Letter from WIN

The human capacity for injustice can be a breathtaking thing.  Iraqis living under U.S. occupation face a regime “far more cruel, deadly and venal than anything that existed under Hussein,” writes A.K. Gupta in his analysis of the Iraq war.  Iraqis must deal with daily bomb attacks mass killings by death squads, impunity of the occupation forcs, adn a lack of the most basic services like electricity, water, and health care.

In cities like Hebron in the Occupied Territories, WIN correspondents Judith Pasternak and Ellen Davidson learned firsthand that Palestinians are banned from walking on certain streets, and left without access to shops and even homes.  They witnessed Palestinian communities living without water or electricity or ringed in by steel and concrete barriers that require passage through a labyrinth of ID checks, scans, turnstile, and blockades.

In Iran, student protesters and labor leaders alike are met with violence and imprisonment from a theocratic regime that once promised liberation, but instead has provided stonings, public executions, and mass round-ups of activists and organizers.  In Lebanon, communities continue to pick up the pieces a year after Israel’s invasion last summer left the country shattered yet again, with refugees in the thousands and a severely battered infrastructure.

The human capacity for resistance, however, can surprise even the idealists.  Against the most violent repression, the push toward nonviolence is surging forward in the Middle East, as grassroots activists, community organizations, and individuals searching for a just world free of violence redefine what it means to resist.

In this issue, Rayan El-Amine describes a Lebanon in which people, not governments, hold the true power to rebuild the country from the most recent Israeli attacks.  “During periods of real need, like during the Israeli war on Lebanon last summer, grassroots organizations proved to be more responsive to the needs of ordinary Lebanese and more effective at mobilizing thousands of people than much bigger political forces, including the Lebanese state itself,” he writes for WIN.

Palestinian political analyst Omar Barghouti discusses the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement being launched against Israel as part of a legacy of Palestinian nonviolent resistance against apartheid and occupation.  “Throughout modern Palestinian history, resistance to Zionist settler-colonialism mostly took nonviolent forms: mass demonstrations, grassroots mobilizations, worker strikes, boycotts of Zionist projects, and the often-ignored cultural resistance, in poetry, literature, music, theater and dance, writes Barghouti.

These on-the-ground efforts provide much reason to hope that injustices in the Middle East can be confronted, not with weapons, but with a hope for peace.  In his efforts to resist the Israeli occupation of Hebron, a Palestinian father describes how he has given his young son a video camera to document the frequent attacks on Palestinians by Jewish settlers and how he plans to begin teaching classes in nonviolence.  “If I use guns, I can kill six, ten settlers.  What do I accomplish? I give them an excuse to make another settlement.  Besides, I’m not a fighter; I’m a father,” he told WIN.

In giving voice to these little-known projects, we show how Iraqis, Palestinians, and the many diverse cultures living under occupation and oppression in the Middle East are not merely victims but self-determining and potent forces in the struggle to end war.  In their resistance, we should see possibilities for our own resistance to the policies of our government that have so catastrophically affected people in the Middle East and around the world.

More stories of nonviolent action and resistance in the Middle East and beyond can be found in WRL’s 2008 Peace Calendar, Salaam, Shalom, Solh.