Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bassem Tamimi: "To Liberate Palestine, We Must Have Free Women"

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bassem Tamimi: "To Liberate Palestine, We Must Have Free Women"

Article excerpt

We've all heard people ask, regretfully or accusingly: Where is the Palestinian Gandhi? Mandela? Martin Luther King? They exist. One of them spoke at the New School in New York on Sept. 15. Like his models, Bassem Tamimi has spent time in his oppressors' prisons-a dozen times so far, mostly in administrative detention. Like them, he is committed to nonviolent struggle.

Tamimi, born in 1967 in Nabi Saleh, grew up under Israeli occupation. He witnessed settlers burning Palestinian fields, destroying water wells, and cutting olive trees while guarded by Israeli soldiers. Armed struggle did not succeed. Tamimi rued "the mistake of suicide bombing that led to a poor image of Palestinians." Negotiations failed. Under the peace process Palestinians "lost more land and got more settlers."

While in prison, Tamimi and his fellow detainees analyzed the situation and concluded that a third alternative of unarmed resistance is the most moral and effective means to combat injustice. They began demonstrating in December 2009 and have continued ever since. Tamimi admitted he was wary at first when Israelis began joining them, but they have since become family. He "cannot accept settlers in the same way," he acknowledged, although they cannot provoke him to hate them because their minds are also occupied by Zionism.

Tamimi proudly asserted, "We have the mentality to have women participate. To liberate Palestine, we must have free women." His own family is a model. You can see them in an Aug. 28 video that went viral (YouTube Nabi Saleh): an Israeli soldier has captured and is assaulting a 12-year-old boy whose arm is in a cast, then women and girls struggle with the soldier and manage to free the boy. The abashed soldier tosses a tear gas canister at them as he slouches off. The Palestinians are Tamimi's son, Mohammed, his wife, Nariman, and his 14-year-old daughter, Ahed.

When Diplomacy Succeeds: The Iran Agreement

The Princeton Middle East Society hosted a Sept. 16 panel on "When Diplomacy Succeeds: The Iran Agreement." Dr. Zia Mian, a physicist and expert on fissile materials, introduced himself as the "token scientist." He described the Iran agreement as the biggest achievement in reducing the danger of nuclear weapons since the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) went into effect in 1970. Iran has gone far beyond NPT requirements, Mian explained, by accepting an enormous range of restrictions and intense inspections, including 24/7 monitoring of enrichment facilities.

However, Mian also sees some "dark sides." First is the issue of Israel's nuclear weapons. The 190 signatories of the NPT (all nations except for North Korea, India, Pakistan, Israel and South Sudan) meet every five years. At the most recent meeting this past spring, they were unable to agree on a joint statement because the U.S., joined by Great Britain and Canada, would not accept a conference on a nuclear weapons-free Middle East. Thus the opportunity to embed the Iran agreement in a larger process was lost. Second, to assuage opponents of the agreement, the U.S. will give to Israel and sell to Saudi Arabia the most advanced weapons, the kind that kill in Syria, Yemen and Gaza, including new ammunition to replace used inventory. Mian described this as "shameful." Third, although one aspect of the NPT is for nuclear states to move toward disarmament, even Barack Obama, "the most anti-nuclear weapon president ever," has committed to a $1 trillion plan to upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Seyed H. Mousavian, the spokesman for Iran during the 2003-05 nuclear negotiations, is now a research scholar at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. When the Iranian nuclear crisis began, he explained, three options were on the table: diplomacy, sanctions, and war. Diplomacy failed because the Bush administration insisted on zero Iranian enrichment. It succeeded 10 years later, according to Mousavian, because the U.S. changed its demand to zero nuclear bombs. …

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