Group supports nonviolence

I am writing this in response to Joanna Whitney’s letter to the editor concerning the death of Rachel Corrie in the Jan. 19 issue of The Falcon. I feel certain that Whitney does not stand alone in her concerns, which is why I must attempt a response.

My contention is not over the broad theological stance that she presents in the first section of her letter — I will leave that task to those more able. What I wish to address here are her two final assertions: 1) that ISM is aligned with terrorists, and 2) that Rachel Corrie was not a martyr for the cause of Christ.

I assume that Whitney’s first assertion is founded not on malice but on an honest misunderstanding. I cannot, obviously, provide a complete remedy for this, but allow me to explain what the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is, and let me see if I can address why she considers them terrorist-friendly.

ISM was founded in 2001 by a group of concerned internationals, including one American and one Israeli Jew, who were unable to remain silent about the injustices committed by the Israeli government against Palestinians any longer. They are an organization committed to peace, justice and a viable solution to the conflict. It is curious to me that Whitney considers them supportive of terrorists when they state on their website, "We do not associate, support, or have anything to do with armed or violent resistance to the occupation, legal or illegal." I assume that Whitney knows enough about the ISM to have read their statements and examine their actions, which are all nonviolent. Her belief that they support and befriend terrorists, therefore, must stem from a deeper ideology that the Palestinian cause is a terrorist cause. That is an altogether different assertion, but it is one that needs to be answered.

I do not argue, and neither does the ISM, that certain actions carried out by Palestinian militia groups would constitute terrorist actions. Certainly the killing of civilians is meant to create a sort of terror amongst a population and is deplorable and inexcusable under any circumstances. However, the nonviolent resistance movement, of which ISM is a part, carried out amongst, by and on behalf of the Palestinians is in no way terrorism. To classify such action as terrorism would surely be to indict the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Desmond Tutu (who openly condemns Israeli human rights abuses, which he terms as "Israeli apartheid"), Gandhi and other champions of peace as well. Nonviolent Palestinian resistance is not terrorism; it is a call for justice.

All violence should be opposed, especially that which is carried out against a civilian population. In this latest conflict, known as the second intifada, which began in late September of 2000, at least 4,588 people have been killed. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign affairs puts the Israeli deaths at 1,041, of which 314 were security personnel. As of Jan. 14, according to the Red Crescent, 3,547 of those killed were Palestinian, of which at least 80 percent were not connected to "armed action" (from Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper).

Nonviolence is the only acceptable answer to a conflict that will not end until Israel either ends their occupation of the Palestinian territories or succeeds in pushing the Palestinians so far into walled apartheid ghettos that they have nothing left to fight for.

The world needs more people to do what Rachel Corrie did, which is why I cannot end without answering the provocation Whitney makes in her second assertion. Rachel Corrie died because she acted on a conviction of nonviolence, peace and justice (conspicuously, these convictions are three major things that Christ calls his followers to hold and act upon). She did willingly place herself in harm’s way — that much Whitney gets right. Rachel did not do this for some reckless political ideology, however, she did this to stand up for justice. She died trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home — not a bunker, not an arms factory, not a militia hideout — the one and only home of a family made up of real people trying to survive under the Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip.

I doubt, although I do not claim to know for sure, that Rachel Corrie would have proclaimed herself a martyr of Christ. I doubt this because far too often the actions of Christians do not line up with Christ’s teachings of peace, justice, love and nonviolence. While I do not think that Rachel would have aligned herself with Christ, I do not doubt that Christ would have aligned himself (and still does, in a sense) with her as she worked for peace. Passive ambivalence to injustice, so often the response of Christians, is the true desecration of Christ’s name.

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Title: Group supports nonviolence | Author: Stephen Allen | Section: Opinions | Published Date: 2005-01-26 | Internal ID: 4297