The Palestine Telegraph
For many years, Palestinians have engaged in nonviolent actions aimed at resisting the Israeli military occupation and its violent and humiliating policies aimed at suppressing the will of the Palestinians in seeking to achieve their legitimate aspirations.
Villages and communities have nonviolently protested for several years, and on weekly bases, if not daily. They protest the stealing of their lands that are used to build the illegal separation wall and illegal settlements. From Budrus, to Bilien, to Ma’sara, to Gaza we saw and witnessed actions that not only resisted the occupation but also exposed the brutality of it to both the international community and even Israeli society. All these actions were powerful and many protesters were arrested, injured or martyred in the name Palestine and nonviolence. Where were elected Palestinian leaders during these protests?
Every once in a while a Palestinian leader or official would come to participate in an action. They would come dressed in an expensive suit, stepping out of an air-conditioned Mercedes, with body guards who were hunting for the media in order to do interviews and not for any potential threat to the official. After one or two interviews, and as soon as the protesters began walking in the procession, we would look back to see the rear of the Mercedes driving away. For some strange reason, important meetings with the top political officials were always scheduled at the same time the protests started!
The lack of involvement by the leadership or this symbolic and limited involvement resulted in a growing gap between the people and those elected. Was there a hidden agenda? What are they afraid of? Did they only come for the cameras? Were they even there to ruin the action? These are questions that are always asked. Who needs leadership that is not ready to put itself on the line when people are suffering? Leaders are meant to lead, to be on the front line, no suits, no VIPs, no bodyguards; to go into the unknown and put everything they have at stake, including their own lives in defending those they represent.
Leaders lead and are not the first to retreat. This is what we are now beginning to see. Palestinian Leaders insisting to lead nonviolent protests, taking of their suit jackets and ties. They are ready to tie themselves to olive trees that are going to be uprooted, ready to hold hands with an old Palestinian farmer on one side and a twenty year old international activist with blue hair on the other. Locked arm-in-arm, they are demanding to walk through an army checkpoint; they are ready to be beaten and arrested while defending a house that is going to be demolished. Leaders that are true leaders, fully committed to nonviolence, not for any political or personal agenda, know that this is the way to achieve our dream, even if they end up losing their life.
Names are not mentioned in this article because any Palestinian leader who reads this will know in which category they fall. We, as Palestinians, challenge those who do not see the true value of leadership to reconsider their position. Simply put, we no longer want our leaders to hold titles if they are not willing to lead. The people of Palestine have tasted true leadership. They no longer want leaders that speak great words and slogans, as their ears are filled with them. Palestinians want leaders that are ready to lead, on the front lines, the new and growing movement of popular resistance. Lead as Palestinian leaders or step aside, so that others can take charge.
Sami Awad is the Executive Director of the Holy Land Trust Foundation in the West Bank. The HLT is a non-violent organization established in Bethlehem in 1998 that seeks to empower the community through mobilizing its strengths and resources in order to address the challenges of the present and create real opportunities for the future.