SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 26
April 1, 2002

PALESTINIAN NONVIOLENCE: A ROAD NOT TAKEN

Late last month, Palestinian television stations began broadcasting a six-part series on the history and practice of nonviolent resistance. With the ascendance of Palestinian suicide bombers, however, the Palestinian resistance to Israel has embarked on a radically opposite course.

The TV series, entitled "More Effective Force," was favorably reviewed by PLO official and Bir Zeit University philosophy professor Sari Nusseibeh, writing in the Arabic newspaper Al Quds.

"Resorting to the strategy of nonviolence and its weapons by a primarily unarmed people can directly deprive the Israelis of the advantage of being the stronger military power," Prof. Nusseibeh wrote. "It will redefine the rules of the game in the battlefield and enable the unarmed Palestinians laboring under the burden of occupation to take the initiative and launch an attack that cannot be repulsed."

See his March 20 commentary, translated by the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service, here:

Prof. Nusseibeh's published remarks stress the tactical advantages of nonviolent resistance, but do not quite encompass its philosophical underpinnings of loving the enemy.

"My non-cooperation has its root not in hatred, but in love," Gandhi wrote. ("National Independence in Not Enough").

Likewise, Martin Luther King admonished an angry crowd after his house was bombed: "We want to love our enemies -- be good to them. This is what we must live by, we must meet hate with love. We must love our white brothers no matter what they do to us." (Quoted lately by K. Anthony Appiah in the New York Review of Books).

Love of Israel is not a prominent theme in Prof. Nusseibeh's essay, which also includes not a word of criticism of Palestinian violence and goes so far as to say that the "Palestinian struggle is one of the few brilliant examples in the history of struggles for national independence."

It is pointless to criticize Palestinians or Israelis for not achieving the ideal of Gandhian nonviolence. Hardly anyone has achieved it.

But an understanding of that ideal helps to illuminate the profound evil of the suicide bombers, who have nevertheless been embraced as "martyrs" by the Palestinian mainstream.

Briefly put, the practice of nonviolent resistance (ahimsa) affirms the humanity of one's opponent even when that opponent is acting with the utmost injustice. Under the right circumstances, nonviolence can elicit a change of consciousness in the opponent, while laying the foundation for a common future. As improbable as it sounds, its truth has actually been demonstrated.

By contrast, the suicide bombers negate the humanity both of their targets and of themselves, while undermining any hope for a common future. As embodiments of radical hatred, these murderers deliberately seek to kill non-combatants, and do not distinguish between young and old, or even, most recently, between Arab and Jew. Theirs is a mindset that has the potential to extinguish life on Earth.

Unless the Palestinians can find it within themselves to delegitimize the cult of murder-suicide, they will continue to pose a danger to their neighbors and themselves, and any future independence they may win will be unstable.

"I cannot love Moslems or Hindus and hate Englishmen," Gandhi wrote. "For if I love merely Hindus and Moslems because their ways are on the whole pleasing to me, I shall soon begin to hate them when their ways displease me, as they may well do any moment."


STATE DEPT HISTORIANS WARN OF "FRICTION" WITH CIA

"Significant friction between the [State Department Historian's Office] and the CIA ... frustrated the timely compilation and publication" of the official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, according to the latest annual report of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee.

"The CIA continues to deny HO [Historian's Office] historians the right to quote or cite material from the President's Daily Briefs (PDBs)," wrote Committee Chair Robert D. Schulzinger in a cover letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell. "The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) denies HO historians the ability to consult, cite or quote PFIAB records."

"These denials set a dangerous precedent and may compromise the integrity of future FRUS volumes," Prof. Schulzinger wrote.

"The FRUS series is a jewel in American democracy," the new annual report said.

The report referred discreetly to the CIA's continuing efforts to block release of a pending FRUS volume on Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, which it termed "a vexing issue."

The report was transmitted to the Secretary of State on February 28 and made publicly available last week. The text is posted here:

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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