Review of A Quiet Revolution

The Dallas Morning News

October 14, 2007


‘A Quiet Revolution’: Nonviolence in the first Palestinian intifada

CURRENT EVENTS: New book reminds us that Palestinian intifadas have roots in
nonviolence

By EMILY L. HAUSER / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

elhauser@hotmail.com

Say the word “Palestinian,” and most Americans don’t picture a complex society. Instead, they see media-hyped images of terrorism: angry young men, suicide bombings.

And so the notion that the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, was predicated on nonviolence will come as a surprise to many. With A Quiet Revolution, author Mary King attempts to rectify the record of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through an exhaustively detailed history of the development, and ultimate unraveling, of “a remarkably coherent nonviolent mobilization to end a military occupation.”

The first intifada was launched, pall mall and with abrupt urgency, in December 1987, when a traffic accident killed four Palestinians at an Israeli military checkpoint. The accident was perceived as deliberate, and after 20 years of oppressive occupation, Palestinian society exploded with rage.

by, the official PLO in Tunis) shaped and led the revolt as Palestinian society undertook to by, the official PLO in Tunis) shaped and led the revolt as Palestinian society undertook to disengage from its occupier through noncooperation and civil disobedience, “manifesting a belief that [they could] … create the compromises required to live side by side with Israel.” that [they could] … create the compromises required to live side by side with Israel.”

We forget, but at the time, the idea that Palestinians would accept a two-state compromise was unfathomable to most Westerners.

But while her emphasis is on the history behind these developments and their execution, Ms. King is careful to point out that most of it was lost on the Israelis.

While many came to understand the occupation’s abhorrent nature, few considered the throwing of stones (and concrete blocks and Molotov Cocktails) nonviolent. These actions dominated the international perception of the intifada, and few knew of the tax revolts, commercial strikes and popular committees established by a society facing the iron-fist techniques of Israel’s military.

Ms. King also portrays those many Israelis dedicated to finding a just solution, and she rightly credits the first intifada with the cognitive shift that now allows “the imagining of Israeli-Palestinian solidarity in which what is forgotten” is as important as what is remembered.

But she also makes clear Israel’s refusal to recognize the new reality and the possibilities it presented, as well the PLO’s refusal to adequately support the proponents of nonviolence. These attitudes, along with the tragic mixing of true nonviolence with methods perceived as murderous, led to the eventual collapse of peaceful efforts to reconfigure Palestinian rights and a return to the grossly unbalanced power struggle between occupier and occupied.

“Retrospectively, the first intifada represented a missed historical opportunity for … transformation of the relationships for both peoples,” Ms. King writes – and virtually any news report from the region today confirms the enormity of the loss.

Emily L. Hauser is an American-Israeli journalist who reported for the foreign press out of Israel for most of the 1990s.