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The Olive Branch Strategy

for Breaking the Cycle of Violence


Father Raed Awad Abusahlia


We have often said, “Because the Palestinian people possess the force of truth and the international legitimacy they are stronger with the stones than with arms and much stronger with olive branches than with stones.” But, no one heard this appeal and the cycle of violence continued to follow the reactions principle, “for every action there is an opposite reaction with double its force.” Here we conclude, “Violence breeds violence and blood calls for blood.” Therefore, we have no alternative but to break the cycle of spiralling violence and adopt the historical courage, give up arms and stones and raise the olive branch once again, that same branch that President Yasser Arafat raised in his right hand when he delivered his famous speech at the United Nations in 1974, as he said “I am coming with an olive branch in one hand and a gun in the other, so do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”

Since then, we have employed all methods and yet we are at the same starting point. Therefore, we should follow a different path in harmony with the new facts in the international arena. I summarize this route of Olive Branch Strategy and I have justifications for it:

  1. I do not confuse between resistance and violence: resistance is a legitimate right for every nation that falls under oppression and occupation, whereas violence and terrorism are an aggression against the freedom of others, their properties, liberty and territory, particularly those innocent.
  2. There are many legitimate means of resistance, military, peaceful, political and informational. We have tried them all and succeeded in bringing our case to prominence at the highest world level.
  3. In view of recent world developments, the wave of terrorism and the war against terrorism, it has become difficult to distinguish between the permissible and the forbidden because of the sensitivity of the issue. The cease-fire decision, even if it were one sided, was wise. To turn towards political action is now necessary for reaping the fruits of the former phase of the struggle.
  4. This strategic choice does not indicate weakness or incapacity but political wisdom that require public support, in adherence to the cease-fire. To preclude it from turning into just a negative matter, it needs public action at the base level to carry on with a peaceful “Intifada” until the anticipated goals of victory, independence and liberty are realised.
  5. What I call as Olive Branch Strategy is that which moves the Palestinian, Arab, Moslem and world public towards peace through purely non-violent creative initiatives that call for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and also, to gain a global dimension, should call for an end to all forms of violence and terror including the war in Afghanistan.
  6. Such means would bring local and international support to the Palestinian people and make them the pioneers of a world peace movement that would help put an end to a confusion that could lead to a global catastrophe.
  7. Also encouraging for the pursuit of this method of action are the opportunities that loomed in the horizon as George Bush, the son, Tony Blair and other world leaders indicated their conviction for the need to establish a Palestinian State capable of living side by side with Israel. We should not allow this opportunity to slip by.
  8. The current impasse resulting from the recent turmoil created by Minister Rehabam Zeevi’s assassination should be overcome and not to allow its exploitation for the increase of violence. This could be achieved by forwarding a peace initiative with a new and courageous logic that puts the ball in the Israeli court, on the one hand, and serves the interest of both parties, on the other.
  9. This initiative is based on challenging the Israelis by publicly repudiating all forms of violence and the undertaking of Palestinian people in all their factions to comply under all circumstances. Israel will then be called upon to bring about a quick, comprehensive and just peace based on the principle of “land for security and peace” in conformity with the decisions of the international legitimacy.
  10. The United Nations and the states of the world would impose a binding solution on both parties. They will invite Mr. Yasser Arafat and Mr. Ariel Sharon to sign the agreement, draw up a time schedule and list practical steps for its immediate implementation. A simultaneous declaration to the end of the conflict will be made once for all.

After having explained the need to follow the Olive Branch strategy, I would like to provide some practical points so that this will not only remain as imaginative.

  1. Adopt a non-violent path to resistance as a final and irrevocable means, on the level of both the leadership and the base, through a public declaration of it.
  2. Initiate a quick education for non-violent struggle methods in schools, universities and national institutions to result in an organized and effective action.
  3. Draw a schedule of daily non-violent initiatives and actions within the country and abroad. These would have symbolic and effective dimensions that would portray a new civilized image to the world through the media.

For example, I would like to bring up a practical suggestion drawn from a sentence I have read recently from Cardinal Martini in which he said: “Noah’s pigeon is still perched on our branch of olives.” I add the following sentence to it: “Noah’s pigeon returned with an olive branch to announce the end of the deluge.” With this, why shouldn’t the non-violence campaign start with 5 million olive branches, where 5 million Palestinians in the country and the Diaspora carry them and offer them to 5 million Israelis as a signal for a collective genuine desire for peace?! This idea will be applied through a well prepared non-violent invasion of all the Israeli territories where every Palestinian will give an olive branch to an Israeli: a Palestinian child to an Israeli child, an old Palestinian man to an old Israeli man, a Palestinian fighter to an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian Christian priest and a Moslem Sheikh to a Rabbi. Let this symbolic and expressive movement be a gift of peace and a challenge to the world and I am certain that it would bring better and more abundant fruit than all the stones and bullets and missiles that reaped the souls and sowed nothing but devastation.

This will be the starting point to numerous other creative initiatives that we could come up with in our fertile Palestinian imagination. We have used our ingenuity in the struggle, so let’s use it in the art of making peace. Then, and only then, would the spectre of war disappear and the pigeon of peace return to us with a green olive branch in her beak and a rainbow appear in the skies of our country providing us with an assurance that there will be no more deluge.

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