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So quiet you never knew.

So quiet you never knew: The non-violent Palestinian movement

The conflict going on in Palestine at the moment is at the forefront of many people’s minds. Most nights the news will be showing pictures and videos of the violence and atrocities happening daily. It’s difficult to see.

One thing I have noticed though is that since October 7th, all we have heard about is the violent side of this conflict. It would be easy to think that the violence has consumed the region and that no other strategies were tried. This is untrue.

A little background to this conflict that many don’t know. The tumultuous conflict between Israel and Palestine has been raging on for decades. The source of this conflict can be traced back to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which expressed support for Palestine to be established as a national home for Jewish people, leading to large-scale Jewish immigration between 1922 and 1947.

Arab demands for independence and resistance to immigration led to a rebellion in 1937 which sparked a subsequent exodus in 1948 when more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were made to flee or expelled from their homes. This was the central mechanism for the fracturing and displacement of Palestinian society. Later in 1967, this fracturing was then worsened by the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank – following this both were annexed by Israel. This war brought about a second exodus of around half a million Palestinians.

More recently, Hamas - a Palestinian militant group that clutched power in 2006 – has been conducting a campaign of violence against Israeli forces and sometimes even Palestinian people if they do not show loyalty. This is the group you will have heard about most on the news.

This is a complex conflict. It can’t be understood in a few sentences. In its most basic form, because of the Jewish settlements and Israeli occupation, the Palestinian people wish to be independent from Israel in all political, social, and economic forms. This hopefully gives you a background to what is currently happening.

There has been a large Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – modelled on that of the South African BDS movement. They regularly called for action against Israel until it complied with international law and universal basic principles of human rights. It was hoped that by using this tactic, Israel would feel that they needed to consider the movement's demands or lose out on a great deal of economic growth. We can now see this picking up across Western countries like the UK where we are seeing open boycotts of businesses like Starbucks and McDonalds who are perceived to be pro-Israel.

There are also smaller movements such as the Palestinian farmers who have been using non-violence to push back against occupation. These farmers were hoping to halt the expropriation of their land which was going to be used to build a wall and expand illegal settlements. Under international law, this wall was deemed illegal as it was planned to route through occupied territory. The Stop the Wall coalition made an interim goal of driving up the material costs of the wall, reducing its legitimacy and delaying construction to allow legal challenges. Whilst this may not seem like a large-scale push back, it’s often the small wins that help movements gain ground.

There is a large majority of Palestinian activists utilising nonviolent tactics across the movement. For example, a village called Bil’in would host weekly marches every Friday. In one of the most memorable marches, villagers painted themselves blue and dressed as the Na’vi people – from Avatar – who succeeded against the repressive human race. This garnered international press coverage and shocked the Israeli soldiers sent to disrupt the event.

Protesters in this area have also used other tactics like tying themselves to trees which were to be uprooted for the wall; chaining themselves to steel pillars; hauling in trailer houses to reclaim their stolen land; and locking themselves in cages which must be hauled away by cranes. The resistance in this one village is so well organised that when raids by Israeli soldiers on Palestinian homes became a daily occurrence, protestors quickly increased their demonstrations and held them at night to exhaust the soldiers who were ordered to protect the wall construction.

This is the side you don’t see or hear. Before October 7th, hundreds of Palestinians did not resort to violence to push their cause. I’m sure, even since, there will be many Palestinians who still haven’t resorted to violence. But this is the side you haven’t been allowed to see and it’s one you need to know about. The Palestinians haven’t suddenly become violent, they aren’t all part of Hamas. They are a majority of peaceful people who just want to live in their homes, safely.


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