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Can non-violent resistance work?

Claudia Bradshaw Claudia Bradshaw | 10:54 UK time, Wednesday, 7 April 2010

While peace negotiations with Israel barely seem even a distant hope these days, Palestinian leaders in the West Bank are trying out a new 'non-violent' strategy. The Palestinian Prime Minister has been planting trees in areas that are officially off limits and former commandos have been joining unarmed protest marches. Fatah commissioner for international relations Nabil Sha'ath has said that 'the best answer to the Israeli occupation was non-violent resistance' and these efforts would be supported by Fatah.

The Palestinian authority has banned the sale of Israeli sim cards because mobile phone towers are often located in settlements. And a Palestinian campaign to stop buying settlers' goods has billboards featuring a pointed finger and the slogan "Your conscience, your choice."

Khalil Shikaki, who runs the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah has doubts about Palestinian support: "The public believes that Israel responds to suffering, not to nonviolent resistance. But there is also not much interest in violence now."

And writing in Israeli paper Haaretz, Bradley Burston thinks Palestinians have already failed the non-violence test. Citing a poorly attended demonstration in Gaza, he says Palestinians 'marked the occasion by launching a barrage of Qassam rockets against Sderot' in Israel.

An international academic boycott of Israel has drawn a lot of criticism in the past. What about non-violence in other countries or situations? This blogger was discouraged by the 'failed' uprising by monks in Burma in 2007.

But last year the world celebrated the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet revolutions in Easter Europe.

And a study by Harvard academics says that from 2000 to 2006 nonviolence methods like boycotts, strikes and protests were successful in Serbia, Madagascar,
Georgia and Ukraine, Lebanon and Nepal. They claim that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent ones.

Can non violent resistance work in today's world?

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