Nonviolence resistance is a “civilian-based method used to wage conflict through social, psychological, economic and political means without the threat or use of violence”. (Stephan and Chenoweth 2008: 10) It is found outside of the mainstream political channels such as lobbies and legislature. (Stephan and Chenoweth 2008) The use of nonviolent methods of resistance is not new to the Israel-Palestine conflict, but has been traditionally underrepresented in international mainstream media. (Bröning 2011)
Although it wasn’t the first example of such nonviolent initiatives, the first Intifada of 1987 is often cited as one of the main example of nonviolent struggle. It originated as a highly decentralized grassroots resistance movement consisting of coordinated local initiatives. (Stephan 2003) The Palestinian gathered for massive protests, blocking roads and Israeli army movement. People gathered by numbers in the street for funeral processions as a demonstration of nonviolent resistance to the occupation. (Arens and Kaufman 2012) Many non-governmental organizations (NGO) advocating nonviolent resistance were created during that time and were responsible for campaigns such as boycotts of Israeli goods, refusal to work or pay taxes, underground schools and dialogue groups with Israeli supporters of a nonviolent resistance. (Arens and Kaufman 2012). Many scholars have argued that the first intifada was the most effective campaign of the Palestinians and allowed them to raise considerable power. The violent reaction of the Israeli Regime offered a vivid contrast to the nonviolent nature of the Palestinian demonstrations and helped raise awareness and international, as well as national, support for the Palestinian cause. (Hijab 2009)
There has also been a shift in grassroots organization working toward reconciliation and peace before and after the Oslo Accord of 1993. One of the main critic of the project predating 1993 was that they reproduced the power asymmetry between Israel and Palestine. For example, before the Oslo Accord, many Israeli groups supporting and advocating for a two-state solution failed to address other central issues for Palestinian groups and to see them as equal partners in the peace process. (Palestine Center) The Palestinian groups on the other hand were mainly focused on uniting against the occupation and creating a backchannel dialogue aiming at putting the Palestinian cause on the international stage. Post-1993 however, the Palestinian grassroots movement shifted their focus toward human rights, political awareness and socio-economic development concerns and more joint Israeli-Palestinian organization were created. (Palestine Center).
Contrary to the general assumption that violent struggles are more efficient and more likely to succeed than nonviolent resistance, many studies have found that commitment to nonviolence is more likely to succeed. (Stephan and Chenoweth 2008) In a study published by Stephan and Chenoweth (2008), the authors explored the strategic effectiveness of violent and nonviolent resistance in conflict between states and non-state actors. They drew their data from 323 campaigns between 1900 and 2006 and found that nonviolent campaigns were successful in 53% of the cases while violent resistance led to success in only 26% of them. (Stephan and Chenoweth 2008). They explain such results by two decisive factors, first nonviolent campaign gain more domestic and international legitimacy and encourage a broader participation in the movement, which increases the pressure on the target. Second, they argue that a regime use of violence against a nonviolent resistance is likely to backfire, costing the regime international and/or domestic support and even leading to international sanctions. (Stephan and Chenoweth 2008).
Kaufman and Eylon (2003) also conducted a study exploring 26 cases of nonviolent struggles and evaluated their strategic results and the societal level from which they originated. They found that 66.7% of the campaigns were successful and that most were regional movements. (as cited in Arens and Kaufman. 2012) Bröning (Bröning 2011) and Hijab (2009) both agree that grassroots nonviolent resistance is the logical answer for peace building in the Israel-Palestine conflict as was demonstrated by the contrast between the first and second Intifada. As previously stated during the first years of the 1987 Intifada, the resistance was mainly nonviolent and lead by grassroots local organizations, it raised international and domestic support and according to Hijab was the most power the Palestinians had ever yield for their cause. On the opposite, the second intifada used more violent means and led to loss of international support, legitimized the Israeli use of force, lowered Palestinian living standards and weakened the position of the Palestinian Authority in the negotiations with Israel. (Bröning 2011, Hijab 2009)
Although grassroots initiatives cannot replace elite led diplomacy and negotiations, they are necessary for creating a culture of peace and “break through the cognitive wall that often inhibits the success of formal negotiations and contributes to escalated violence” (Palestinian center: 3) In other words, in order for elite led negotiation to work and be supported by both civil societies, there need to be a close cooperation with grassroots initiatives. This issue was made salient by Abu-Nimer (2004) when exploring the consequences of the separation of the negotiations process and grassroots religious interfaith groups. He argues that the association of the peace process with secularization leads to the alienation of a significant part of both civil societies and that by including religious leaders working toward reconciliation and peace, the political peace negotiations could gain broad popular support and legitimacy on both sides. (Abu-Nimer 2004)
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