More powerful force
Open letter to Palestinians and Israelis
October 25, 2000
Like millions of others, I have shared your pains and sufferings from
a distance and over a long period of time. I am a Muslim by birth, but
I have a Jewish son and therefore emotional ties to both sides. I am also
a proud disciple of Buddha, Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi, Buber, King, and Hosseini.
Following the seven years of the slow Oslo peace process and the breakout
of the new Intifada of October 2000, I feel that the time has come for
you to seriously consider a new mass strategy towards peace, namely a strategy
A new PBS documentary on the history of non-violence during the 20th
century, "A Force More Powerful," makes it abundantly clear that
time and time again the struggles for justice have best succeeded through
carefully planned strategies of non-violent and active resistance. In order
to take its moral and practical lessons to heart, this excellent documentary
must be viewed by all of you.
We now know how in India, the United States, the Philippines, South
Africa, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, non-violent struggles for
independence, civil rights, and freedom from the tyrannies of apartheid
and dictatorial rules have succeeded.
This is not a romantic appeal to abstract moral principles. Non-violence
is both moral and practical. It takes the highest possible moral grounds,
but it also works. It requires commitment, courage, discipline, and persistent
hard work. These are qualities that are not lacking among the Israelis
First of all, it takes for two small groups of Israelis and Palestinians
to come together and pledge themselves to a joint non-violent struggle
for peace and justice in the Holy Lands. Second, the group would have to
go through a period of careful training in non-violent philosophy, strategies,
and tactics. Third, the group needs to set out its long, medium, and short-term
The short-term is easy to define. All acts of violence on both sides
must unconditionally stop before a process of confidence building can start.
The medium term is more difficult, but considerable progress has already
been made on that front by the peace process.
An independent Palestine must be part of the plan, but an end to terrorism
against Israelis must be its quid pro quo. The long-term objectives are
the most difficult on which to agree.
The Israeli and Palestinian economies have already become so interdependent
that the basis for long-term cooperation between the two states and an
eventual federation is not impossible to imagine. Wars and violence are
failures of human imagination.
We must have the courage to imagine the impossible in order to achieve
what is within our grasp in the short run. An Israel at peace with its
Arab neighbors is such a dream.
Exchanging Israeli scientific and technological know-how with the enormous
Arab human and financial power presents an unmatched complementary.
Last but not least, a non-violent active resistance for peace and justice
requires leadership. Credible leadership for non-violent struggles emerges
only out of traditions of civility and in the trenches of the struggle
Authentic Jews, Christians, and Muslims are second to none in their
profound commitment to peace and justice. The greetings in both Hebrew
and Arabic convey Peace (Shalom, Salam) upon the recipients. For Christians
who also consider the Holy Lands as their sacred grounds, Jesus of Nazareth
was a Prince of Peace. Pious wishes, however, are not enough. It is in
the process of the non-violent struggle itself that Gandhis, Kings, and
Mandelas are made.
Some Israelis and Palestinians have tried violence for sometime to achieve
their objectives. It has brought them and innocent by-standers nothing
but pain, suffering, misery, and death.
I appeal to you, dear bothers and sisters, to give peace a chance.
October 22, 2000
Majid Tehranian, a graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard, is currently
professor of international communication at the University of Hawaii and
director of the Toda Institute for Global
Peace and Policy Research.