The peace that wears on the Hamas-Israel war

Nonviolent tactics, such as general strikes or peaceful protests, offer an alternative that can lessen anger and radicalism.

A man walks past closed shops in Jerusalem during a May 18 general strike in Arab cities in Israel and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

After days of Israel-Gaza violence that has killed hundreds, the Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians on the West Bank did something peaceful Tuesday. They went on a one-day general strike in solidarity with Palestinians in East Jerusalem who are using legal means to claim land they have lived on for decades. Instead of throwing stones or launching rockets, the strikers boycotted businesses.

The nonviolent tactic was echoed in a little-noticed action by a top Arab politician in Israel, Mansour Abbas. On Sunday, the chairman of the United Arab List coalition visited a burnt-out synagogue in the city of Lod, a mixed Arab-Jewish city that was the scene of violent clashes after the outbreak of the latest Hamas-Israel war.

“We must begin rehabilitating the synagogue in Lod,” the Arab leader said. “Even in times of war, Islamic values forbid harming holy places.” He advocated for a healing after the violence.

In recent days, many Israeli Arabs have joined peaceful protests – often with Israeli Jews – to end the violence and seek solutions to the many issues that divide Palestinians and Israel. As one protester in Haifa, Tawfiq Nagar, told Haaretz, “It’s not a question of national identity but of values.... We can’t let racism break through again. This is the time to protest together, Arabs and Jews, against police violence and the occupation, and for peace, otherwise hatred will win again and again.”

Last year, Associated Press found a growing number of Palestinians “have embraced nonviolent means of protesting Israel’s military rule and expanding settlements.” Sometimes peaceful actions do have an impact of Israeli institutions. Last month, for example, a court in Jerusalem imposed a fine against a Jewish settler on the West Bank for slapping a prominent pacifist, Issa Amro, as he was walking Palestinian children to a school in Hebron.

Israeli Arabs and Palestinian who do commit to nonviolent means - such street demonstrations, petitions, or general strikes – often learn they can gain allies among Israel Jews and foreign countries. Such tactics also appeal to those exhausted by violence or who see how violence reinforces radicalism on either side.

While few in number, those advocating nonviolence do not get much attention from journalists. Peaceful tactics, however, can often touch hearts, lessen anger, and promote social change.  Like an act of love, they invite an opponent to resolve long standing issues by relying on just means. When that happens, both sides are enabled to build a relationship that allows for just solutions.

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