In the 1970s, he [Eqbal Ahmed] formulated a suggestion, an extremely brilliant one, quite in keeping with his general attitude of non-violent aggressiveness, that the PLO should try to organize a march of Palestinians towards the Israeli borders in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Inspired by the great civil rights marches of the 1960s, Eqbal urged Arafat and company to mobilize as many people as possible, walking unarmed to the border with banners saying “We want to go home.” I remember the look on their faces, when I patiently explained Eqbal’s proposal, of disbelief and mild panic, especially when I emphasized the need for peaceful means and disciplined organization.
Edward Said speaks about Eqbal Ahmed, in Eqbal Ahmed, Confronting Empire: Interviews With David Barsamian
On Sunday, 15th of May 2011, the Palestinians did precisely what Eqbal Ahmed, the Pakistani intellectual, activist and dissident, had once advised the Palestinians leadership to do….they got together and organized a peaceful march back to their homes. He predicted that some would die, and indeed some did, but he pointed out that such an act would clarify the just nature of the struggle of the Palestinian people. It did.
Then, as now, the Palestinians are a people betrayed by their leadership who lack imagination and genuine courage. And as always, it is the Palestinians themselves who lead, reminding their leaders, and the rest of the world, what it is they are fighting for, and what is justifiably their right. Arafat may have been shocked to hear Eqbal Ahmed’s advice, but it seems that the Palestinians are not deaf to it. As The Economist described it:
ON SUNDAY Israel got an unexpected and unpalatable taste of its nightmare scenario: masses of Palestinians marching, unarmed, towards the borders of the Jewish state, demanding the redress of their decades-old national grievance.
On Sunday, 15th of May 2011, a few thousand of them marched towards the borders of Israel, and a number of them were shot at and killed as a result. They are as always unarmed and defenseless. And their resistance to Israeli atrocities, injustices and inhumanity has always largely been non-violent. Contrary to the piece in The Economist violent resistance to Israel has always been an exception.
And violent response to Palestinian non-violent resistance has always been the norm. One only has to look at what has taken place at places like Bilin where a well-organized, non-violent resistance to the Israeli separation wall has been met with a brutal crackdown and killings of unarmed protestors.
The Palestinians have not learned the power of a civic resistance. They have been in fact involved in nothing other than that. Each day, with every simple human act, they resist their degradation, dispossession, humiliation and erasure. It is their most powerful and perhaps only weapon.