A Better Path: Is It Time for a Palestinian Ministry of Nonviolence?

By Hirschfield, Robert | Sojourners Magazine, July 2008 | Go to article overview

A Better Path: Is It Time for a Palestinian Ministry of Nonviolence?


Hirschfield, Robert, Sojourners Magazine


What would it take to elevate the role of nonviolence in the struggle for Palestinian justice? For Lucy Nusseibeh, forming a "ministry of nonviolence" would be an important step "to always keep the nonviolent options in the forefront of all Palestinian official actions."

Nusseibeh is the founder and director of Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy (MEND), which promotes "active nonviolence" among youth and adults throughout Palestine. The MEND Web site explains, "'In light of the victory of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections, Palestinians risk more than ever being collectively dismissed as violent and impossible to talk with." In the past few years, however, there has been a growing interest in alternatives to violence as many Palestinians "have specifically expressed their dissatisfaction with the cycle of violence."

As Nusseibeh sees it, the Palestinian Ministry of Nonviolence would operate as a branch of the Palestinian National Authority. One of its main tasks would be to set up a National Nonviolence Youth Force, in which Palestinian youths could study nonviolence and undergo training in conflict resolution, studying the works of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Gene Sharp, and Paolo Freire. "There would also be a part involving anger management, dealing with frustration, [and] looking at fear, as it is very difficult living under occupation," says Nusseibeh. "There would be role-playing having to do with encounters with violence, and exercises around language and the power of words in getting to the heart of conflict resolution and mediation."

Nusseibeh, who has graduate degrees from Oxford and Harvard, is a mother of three grown sons and a young daughter. She would like to see these youths return to their communities as problem solvers, mentors, and moral influences on the Palestinian police and security forces. One role model is Hejazi Jaaberi, a MEND organizer in the West Bank city of Hebron, a security officer with the Palestinian Authority, and a man who believes in using nonviolent methods in engaging with prisoners.

Founded in 1998, MEND organizes nonviolence trainings and is involved in resistance activities such as anti-roadblock demonstrations, protests against the Israeli-built "separation barrier," and festivals of Palestinian culture. Nusseibeh dedicates herself to devising practical ways in which a culture sundered by violence can be transformed into a culture of nonviolence. …

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