Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of one of our coalition member organizations, the Palestine Center, here in Washington, DC.
You wouldn't know it from the media coverage, but peaceful protests are nothing new for Palestinians. But if they are to succeed this time, the West needs to start paying attention.
By Yousef Munayyer on ForeignPolicy.com
May 18, 2011
Last weekend, as tens of thousands of unarmed refugees marched toward Israel from all sides in a symbolic effort to reclaim their right of return, the world suddenly discovered the power of Palestinian nonviolence. Much like the "Freedom Flotilla," when nine activists were killed during an act of nonviolent international disobedience almost a year ago, the deaths of unarmed protesters at the hands of Israeli soldiers drew the world's attention to Palestine and the refugee issue.
The world shouldn't have been so surprised. The truth is that there is a long, rich history of nonviolent Palestinian resistance dating back well before 1948, when the state of Israel was established atop a depopulated Palestine. It has just never captured the world's attention the way violent acts have.
Indeed, by the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, well before the establishment of the state of Israel, and during a period when the Jewish population of historic Palestine had yet to reach 10 percent, the native Arabs of Palestine could already see that their hopes for self-determination -- in a homeland where they constituted a vast majority -- were being jeopardized by their soon-to-be colonial master.
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