet my Maker one day, who will want to know whether or not I raised my voice for justice.

I salute the many in Israel, and the many Americans of Jewish origin, who fight for Palestinian rights.

I have a question for the Almighty, who is also a God of justice. I don’t know why a just cause remains short of victory for a long time.

Not long before his death (in 1988), Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan told me that the word that appears in the Qur’an more often than almost any other word is Patience.

I cannot shake the Almighty to act. But I can disturb the sleep of the international community.

On Easter Sunday, I had the amazing privilege of being in two sacred places, the place of worship in Hebron at the grave of Abraham, and the place of worship in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. In both places I prayed silently for two things: for the liberation of Palestine and for the well-being of my Jewish friends in Israel and in the USA.

Suggestions for Palestinians struggling non-violently:

1. Be patient.

2. Never give up your faith. The Soviet Union crumbled, apartheid in South Africa crumbled, the occupation of Palestine will also crumble.

3. Be appreciative of one another. Instead of blaming a colleague for what is not done, appreciate what is done. Live to make the other person great. Then your team will become stronger, your cause will prosper, and your greatness will also be seen. But if your concern is to make yourself great, your team will weaken.

4. Continue the constructive work. Build the Palestinian home. Make everything you do of the highest quality.

5. Continue to laugh amidst hardship.

6. Enlarge the non-violent struggle.

7. Strengthen the friendship and partnership of Palestine’s Muslims and Christians. Let Palestine become an example of a country where the rights of all minorities are fully respected.

What is the duty of the international community? It should mobilize support for the just demands of the Palestinians. It should put pressure on the government of Israel.  And it should appeal to the sense of justice in Judaism. It should rouse Judaism’s conscience.

(Rajmohan Gandhi, president of Initiatives of Change – IofC, has written widely on the Indian independence movement and its leaders, Indo-Pakistan relations, human rights and conflict resolution. He was in Palestine in the first week of April this year.) 

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