x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Peaceful tactics exert pressure for Palestinians

Land Day rallies are an annual feature in the Occupied Territory, but non-violent resistance to Israel's occupation has never been more urgent. And we have seen how effective it can be.

On Friday, thousands of Palestinians protested in several rallies to mark Land Day. Such rallies have taken place every year since Israeli soldiers killed six Palestinians in 1976. But this year's rallies - in which at least one protester was killed - are particularly significant because non-violent resistance is gaining momentum in the Palestinian Territory.

And given Israel's breakneck settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, a renewed urgency is all the more important.

Calls for non-violent, popular resistance have been heard throughout the Palestinian struggle, but those calls have often been undermined since the first Intifada by armed resistance. The breakdown in negotiations - and the repeated failures of armed resistance - have pushed both Fatah and Hamas towards a more constructive strategy.

The Beirut-based Al Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, a think-tank that is close to Hamas, said in a report last week that the absence of armed resistance in the West Bank and the relative calm in Gaza have led to non-violent resistance becoming a "common denominator" between the factions.

With justice on their side, Palestinians can use popular resistance to put more pressure on Israel and, crucially, to gain support from the international community. The Palestinian Authority's petition for recognition of statehood at the United Nations was the strongest diplomatic push of the past decade. Those efforts, overturned by US intransigence, should be renewed as soon as possible.

Hamas has a crucial role to play. Al Zaytouna Centre's report said the group seeks three things from non-violent resistance: changing the perception of it as a "terrorist" group, mobilising the Palestinian community by reconciling with Fatah and reducing the pressure on its members in the West Bank.

Hamas must stick to these points, and join Fatah in a strategy of peaceful resistance. As Israel appropriates more territory every day, the clock is ticking on a viable Palestinian state. Empty slogans and partisanship only benefit Israel.

In turn, the Palestinian Authority and Fatah need to offer Hamas space in governing, not to mention stand up to possible US and Israeli reprisals. Divisions have already weakened ordinary Palestinians' spirit of resistance.

Israel's unjust policies are facing growing opposition abroad, particularly in Europe. Quite simply, Israel loses if confronted by justified, peaceful resistance.