Recently The Guardian published an inspiring piece by Jonathan Steele echoing Martin Luther King’s speech, “I have a dream” (20 August 2002). In gratitude to both of them, I offer my dream.
I have been in Nablus and Jenin keeping step with Palestinians in order to provide the protection that internationals can.
I like Jonathan Steele’s dream. We need progressive visions.
I will be in Jenin marching at the front. But as for this: “Television cameras and scores of foreign reporters watching the scene give the marchers extra protection.”
Will even two reporters show up? Last time a television camera was televising in Jenin, the photographer was fatally shot. In contrast to the case of Daniel Pearl, this journalist’s murderer was not even pursued since the killer was an Israeli soldier. How many newspapers even mentioned Imad Abu Zahra’s sacrifice?
As for the Britain in India example; it is inspiring but there is a major difference. While Britain had political dominion over Indian subalterns, Britain were not occupying the lands and lives of an entire population with the Israeli style of constant brutality toward civilians and strangulation of all aspects of life down to the smallest detail such as a child’s riding his bicycle to get a bit of chocolate. This is another instance of murders with nobody held accountable although Israeli soldiers clearly fired tank shells at children during a break in curfew.
Britain was not preventing Indian education and attacking schoolchildren at their schools. Doesn’t attending school count as non-violent action? Israel prevents school attendance for inordinate periods of time. Then when children and adults can attend, they are in mortal danger.
It is time to stop asking for Gandhi. There are many little Gandhis enacting non-violent resistance every day. March from Jenin to Nablus? I have a dream that taking a step outside your house in either of those cities, or in any of the refugee camps near those cities, will be possible without being picked off by a sniper, tank shell, Apache helicopter shell, or F-16 fighter jet bomb. Palestinians are already enacting their part of this dream, taking steps as a society to live everyday life, integrating cooperatively with partners in the Israeli economy.
Does the dream mean a total cessation of all violence? I love that dream. But how many societies have closed down their police stations, detective squads, and prisons because not a single violent crime is committed by some member of the society? We don’t tell our populations that they are all committed to house arrest until they produce a society which is one hundred percent crime-free. We arrest the criminals and try to construct a stronger, more cohesive society through educational, religious, and social institutions. We do this through letting members of the society have a voice, not by locking all of them up for the transgressions of a few, and not by letting criminal armies persecute civilians.
Israel has destroyed Palestinian police stations and prisons. Not only is this is a war crime, but it endangers civil life.
In light of the crimes committed against the entire Palestinian population and the indescribable hardships loaded upon every level of life, Palestinian society is amazingly cohesive. Society is civil in spite of the lack of civic institutions. Recent graffiti on a wall in Nablus reads: You can destroy our houses but you cannot destroy our souls.
Jonathan Steele’s worthy dream has already come true to some extent, and came true again to a degree shortly after its appearance in print. On Saturday the 24th of August Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals marched in the village of Huwara, near Nablus, armed only with their spirit of freedom. They faced tear gas, concussion grenades, threats and detours from the Israeli army but they kept on marching through this village which has been under nearly continuous curfew for almost two years. The joy of togetherness and exhilaration of marchers and residents was described as a success and a blessing. They were prevented from further movement, although one person was allowed to continue to Nablus with the tinned milk they had brought so that Palestinian babies can get a respite from being fed sugar water.
I have a dream.
I have a dream that people who cherish freedom and democracy support the voice of the Palestinian who asks to take one step in peace outside his front doorway, confident that his right to life will be respected.
I have a dream that people proud of their democratic traditions will speak up to end the violence perpetrated by the militarized government of Israel against Palestinians, Israelis, and the world community alike.
My dream is speaking now.