After Arafat, an opportunity for non-violence
Timid voices of another Palestinian "liberation": a strong "no" to terrorism, "yes" to peaceful activism for independence and coexistence with Israel.

Timid voices of another Palestinian "liberation": a strong "no" to terrorism, "yes" to peaceful activism for independence and coexistence with Israel

Arafat's exit from the scene will no doubt set off tensions within Palestine's leadership.  Yet, however things go for the presidency of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), no one can deny the fact that the number of non-violent initiatives are on the rise within Palestinian civil society.  These are voices and experiences that are often overlooked; at this delicate turning point, however, they serve as alternative options to the policies pushed forward by Arafat and his followers.

In the December issue of Mondo e Missione, the monthly magazine of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), Giuseppe Caffulli states that future Palestinian leaders will have to take into account the timid but clear signals that in recent years have been coming out of the "pacifist" wing of Palestinian society.

"If it is true, "Caffulli writes, "that the influence of Islamic fundamentalist fringes is growing, that suicide attacks have not let up, and that not a night passes that TV Muslim preachers incite hatred for Israel, it is also true that a far from marginal component of Palestinians also exists that wants to see an end to violence and believes that a path of peace and coexistence with Israel is possible."

One of these components, according to Caffulli, is the "Forum for peace and democracy", the Secretary General of which, Saman Khoury, took part in the Geneva Accords.  "I met him last June in Jerusalem, where he told me: We try to let non-violent voices be heard by our politicians, so that they feel themselves pulled more and more toward real efforts in favour of peace".

The call to non-violence was also stressed by a group of Muslim and Christian intellectuals, in an article that appeared in the PNA's daily Al Ayyam, under the title "The way to independence and peace", which took a determined and unswerving position against the strategy of terror.

The opportunity for non-violence was also indicated, last August, through another initiative promoted by a Palestinian diaspora group, "Palestinians for peace in democracy", working out of San Antonio, Texas, in collaboration with an Israeli pacifist NGO. The focal point of their initiative was a visit by Gandhi's grandson to Israel and the Territories. The event gathered thousands of activists and supporters of non-violence in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.