Palestinians turn to nonviolence

Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan. Majdi Mohammed / AP Photo
Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan. Majdi Mohammed / AP Photo

After a 55-day hunger strike, Khader Adnan is slowly starting to eat and drink again. By now, Mr Adnan – an Islamic Jihad spokesman who is in administrative detention for the 10th time after being incarcerated by a military court without charge or trial – is accustomed to the demands of this kind of protest. Three years ago, he went on a 66-day hunger strike and Israel eventually released him without charge. That a member of the armed Islamic Jihad would turn to nonviolence demonstrates the relative effectiveness of this tactic.

From the women’s suffrage movement to India to Northern Ireland, hunger strikes have been an effective nonviolent weapon. Part of the power is both to highlight the inequality of the struggle and to raise awareness of the cause. These tactics, when employed correctly, can inflict more damage than the most sophisticated weapons in the court of public opinion.

Nonviolence and civil disobedience are nothing new to the Palestinian struggle and have featured alongside armed resistance. The first Intifada began with nonviolent forms of protest before some Palestinian factions resorted to violence. After the violence of the second Intifada, there has been a noticeable shift towards nonviolent methods and it is starting to pay dividends.

This is a multifaceted campaign that spans protests against the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank, the boycott movement, the flotillas to Gaza and getting the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s treatment of prisoners such as Mr Adnan and its alleged war crimes during last year’s Gaza war. These and other acts of nonviolence are combining to ensure Israel begins to pay a far higher cost of its long occupation.

Together they create far more pressure – and are received far better by the Palestinians’ international supporters – than the use of violence. Israel’s strident reaction to international boycotts proves that this is the best prospect to finally ending the violent and unjust occupation that has persisted for so long.

Published: June 29, 2015 04:00 AM