This week, Israeli Knesset passed the anti-boycott bill, which outlaws the non-violent action of economic, academic and cultural boycott. Last week, it attacked another non-violent action, the fly-in campaign, and week before that, it was the flotilla. Every Friday, it oppresses non-violent demonstration in Bil’in, Nabi Saleh and other Palestinian villages.
Let’s look at the fly-in campaign: To the simple question, why Israel behaved so hysterically towards the arrival of international and Palestinian activists through Ben Gurion airport, there is a simple answer: Israel can’t cope with non-violent Palestinian activism.
Israel is a state which has adopted the language of force throughout its existence, and does not know another language. That is why it seems unready whenever it encounters a creative non-violent activity. As a state that exploited the terms “security threat” and “terrorism” to the maximum, Israel is panicked every time she can’t put these labels on acts that oppose her policy. Lately, it looks like the world is not buying this anymore.
That’s why Israel has invested so many diplomatic efforts, used her common interests with Greece, most probably through blackmail to stop the flotilla to Gaza. Israel was so afraid of the flotilla, a non-violent activity, because if the flotilla arrives, Israel will not be able to stop it without using force, which damages its reputation in the world. That’s why Israel was terrified of the activists’ arrival by air. These activists did not come with weapons but with a foreign passport, and asked to enter Israel like any other tourist; the only difference is that they wanted to make a political statement which frightened Israel.
The Palestinian struggle adapted in recent years strategies of nonviolent struggle. This struggle includes a variety of non-violent actions, demonstrations; marches of return to the border, boycott and sailing or flying-in flotillas.
The weekly demonstrations in Bil’in, Ni’lin, Nabi Saleh and other villages in West Bank are part of this non-violent struggle. Israel failed in coping with them; it suppresses them with great violence, which led to many Palestinians killed, and Israelis and internationals injured. Israel prosecutes activists, executes arbitrary arrests and puts them on trial before military courts. Force was the Israeli way to cope with the marches of return on Nakba and Naksa days, shooting live ammunition and killing unarmed protesters.
Similarly, the hysteria of Israel in response of the PLO’s possible bid to the UN shows the same reaction. Every legitimate non-violent action, which Israel is not able to deal with, generates hysteria and panic.
Not only has Israel stuck in the conception of power, but she also sticks its citizens within the same concept. She runs a production machine of constant fear: once by a spin that flotilla ships were loaded with chemical weapons, or by spreading news that violence in the Palestinian territories has risen, or by various military maneuvers in cases of war or a popular uprising, or by stating that September will bring wave of violence by Palestinians.
Even if Israel managed to stop the flotilla, and prevented the entry of activists through its airport, even if it can damage UN resolution in September, It can’t block the influence these activities have on international awareness and moral support to the Palestinian people, and also the possibilities they create for more and more actions. There’s nothing that Israel can do to thwart Palestinian popular non-violent struggle.
The main conclusion is that Israel is banging its head against the wall, and refuses to understand the fact that in this battle, it will lose.
Israel refuses to recognize the fact that there is no occupation that lasts forever, memory does not erase, generations do not forget. Israel refuses to accept that during 63 years of oppression, a new generation arises, who has learned from its parents and grandparents, and inherited their determination to want a free future for their children. The difference is that the new generation is creative, not traditional. Israel, which is used to speak only the language of force, can’t handle the style of activism of this generation.
Abir Kopty is a Palestinian political activist and media analyst. She is a former city council member in Nazareth and former spokeswoman for Mossawa, the Advocacy Center for Palestinian-Arab Citizens in Israel. You can follow her work on her website and on Twitter at @abirkopty.