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Journal of Public and International Affairs , Volume 14/Spring 2003 Copyright 2003, the Trustees of Princeton University http://www.princeton.edu/~jpia 9 P EOPLE P OWER IN THE H OLY L AND : H OW P OPULAR N ONVIOLENT S TRUGGLE C AN T RANSFORM THE I SRAELI - P ALESTINIAN C ONFLICT Maria J. Stephan Maria J. Stephan is a Ph.D. candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University ([email protected]). The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a human tragedy that has defied political settlement for more than 50 years. Official negotiations have neither ended Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories nor fostered the development of a viable Palestinian state, both prerequisites for a secure peace. This article argues that an alternative strategy based on civilian-led, nonviolent struggle, or “people power,” is needed to transform the conflict. It analyzes tactics and strategies of collective nonviolent direct action and their relevance to ending a situation of occupation. Conflict theory and principles of nonviolent action are applied to a case-study analysis of the 1987 Intifada, a mostly nonviolent popular uprising that forced the issue of Palestinian statehood to the forefront. A central conclusion is that official-level negotiations are insufficient; a strategy of sustained, nonviolent direct action involving all parties, with adequate moral and material support from the international community, can help break the cycle of violence and pave the way to a just peace.
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2 I. I NTRODUCTION Since 1948 a major policy goal of the United Nations (UN) and the international community has been the creation of two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, that would coexist peacefully within internationally recognized borders. For more than fifty years the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, pitting an internationally recognized state against a nationalist movement, has defied resolution while producing incredible bloodshed. As of the writing of this article and since the start of the second, or al-Aqsa, Intifada in September 2000, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reports that more than 1,800 Palestinians and 450 Israelis have been killed (B’Tselem Report 2003). A vicious cycle of violence resulting in massive violations of human rights and humanitarian law have transformed Israel-Palestine into a killing field, where an absence of visionary leadership and a culture of fear and distrust have intensified the intractability of this conflict. There has been no shortage of high-level diplomatic efforts to resolve this conflict: a failed UN partition plan in 1947; countless UN resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from lands captured in the 1967 war and occupied illegally (the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem); and a number of “track I” (formal) and “track II” (informal) negotiated peace plans. None achieved a breakthrough in the conflict. The latest diplomatic attempt to overcome the impasse is led by the international Quartet comprised of the United States, the UN, the
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