Refusing to be Enemies – Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation. Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta. Ithaca Press (Garnet Publishing, Reading, UK), 2011.
Courtesy of: Journal: Dave Greenfield, The Canadian Friend, page 22, December 2010 (Volume 106, Number 5), Argenta, BC Canada, Canada
Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta is a Canadian Jewish-Quaker activist, with over twenty years experience working with nonviolent anti-occupation activists in Israel and occupied Palestine.
The book has two underlying premises: the belief that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – since 1967 – is fundamentally wrong and illegal under international law; that Israel must withdraw from these lands. She believes the only way to force Israel to withdraw is through massive nonviolent resistance in Palestine, Israel, and the international community.
The book opens with Maxine introducing us to several Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent activists who tell us why they chose nonviolence, and why they got involved in activism against the occupation. Through their voices the book reflects on the last several decades of nonviolent activism in Israel/Palestine, the successes, failures and challenges of nonviolent organizing, and on the activists’ hopes and visions for the future.
It discusses the work of Israeli organizations like New Profile, which uses the power of the word to challenge the increasing militaristic nature of Israeli society; the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition which works in solidarity with Palestinians, using direct nonviolent action to resist the bulldozing of Palestinian homes; joint organizations like Combatants for Peace, which consists of former combatants from both sides who have now committed themselves to peace-building; Palestinian civil societies, like the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement Between People, which teaches the skills of nonviolent resistance to the people of occupied Palestine.
One theme that recurs throughout is that nonviolent resistance is popular resistance. Active nonviolence allows entire oppressed communities to mobilize through boycotts, strikes, blockades, peaceful demonstrations and trespassing.
Many of the activists look back favourably to the First Intifada, from 1987 to 1993, when a largely nonviolent grass roots uprising occurred in occupied Palestine. The decision-making power was very much in the hands of the community. In 1994, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership returned to Occupied Palestine and imposed a very strong state structure on the West Bank and Gaza. This marginalized the civil society that had emerged in the preceding years. The Second Intifada since the fall of 2000 has been a much more state-centred operation,
with a more militarized focus. While a new wave of nonviolent resistance has emerged since 2000, its practitioners have often felt marginalized by the official channels of the state-based Palestinian struggle. (I use the term, state, in this paragraph rather loosely, since the Palestinian Authority might best be called a kind of quasi-state, with authoritarian institutions typical of a state, but without real autonomy or international recognition.)
While the book celebrates the many people and groups dedicated to nonviolence, it is honest about their frustrations. In Chapter Five, you feel the warmth and joy of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals gathered around a camp fire in the village of Bil’in, where grassroots Palestinians have maintained an ongoing nonviolent protest since 2005. In Chapter Six, you share the pain and frustration of activists who
talk about how marginalized the path of nonviolent resistance often is, in both Palestinian and Israeli society. Then in Chapters Eight and Nine, you share the hopes and dreams that the anti-occupation activists have for the future of Palestine and Israel.
Four reflective essays by individual thinkeractivists round out the book, and help ground the spiritual energy of the journey the book has taken. A bibliography and a list of related web sites invite the reader to explore these topics further.
There is perhaps one weakness in the book. It would have been helpful to have a first chapter that set forth the chronological background to the current situation, stating what happened in 1947, 1948-49, 1967 and 1987. An explanation is needed of how and why the Israeli occupation is illegal under international law, and describes the general nature of the occupation. Just as many in North America are unaware of nonviolent activism in Palestine and Israel; many are profoundly ignorant of the general historical facts. As it is, the reader pieces things together chapter
by chapter, or has to go elsewhere for historical background.
I agree with Ursula Franklin’s opening words. “This is an important book.” Every open-minded North American should read it, and more importantly, act upon it.
Saskatoon Monthly Meeting