Broad nonviolent resistance to Zionism

An artist in Gaza paints a mural depicting the Nakba in 1948 and the ongoing war on Palestine. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

Amid the escalating violence, and the 60-year-long status quo, there are certain fundamental questions that need to be asked.

Are there certain values and absolute foundations that make resistance in general, and against Zionism specifically, a moral and humane necessity? What is the framework for nonviolent resistance, and how is it connected to these values? What is the ultimate end goal of the struggle? Is it returning the land and some rights to the indigenous Palestinian population, or can it lead to “solutions” that include acceptance of Zionism or even its right to exist?

Millions of persons hope for a chance to participate in this noble struggle, yet can’t find the medium in which they can contribute. This is where there is an important role for a group of “movers” to create the vehicles for individual and collective contributions within the above framework and mobilizing the hitherto wasted support to achieve measurable results.

The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions defines Zionism as: “a global, political, ideological movement that aims to return the land of ‘Israel’ to the Jewish people,” but this definition, besides its racist flavor (as it doesn’t mention or consider an entire people who were inhabiting that land), doesn’t tell the complete story. It might be important to mention that UN Resolution 3379 of 10 November 1975, after a prolonged discussion of the mechanisms of racist regimes, their alliances and human rights violations, decided that Zionism was equivalent to racism (the General Assembly revoked this decision by resolution 84/86 in 1991 after the advance of “peace negotiations”).

To properly understand Zionism we cannot rely only on how it defines itself or how the dictionary defines it, as indicative as those might be. We must also look at the behaviors and practices that have characterized Zionism from the beginning of the movement and that were given intellectual and ideological rationales, fundamentally related to the materialization of Zionism through a state.

Zionism could not have effected its program without the ethnic cleansing of the people that inhabited what it called Greater Israel. Forced displacement, terrorism, murder and devaluation of the most basic human rights were justified because of the complete belief in the right of the Jewish “race” which consequently becomes racially “supreme” because Zionism claims that this “race” possesses an undeniable and superior “right” in this land.

The existence of Zionism, and its continuation as it is, constitutes a legitimization of all the previously mentioned crimes, co-existence with the logic of power, and the acceptance of the practical if not openly acknowledged racial inferiority of the Palestinian (read “Arab”) people.

The right to resist derives from the values of justice, equality and freedom, but in the case of the Arab people it specifically gains the added value of being an existential struggle and a fight against the supremacist vision of the inferiority of the Arab people, and a refusal of the ideology of the oppressing power. Thus it is in no way merely a nationalistic, Arab or Islamic idea and its end goal can never be fighting the Jewish people or even uprooting Israel.

The clear goal of resistance should be defeating the Zionist ideology. This is an existential fight and one should never fear clearly stating a complete refusal of this ideology and its result (which in no way is an uncivil or a non-life-loving expression). Peace negotiations achieved nothing regarding this central dimension of the struggle, although removing Zionism as an ideology and practice is vital for peace in the Middle East.

The rocket and the gun — as significant as their role may be — cannot have the decisive word in the realm of the cultural, intellectual and humanistic battle. We need to understand the role of holistic resistance that the Arab people now more than ever have the ability and interest in deploying to place a siege around Zionism and racism. This resistance is very closely connected to values, culture and history.

In the age of globalization, the Internet and social media, the importance of centralized efforts is diminished as compared with decentralized, self-driven networks. More than ever, nonviolent resistance can harness the work of individuals contributing to a worldwide effort that has several aspects:

The knowledge dimension (cultural/educational/learning): This dimension is the most connected to the motives for resistance and is the logical input into the other dimensions. Understanding the motives and reasons behind the struggle and understanding the adversary and its methods, contributes to building the relationship between the values of justice and humanity on the one hand and the actions of resistance on the other. This dimension answers the “why” and increases the sense of moral and humane responsibility. Resistance must include learning curricula about the values being defended, and the educational and cultural work has to attack Zionism through arts and literature and the other cultural contributions. This is an important role of parents, researchers, writers and the elites in general.

Media and public relations: This dimension has internal and external aspects. The internal is directed to Arab audiences, educating them about the struggle, its goals, methods and cultural importance which it should be emphasized are humanistic and not nationalist or religious.

The external effort is directed to global public opinion which has a central role in the cultural struggle. Zionism realized this from the start and developed its strategy of hasbara (propaganda) and became a model to be studied in polishing the reputation of Israel and pressuring different groups and organizations. There are so many Israeli websites that aim to “educate” volunteers on how to refute accusations against Zionism, on creating pressure groups and organizing networks and public relations campaigns through tapping the huge potential of networks ready to provide support. We need to develop this dimension to empower the many people who believe in the cause but lack the means get the chance to express themselves.

The political-social dimensions: And here I don’t mean politics in its direct relation with the military struggle, but rather as the translation of the wishes of the people. It should reflect the people’s hopes of a dignified life and culture, and advancement towards good living that supports the belief in the values of justice. Civil society should, as a unit, communicate the values of resistance, justice and equality.

The economic and financial dimension: This is a very important weapon that we have until now failed to utilize. The least we can do is not buy the products of companies that are committed to the prosperity and development of the Israeli economy. I am not calling for a mass-scale boycott here, but rather surgical boycott of certain companies that really have a black history of unlimited and unjustified support to Israel, after communicating with them clearly about the reasons and the intent to boycott their products. There is already a global and growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that provides a framework to build on and support.

The judicial dimension: To try all Israeli and other individuals (and the state) for their responsibility for all the crimes (massacres, assassinations, displacement, theft, piracy, murders, rape, kidnapping and more) and flooding the international courts of law and civil rights groups with cases addressing Israeli crimes on all levels. There is a secondary role to this activity which is to direct the world’s attention to the gravity of the various crimes. This should include all institutions that and individuals (even those deceased) who have actively contributed to supporting Zionism so they are recognized for what they are: criminals. There seems to be a need here for a central body that can coordinate the efforts of many research and legal groups.

All the above-mentioned aspects of nonviolent resistance are at the heart of a dignified, prosperous and humane life. The belief in and practice of these values can never be negative or destructive, but is a positive, value-affirming activity.

All efforts need to be directed to the origin of the problem in order to solve it, and the origin here is very clear: Zionism. As for occupation, that is just a symptom.

Ahmad Hijazi is Lebanese writer and researcher on the Arab-Israeli struggle and the effects of media and international opinion on shaping it. His blog is