ARAB VIOLENCE AND NONVIOLENCE
In these dark days of Western Islamophobia and international terrorism, in which many Arabs are implicated, the Arabs are considered as a people bent on violence, war and bloodshed. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing in Arab history which can be compared with what was going on in Europe up to the end of World War II. It is true that the Arabs are very emotional and volatile which makes them prone to explosive outbursts in words and deeds, but they soon give way. I find that their main problem is, in fact, their love for the joie de vivre, to enjoy life with the least effort.
One of the most common myths is that the Arabs are a nation of terrible warriers who swept through the old world from China to Europe within barely half a century. The truth, however, is that the Arabs had no military discipline or traditions comparable with those of the Spartan warriors, the Prussian Junkers, the Japanese Samurai or the Indian Karali. Despite all their concern for personal dignity, the Arabs have never treated flight or defeat as so dishonorable as to justify suicide. “Flight is two thirds of valor,” is a common Arabic saying. When Imam Ali prevailed on his opponent, Ibn al-As, and prepared to kill him, Ibn al-As turned his back to him and exposed his bottom, whereupon Ali had to draw back his sword in disgust.
Their great conquests, as described by General Glubb, were casual affairs made possible by the fact that there were no great powers at the time to oppose them. Long wars had exhausted the Persian and the Byzantine empires completely. The Spaniards were at each other throats. As soon as the Arabs had completed their conquests, they settled down to enjoy the luxuries of Damascus, Jerusalem and Andalusia. They threw away their swords and indulged themselves in a life of comfort, music and literature, leaving the defense of their land to the Persians, Turks, Berbers and Mamluks. They had never bothered to develop any military machine comparable with that of the Romans or the Greeks. The caliphs soon left each region to its own devices and took little notice if any one decided to split away, so much so that after barely some three centuries, their sway hardly extended beyond the boundaries of Baghdad, which was soon delivered to the Moguls without shedding a single drop of blood in its defense. ‘War is not for them’, General Moshe Dayan said after the 1967 War.
The faith they have developed, Islam, differed from most other religions in putting life before God. A Muslim is not only permitted but rather required to deny his faith if and when his life is under threat, an idea which became the foundation for the ‘taqiyya’ (avoidance) concept. Islam has had no martyrs comparable to the Jewish martyrs of Massada or the Christian martyrs of the Roman Coliseum.
A great deal has been written about the Arab and Muslim contributions to human heritage and the Renaissance, but the bulk of these contributions were within the fields of science, arts, philosophy and lifestyle, with hardly anything accountable in the area of war and warfare. Almost all military innovations, including the introduction of the horse, the stirrup, gunpowder, the tank and nuclear bombs, were made outside the Middle East. One look at the English dictionary can satisfy the reader that the bulk of words of Arabic origin fall within the fields of science and culture, like algebra, alchemy, alcohol, alkali, alizarine, or related to the style of sophisticated living like alcove, alpaca, damask, mascara, muslin, etc. I could never find any military term borrowed by the Europeans from Arabic origin. Western women learnt from the Arabs the use of perfumery, mascara, and cosmetics as well as the introduction of spices and saffron in cookery.
‘Jihad’ is one of the words which has been so widely misunderstood and misapplied. Linguistically, it only means struggle or striving, as may be inferred from so many verses in the Koran (e.g., verse 15 of Surat Luqman and verse 73 of Surat al-Tauba) The leading theologians divided Jihad into three categories:
1. The Jihad against the visible enemy.
2. The Jihad against the devil.
3. The Jihad against one’s own self and weakness.
The Sufis combined the last two forms into one which they called al-Jihad al-Akbar( major Jihad) which involved the struggle against evil, injustice, greed and lust. The fight against the visible enemy constituted al-Jihad al-Asghar (minor Jihad). Al-Bajuri based his opinion in this concept on the saying of the Prophet Muhammad upon his return from battle. He said: ’We return from the minor Jihad to the major Jihad.’ The Prophet underlined this idea on many occasions as when he said,’ The strong is not the one of combat but the one who overcomes himself in time of anger.’ It was noted that there are 124 verses in the Koran preaching forgiveness, patience and tolerance, something which is reaffirmed by many instances in the conduct and sayings of Muhammad himself. ‘Sabr’, (patience) is another concept advocated in some 103 verses recommending nonviolent dealing with enemies. ‘Seek thy succor in patience and prayer.’
There are various aspects and instances in the life of the Prophet which project a character in line with the philosophy of nonviolence, especially in his early mission in Mecca. The idolaters used to torment him and his followers in a variety of ways, like throwing offal and filth on them when they were making their prayers. In one instance, his companions drew their swords to avenge his honor, but he hastened to restrain them, saying,’ I am not instructed to fight.’ His migration to the City of Medina, which led to the formation of the first Islamic government and foundation of an Islamic state, dictated a change of approach. He had to act like any other government and rely on arms. This role, however, is often exaggerated by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is generally assumed that the spread of the new faith in Arabia was achieved by means of arms. Yet, careful examination shows that most of the tribes and regions, like Oman, Yemen and Bahrain, were won over by skilful diplomacy, propaganda, persuasion and good example. ‘Al-Amin’ (the Just) was the nickname given to him by the tribes who often entrusted him in settling their disputes.
Emigration, boycott and self exile from the land of oppression and from the hands of an unjust ruler is a recognized nonviolent means of resistance. One of the most important events in the history of Islam and the Middle East was Muhammad’s decision to emigrate from Mecca to Medina with his small band of followers. The idolaters realized how serious was this strategic move of ‘hijra’ (emigration) and pursued him, but he miraculously escaped. Muslims understood the significance of that act and immortalized it by establishing it as the beginning of the Islamic Hijra calendar. The hijra has two aspects in Islam. The first is spiritual in the sense of giving up the wrongdoing. The second is the physical emigration from the land of wrongdoing. Many political and religious movements in the history of Islam were given the name of hijra and muhajireen( emigrants) . I think that the mass emigration of intellectuals, scholars and professionals from Iraq and their subsequent political agitation abroad were one of the contributory factors in the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime. More recently it was reported, in January 2008, that many leading intellectual figures in Turkey , including the novelist and Nobel Prize winner Orham Tamuk and the eminent pianist Fadhil Say, had threatened to leave the country in protest against the Islamist policies of their government (The Government of the Justice and Development Party). This is a very significant and commendable development. It seems that the boot is now on the other foot. Instead of the government threatening to arrest or exile intellectuals for their politics, it is now the intellectuals who are threatening to leave and go into exile on account of government policies. A new advance in the nonviolent movement.
One of Muhammad’s memorable and controversial achievements was the Hudaibia Peace Treaty with his enemies, the idolaters of Mecca. The treaty was disliked and opposed by his companions who thought it had given too many concessions. But Muhammad preferred to enter Mecca peacefully and with the consent of its inhabitants rather than by the force of arms and conquest. His approach was a forerunner of Gandhi’s advice: Hold on to the basic objective and negotiate the details. The eventual peaceful entry resulted in the conversion of all its inhabitants to Islam. The Hudaibia gesture became one of the main cornerstones in the history of Islam, proving that the olive branch is mightier than the sword.
An important quality in Muhammad’s character relevant to nonviolence is his love of humor, the surest way for vitiating the spirit of violence, according to Freud, that may single him out as the only laughing prophet in monotheism, as far as we know. Again, there are many anecdotes in this respect as well as many sayings in which he urged his followers to seek innocent diversion in humor for their own good.
One of the main abominations which used to wreck the life of Arabia and is still the cause of so much bloodshed in the Middle East and Africa is tribalism. Muhammad’s great endeavor in this respect was to bring all the Arab clans together by embracing the brotherhood of Islam and in warning the Muslims against tribal bigotry. ‘He who adheres to tribalism (asabiyah), fights in the name of tribalism or dies in the cause of tribalism is not one of us.’ The fight against tribalism was extended to become a fight against all forms of conflict, so much so that ‘islah that al bayn’ (reconciliation) became a basic tenet of Islam competing in importance with the very worship of God. ‘Shall I advise you of something higher in degree than fasting, prayer, and charity? It is reconciliation.’ This hadith was given another form quoted by al-Tabari, ‘Shall I lead you to a charity beloved by God and his Messenger? It is to effect reconciliation between peoples when they hate each other and harbor evil towards each other.’ In reply to a man who asked him what was the best thing in Islam, he replied, ‘Give hospitality and say peace to those whom you know and those whom you don’t know.’ Likewise, the Koran has many verses emphasizing the virtue and wisdom of reconciliation, which are often repeated by Muslims in time of dispute, ‘Push with that which is better and you will find the one with whom you have hostility becoming like a close ally.’(Verse 34/ Surat Ha’ Mim).
Arabic literature and Muslim theology are full of anecdotes and pronouncements illustrating Muhammad’s aversion to violence, enmities and cruelty to animals. He even admonished one of his companions for cursing a flea. ‘Fleas are good’, he told him. ‘They wake you up to do your prayers’.
Was the aversion to violence and the tragic bloody events of early Islam a cause behind what is observed as Muslim submissiveness to tyranny? Muslim theologians differed on the subject. There were those who preached absolute obedience to avoid the ‘fitna’ (strife) and others, like Ja’far al-Sadiq, who said a Muslim owed no obedience to an unjust ruler. ‘He who obeys an unjust ruler disobeys his faith.’ Some Medieval Muslim theologians made tentative attempts to formulate opinion in regard to the distinction between violence and nonviolence. Both al-Ghazali and Ibn Taymiah argued that a Muslim owed no obedience to a ruler who violated the Shari’a, i.e. did not rule justly and in accordance with God’s commandments. But if it was found that there was no way to remove him without resort to the sword, then it would be better to leave him in office to avoid the ‘fitna’ .The opinion here is a clear espousal of nonviolence as the only means of resistance open to the Muslim community. Some Muslims, like the Sufis and Ishmaelis, rejected the use of violence altogether. The Druze in the Levant preached obedience and allegiance to any authority in office, which explains their ready acceptance of Israeli rule and recruitment into the Israeli army. The bulk of Muslims in India, led by the remarkable Abd al-Ghaffar Khan, rallied to the banner of Gandhi’s campaign of nonviolence and formulated their own Muslim theology on this subject. Muhammad Tayibullah updated Islamic theology to include the Hindus and Buddhists in the community of the ‘People of the Book’ and went on to adapt Gandhi’s satyagraha into the Muslim nonviolent movement of the Khodai Khidmatcar. When Gandhi declared the campaign of civil disobedience against the British, Indian Muslims found ample material in Muslim political thought, as mentioned above, to justify joining in the campaign under the Islamic slogan of ‘Tark Muwalat’ (Withdrawal of obedience).
More recently, the Iranians successfully applied the technique of nonviolence in opposing and eventually toppling the Shah. They did so by a series of crucial industrial and student strikes as well as by the mass demonstrations held repeatedly in Tehran with flowers and copies of the Holy Koran held in their hands and over their heads. Local cafes went on clandestinely playing Khomeini’s moving speeches and invocations to rise and resist. An American military adviser saw a woman demonstrator giving a flower to a soldier. He took it and put it in the barrel of his rifle. ‘This is the end of the Shah,’ the American officer murmured to himself. The Shah was disabled from taking any effective counteraction by the power of the clergy whose elaborate network penetrated the entire society. His difficulties were certainly more compounded by his opponents’ refusal to use violence against his regime for had they done so, they would have given him the legitimate and moral justification to use his mighty army and crush them with force. This was not the first or only nonviolent achievement of the Shi’i clergy in Iran. Early in the twentieth century, they led the struggle for the ‘Mashrutiah’ movement which succeeded in imposing constitutional and parliamentary rule on the Shah. The Islamic Revolution of Khomeini should serve as a good case study in Muslim nonviolent resistance and struggle against tyranny, corruption, foreign domination and imperialist exploitation without any need for the gun and the bomb.
The institution of the mosque played an important nonviolent part in the Islamic Revolution of Iran as in other parts of the Islamic World, like the part played by the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem, al-Azhar in Egypt, the Najaf and the Haydarkhana Mosque in Iraq. Governments find it very difficult to send in their troops, invade a holy place, interrupt prayers and arrest an imam during his sermon. With their emotions brought to a pitch, the worshippers leave en masse to demonstrate and defy the security forces with the shrill call of ‘ Allahu Akbar!’ (God is Greater). The seasonal martyrdom processions of the Shi’is have often turned into political demonstrations and clashes with the police.
During the first Palestinian intifadha (uprising), which was 80% nonviolent according to Gene Sharp’s estimate, the Palestinian activists sought refuge in the sanctuary of the mosques where they began to hold study groups after prayers. They would come out to demonstrate in the mosque square, stick their national flag on the minaret and turn the iwans into classrooms when the authorities closed their schools. According to a report by al-Sharq al-Awsat (15/10/1989) the number of mosques in Gaza increased during the Israeli occupation from 70 to 180. It is noteworthy that the Christian Arabs have often joined their Muslim brothers in the political activities connected with the mosques.
This joint national effort has a long history extending back to the early days of the twentieth century when the Christian Najib Nasser issued, in 1909, his magazine, al-Karmal, in which he agitated against the Zionist plan and emphasized the importance of raising the consciousness and educational standard of the Arab masses. As the Zionists started to smuggle Jews into the country, he organized teams of Arab scouts to keep a vigil on the coast of Palestine and apprehend the intruders. The problem of forging a national unity was tackled by the chain of the Muslim-Christian societies which existed in all major cities with their emblem of the cross embracing the crescent. The federation of these societies held seven conferences from 1919 to 1928 and shouldered the responsibilities of organizing demonstrations, delegations, strikes, boycotts and related nonviolent actions, but their main achievement was the building up of a national unity and laying the foundations for the national political parties. Najib Nasser’s call for more education became a political Palestinian slogan leading to the establishment of a chain of schools, institutes, colleges and research centers which have distinguished the Palestinians among all Arabs with their high rates of literacy, education, scholarship, professionalism and political awareness.
The joint Christian-Muslim action resulted also in the formation of local committees whose members were dispatched to the various towns and villages to implement the boycott of Jewish products, shops and businesses and to engage in that grey area of nonviolent action by the destruction of goods and equipment and setting fire to commercial premises without harming the human beings. This direct action forced the Ottoman Prime Minister to issue, in 1911, a declaration of a pledge to oppose the Zionist programme.
On 27 February 1920, al-Karmal reported a mass demonstration staged by the worshippers after the Friday prayers led by the Mufti (The Muslim senior imam) himself and members of the Muslim Society against the statements of the British High Commissioner. The demonstrators marched towards the Catholic Church where they were joined by the bishops of all the Christian denominations and a large Christian contingent numbering a few thousand people to
lodge a joint protest against the British Mandate policy. We have here so many lessons worthy of note for all these latter day Muslim extremists who view the world in terms of a Christian crusade against Islam. As far as the Palestine Question is concerned, it was actually the Christian Arabs who initiated the struggle against the Zionist project in the first place.
The nonviolent campaigns of Mahatma Gandhi in India coincided with the political struggle of the Arab peoples in Egypt, Iraq and Syria to achieve a similar objective, i.e. national independence. The Iraqis achieved their ambition through their armed struggle, but the Egyptians adhered to their own nonviolent resistance based on agitation and demonstrations. Gandhi’s methods attracted the attention and admiration of Arab leaders and political thinkers, despite all their conventional belief in the sword. In Iraq, the opposition parties, including the powerful Iraqi Communist Party which was supposed to believe in the revolution of the proletariat, stuck to nonviolent means within and outside the parliament. The usual methods adopted were mass demonstrations, industrial and student strikes, sit-ins, hunger strikes, petitions and propaganda. The campaign culminated in the ‘wathba’ (uprising) of l948. The British Labor Government of Attlee persuaded the Iraqi Government of Salih Jabr to replace the old Anglo-Iraqi treaty by a new friendship treaty which was signed by the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Bevin, and the Iraqi Prime Minister in Portsmouth. The treaty allowed Britain to maintain military bases in Iraq. As soon as the news of its provisions were released, the Iraqi opposition dissociated themselves from it and called for its cancellation. The students declared a strike and marched into Rashid Street, Baghdad’s main artery, where they were soon joined by other sections of the population. The police were sent in to quell the peaceful uprising with fire. Scores of young people were killed or injured. But the demonstrators were not intimidated or drawn into foolish acts of rampage, stone throwing or other forms of counter-violence. They simply went on to renew the very orderly and well organized peaceful challenge day after day, sacrificing more and more martyrs in almost satyagraha style, until they broke the will of the Government. Salih Jabr was forced by the Prince Regent to submit his resignation and a new Government was formed by a religious cleric, Shaikh Muhammad al-Sadr, who cancelled the treaty forthwith. The Wathba was destined to become a memorable nonviolent resistance event in the history of modern Iraq immortalized in many famous pieces of poetry, including the oft-cited poem of al-Jawahiri. It was Salih Jabr who had to leave the country and spend the rest of his life in exile.
In Egypt, the movement for ‘istiqlal’( independence) was led by the Sorbonne graduate lawyer, Saad Zaghlul, in a completely nonviolent method. Soon after the Great War, he launched the campaign with a call for the boycott of all British, and then all European goods, including the national headgear of the fez. Britain wanted to outflank him by negotiating with Adli Yakuna a sham-independence. The authorities organized great celebrations to welcome him with flags, banners and triumphant arches. Zaghlul called on the people to ‘let the delegation pass like a funeral procession in an empty street.’ The cavalcade passed through deserted streets with closed shops, shuttered windows, no trams, no buses, no cars, no carriages. The following day Yakun submitted his resignation and inspired Mustafa Amin to write: ‘For the first time in history, silence became an eloquent expression and a revolutionary act far more effective than any street fighting.’ The British responded by exiling Saad Zaghlul and other nationalist leaders to Malta and banning any mention of his name. The Egyptians replied by launching the ‘Long live Saad’ campaign. They busied themselves by stamping all bank notes with that slogan. The authorities ordered the withdrawal of all such notes and replaced them with new ones. Rumors circulated that the fellaheen saw the leaves of their plants growing with ‘Long live Saad’ on the foliage. A doctor examining an expectant woman heard the fetus whimpering, with the will of Allah, ‘Long live Saad!’ The popular singer Munira al-Mahdiya sang, ‘O dates of Zghlul! O sweet dates of Zaghlul!’ The song instantly became a hit. The Reuter correspondent reported: ‘Anyone walking the streets of any Egyptian town will conclude that the whole nation - men, women and children have become street vendors selling a product called Zaghlul dates.’
Part of the nonviolent campaign was the development of a ‘noise bomb’, making a terrible noise without hurting anyone. A noise bomb was thrown at the stooge Prime Minister, Muhammad Said, who found the noise sufficient for him to tender his resignation and retire.
The similar slogan of ‘Bring back Yusif’, the Sultan of Morocco who was exiled to Madagascar for demanding independence, echoed throughout his country when the Moroccans declared a state of mourning during his exile. Houses were left unpainted. Frivolity, ostentation and drinking were punished and tobacco ( a French monopoly) was banned. Shops which sold cigarettes were burnt. Even fasting in Ramadan was broken, as Muslims don’t fast when in mourning. The regime of the quisling, Sultan Ben Arafa, was boycotted, so much so that even when he sacrificed a lamb in his gardens for the Id al-Adha, only very few individuals attended the traditional ceremony. Nothing was left for the French but to bring back the legitimate Sultan and grant independence to Morocco.
Another Muslim nonviolent resistance was recorded in Afghanistan during the communist occupation. As soon as the Soviet troops entered the capital in 1979, the country’s academics and intellectuals formed the Ittihad Milli Front( The People’s United Front) which undertook the task of publishing underground anti-communist material, including the Shapnama( The Night Message) news sheet. When a ceremony was held to salute the new flag, the Shapnama urged the students not to attend. Instead, they formed a mass anti-government demonstration which was attacked by the police, killing some sixty young people.
In Kuwait, a different kind of nonviolent method was adopted by the population against Saddam Hussein’s occupation of the country, based on non-cooperation. Saddam formulated his policy on the spurious claim that he was invited by pan-Arab Kuwaitis to rid them of the ruling family. He set up a kangaroo government with the hope of assuming some semblance of authority and credibility. The Kuwaitis replied by a complete boycott and went on to maintain a strict policy of non-cooperation with the new administration. Internally, they set up a successful network of cooperation, self help and exchange of information among themselves. It was almost a parallel government with its own medical care, education, welfare and jurisdiction. Young men undertook the burial of the dead, sweeping the streets and collecting the garbage. Reminiscent of Denmark’s treatment of the Nazis, the Kuwaitis applied the same ‘cold shoulder’ approach in their dealing with the occupation soldiers. This work was supplemented with an intensive and expensive propaganda campaign abroad. Skilful fiscal measures adopted speedily prevented Saddam from laying his hands on Kuwait’s enormous funds. Saddam had no option, in the end, but to go back to his characteristic style of terror and suppression without ever succeeding in his effort to break the will of the Kuwaitis into acquiescence to his rule.
The struggle of Palestine gave, in its initial stage, a magnificent chapter of nonviolence resistance, clearly influenced by the work of Gandhi in India. The Palestinian leaders were, in fact, very apprehensive and hesitant in adopting any nonviolent measure which might lead to violence, like the refusal to pay taxes. The initial work was based on boycott and non -cooperation with the British authorities. The Istiqlal Party formulated the guiding principles as firstly, the boycott of all government and Jewish functions, clubs and societies. Secondly, the boycott of all government committees and councils. Thirdly, the non-payment of taxes and fourthly, the boycott of all Jewish and British products and businesses. The resulting vacuums were tackled by such initiative as encouraging Palestinian industries and traditional crafts, setting up the Arab Agricultural Bank, the Arab Industrial Bank and the very successful Arab Bank. When the authorities arranged an election, in 1922, the imams preached in support of the boycott. The High Commissioner warned the imams that they were using the mosques for political purposes and asked them to balance their sermons by reading a government statement. They refused and went on to ban anyone participating in the election from entering their mosques, joining other Muslims in prayer or being buried in a Muslim cemetery. The result was that only 16% of the Arab population cast their votes.
The main concern was the loss of Arab lands to the Zionists. The Supreme Islamic Council issued, in 1935, a decree to all Palestinian institutions to deal with anyone selling or helping to sell lands to the Jews. ‘He shall not be buried in Muslim cemeteries or given a Muslim burial. He shall be boycotted, avoided, treated with contempt, abhorred and cut out.’ Various schemes were adopted to help farmers and land owners to hold on to their properties. The National Fund was set up to levy duties on the sale of products and cinema and travel tickets to build up a fund to buy the land offered for sale by any needy Arab. The new Arab banks were given the task of helping the cultivators with loans to hang on to their lands. The Palestinian Youth Congress organized teams to tour the villages and educate the farmers in the direction of protecting their lands.
In 1936, the Arab port dockers walked out in protest against a Jewish attack. It was followed by a mass rally in Nablus which called for a general strike throughout the country. The industrial action led to a massive rally with columns of men, women and children in their national costumes marching from village to village, some on horseback carrying their national flag, amidst the ululation of women and the singing of the boy scouts. The rally finally gathered to listen to a Koran recital and patriotic speeches, before taking a collective oath with thousands of hands raised up to heaven declaring that they would spare nothing in the service and defense of the country. A declaration was signed by 150 doctors, lawyers and academics adopting the ‘principles of non-cooperation and no taxation without representation as a peaceful means of resisting British imperialism in a noble and honorable way.’ The 15th of May was fixed as the beginning of the civil disobedience campaign. The day was marked by flags decorating houses and Arab buildings and with demonstrations carrying coffins bearing the words, ‘British Justice.’ Even burglars and criminals observed the occasion as no crime was ever reported on that day.
In view of the losses, bankruptcies and suffering sustained by shopkeepers and small businesses in this long general strike which lasted for many months, a special fund was set up to give them financial aid and to distribute food parcels, flour and bread. The country was divided into 15 supply zones with a committee supervising the aid in each zone. Other national committees were formed for medical care, finance and transport. Special courts and detention centres were set up to settle any disputes. All vehicle drivers surrendered their ignition keys and batteries to the strike committees and only used their vehicles with their special permits. The courts tried in public all offenders who broke the strike, paid taxes or conducted business with the Jews or the Government. The offenders usually apologized, paid a fine and pledged to observe the strike - to the cheering of the spectators present.
The mosques, churches and coffee houses were kept open 24 hours for educational purposes and special courses. The poets, singers, musicians and public speakers had a very busy time, touring all towns and villages. A by-product of the strike was the empowerment of women, hitherto confined to their domestic chores, as they came out to join their menfolk in shouldering the various strike tasks and organizing their own demonstrations, action committees and civil disobedience duties. A few of them were shot by the police in Jerusalem.
The authorities had to act, in the end, and order shopkeepers to open or face confiscation and fines. The shopkeepers burnt their merchandise or smuggled it to their homes, which were then raided by the police. The confiscated goods and house furniture (seized in lieu of the unpaid fines) were put up for auction, but no one made any bid and the authorities had to store the goods and pay storage charges. There were comic gestures as well as tragic incidents. As soon as the police raided a house, the children blew pepper powder in all the rooms!
The nonviolence campaign failed to achieve its difficult political aim of practically canceling the Balfour Declaration. But it produced many valuable products, as the formation of so many new Arab institutions, like banks, companies, schools, trade unions and political organizations. It empowered women and brought them into the national struggle and gave the Palestine question its international importance. The experiences gained became lessons for the first nonviolent intifada of the 1980s in which Mubarak Awadh’s Centre for Nonviolent Studies in Jerusalem played a useful part. The civilian jihad of the Palestinians is extensively discussed in the Palestinian Encyclopedia, Part II.
The Jews adhered to their traditional approach of refraining from violence, even when they were attacked by the
Arabs. But the Palestinian resort to arms following the 1936 strike inspired a British intelligence officer, Orde Wingate, to encourage the Zionists to take up arms and fight the Arabs. He undertook the task of training them and equipping them. Thus it was that the murderous and seemingly eternal Arab violence versus Jewish violence began. Jewish pacifists and idealists refused to be drawn into this tragic confrontation and went on to develop their own strategy and ideology based on establishing a bi-national state for Arabs and Jews together. They received no encouragement from any side.
The stupidity, indifference, short-sightedness and selfish pursuits followed by the big powers, local regimes and political organizations plunged the region into an inferno of violence and despair, leading eventually to the present day problem of international terrorism. Yet, this blind involvement in terror, with all its devastating consequences on the life, freedom, personal security and economy, is now bringing a new consciousness among the Muslim and Arab peoples that enough is enough. Many voices have been heard speaking against violence and calling for the adoption of
nonviolent resistance, democracy and legality as the best and safest means to reform, political change, human rights and liberation.