May
25
2011

Friedman's Bogus Advice on Palestinian Nonviolence

In today's New York Times (5/25/11), columnist Tom Friedman issues yet another call for Palestinians to practice non-violence:

May I suggest a Tahrir Square alternative? Announce that every Friday from today forward will be "Peace Day," and have thousands of West Bank Palestinians march nonviolently to Jerusalem, carrying two things–an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other. The sign should say: "Two states for two peoples. We, the Palestinian people, offer the Jewish people a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders–with mutually agreed adjustments–including Jerusalem, where the Arabs will control their neighborhoods and the Jews theirs."

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.

The implication–a familiar one in corporate media–is that there's never been much Palestinian non-violent resistance. This is false–see here, here, here, or especially here–a piece by Yousef Munayyer titled,"Palestine's Hidden History of Nonviolence: You Wouldn't Know It From the Media Coverage, but Peaceful Protests Are Nothing New for Palestinians."

The other part of Friedman's argument is that media would pay this movement serious attention. Again, we don't need to imagine what might happen if Palestinians were to take Friedman's advice. Regular non-violent protests against the West Bank separation wall are ignored in the U.S. media, as Patrick O'Connor documented in 2005. A 2009 Guardian report is a reminder of what often happens in response to such demonstrations. As the subhead put it, "Palestinian demonstrations intended to be peaceful met with Israeli teargas, stun grenades and sometimes live ammunition." And one of the most prominent non-violent Palestinian activists is Adeeb Abu Rahma, who was held in an Israeli prison for 17 months before being released late last year.

Or take a more recent example:

On March 24, the Israeli government arrested Bassem Tamimi, a 44-year-old resident of the small Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, which is just west of Ramallah. Tamimi was arrested for leading a group of his neighbors in protest marches on a settlement that had "expropriated" the village's spring–the symbolic center of Nabi Saleh's life.

Tamimi was brought before the Ofer military court and charged with "incitement, organizing unpermitted marches, disobeying the duty to report to questioning" and "obstruction of justice"–for giving young Palestinians advice on how to act under Israeli police interrogation. He was remanded to an Israeli military prison to await a hearing and a trial. The detention of Tamimi is not a formality: Under Israeli military decree 101 he is being charged with attempting "verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order." As in Syria, this is an "emergency decree" disguised as protecting public security. It carries a sentence of 10 years.

And activist Abdallah Abu Rahmah:

Abu Rahmah, a high school teacher at the Latin Patriarch School in Ramallah, began organizing Bil'in's protests in 2004, even as the violence of the Second Intifada was beginning to wane. Every Friday after prayers, Abu Rahmah would lead a group of Bil'in residents on a protest march towards a local settlement–and every Friday his march would be intercepted by the IDF.

In one demonstration, an IDF sniper used a .22 caliber rifle to disburse the protesters, killing a Palestinian boy. Twenty-one unarmed demonstrators, among them five children, have been killed in nonviolent West Bank demonstrations since the beginnings of the movement.

So when do the TV cameras arrive, Tom Friedman?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.