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The peaceful path to liberty


Why are Palestinians still, in 2014, choosing the path of violent force when other more secure paths to independence and autonomy have proved more successful?

Nelson Mandela & Frederik de Klerk receiving the Nobel Peace Prize after brokering
the end of apartheid in South Africa

Mark Steyn argued in these pages yesterday that Hamas is not interested in independence or autonomy or freedom for Palestinians, but is rather using national liberation as a pretext for terrorism.  Fair assessment.  But Hamas is not all of Palestine.  Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas asked a few weeks ago, from the West Bank: "What do you hope to accomplish with your rockets?"

Israel has an obligation to defend its citizenry from the threat of incoming rocket fire.  And the threat is most serious, even beyond the potential lives lost.  The decision by Air Canada and U.S.-based airlines to suspend flights to Tel Aviv after a rocket landed near Ben Gurion Airport is the nightmare scenario: Israel's only international airport cut off from the world at the whim of rocket fire from Gaza (or in alternative scenarios, the West Bank or southern Lebanon).

The balance of forces means that when Israel defends itself, far more Palestinian lives and property are lost than Israeli.  Palestinians in Gaza suffer most dramatically from the rocket attacks Hamas launches from their midst.

I say this all looks different from Eastern Europe.  The Economist had a special report in its June 28 issue heralding "Poland's golden age," speaking extravagantly about a "second Jagiellonian era."  The next issue had a cover story on the "The tragedy of the Arabs."  At the end of a bloody century in which the jackboot of state terror and lethal totalitarianism stomped all over Eastern Europe, the nonviolent liberation that came 25 years ago remains the most hopeful sign of the age.  Indeed, the possibility of national aspirations and political liberties being achieved — even against tyrant powers — by non-violent means of social solidarity is the great silver lining to the black cloud that was 20th-century politics.

Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King Jr. in the American South were among the first examples.  Polish Solidarity was the most powerful example, the hammer that brought down communism, the Warsaw Pact and soon after the Soviet Union itself.  There were other examples too.  The People Power of Corazon Aquino overthrew the Marcos regime in the Philippines, even as it still enjoyed American support.  Perhaps most remarkable of all, East Timor is now an independent country, having been brutally occupied, annexed and governed by Indonesia for 25 years.  Insignificant in world affairs compared to the Indonesian giant, East Timor was forgotten and left to its fate.  But the continuous witness of its people, non-violent in the face of violence, succeeded in awakening consciences and justice, democracy and independence came in 2002.

Israel has to fight when attacked, but surely weary Palestinians are entitled to a leadership that fights for their cause with non-violent means that may succeed, rather than violence that fails — yet again.

So how it is possible that Poland, carved up and bled dry over two centuries, is now a thriving, prosperous liberal democracy, while the Palestinians are languishing in terror-controlled Gaza?  How is it that poor, forgotten East Timor is a state, and Palestine — with wealthy Arab neighbours, immense foreign aid and the constant attention of the world's media — is now suffering heavy losses in yet another foolish war?

Even if one were to grant the arguments of those who lay all blame at the feet of Israel, it is manifestly not the case that Israel is a tyranny akin to any number of regimes that have been peacefully overthrown.  To those who peddle the odious libel that Israel is an "apartheid state," the relevant observation is that the actual apartheid state gave way to the rainbow nation precisely when Nelson Mandela turned to the path of reconciliation and peaceful change upon his release from prison.  Those who wished to preserve apartheid did their best to provoke and prolong a battle of arms.  They were defeated when Mandela refused to cooperate and pursued instead a winning battle of social solidarity.

Progress for the Palestinians cannot be achieved by another war, the aftermath of which always leaves them worse off.  Israel has to fight when attacked, but surely weary Palestinians are entitled to a leadership that fights for their cause with non-violent means that may succeed, rather than violence that fails — yet again.



Father Raymond J. de Souza, "The peaceful path to liberty." National Post, (Canada) July 24, 2014.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.

The Author

desouza Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Convivium and a Cardus senior fellow, in addition to writing for the National Post and The Catholic Register. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

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