Bethlehem's Holy Land Trust, in cooperation with the European Union, is hosting a series of exercises on popular nonviolent resistance to occupation. The workshops are part of an ongoing project of the last year and a half that have included cities and towns throughout the the West Bank.
The NGO Executive Director, Sami Awad, told PNN Friday that the training process includes two key dates. The first trains the trainer and then the trainer trains the others. In the end, they all become trainers, with a honed skill set and new abilities to lead.
The training for trainers, which all participants become, lasts for four days. The idea behind all of this is to empower people to become leaders in the nonviolent resistance movement. Instead of training people in how to follow, they are all trained in how to lead, how to work together, make quick decisions, problem solve, and be effective both directly in their communities and in standing up against the occupation.
The hours are lengthy and the trainings intensive. The first training begins in the south central West Bank's Bethlehem with 25 trainees who are quickly versed on how to be trainers. They then dash off, covering other West Bank cities and train others, a number that falls somewhere in the ballpark of 750 activists this time. A lawyer who participated in a Jenin training said that seeing the films of Ghandi in India and Martin Luther King Jr. in the US particularly moved him to push for popular struggle here.
Awad explained that the training process includes both theoretical and practical training, both of which concentrate on the importance of promoting a culture of popular nonviolent resistance against Israeli occupation and even includes dealing with internal domestic issues. The HLT Director says that it is not permissible to use violence under any circumstances, no matter what the differences are that occur within the community at any level.
He stressed that the goal of the training process is to activate the people who are considered the silent majority, and encourage them to participate in the public debate and political arena. This, says Awad, can help to break the monopoly of politically compromised decisions that are made through exchanges among officials. If the masses are activated, they become a part of the power structure.
The training also focuses on the popular campaigns, demonstrations and marches; the how-to in the the practical and the what-to-do if the situation becomes tumultuous. We also focus on other methods of nonviolent resistance such as product boycotts. To boycott Israeli production is one of the most important tools of nonviolent struggle that we have available to us.
Awad also focuses on massive demonstrations against the Wall, not just among the elite put including all sectors of society, as being a potentially effective method with which to put an end to it. Our goal is to involve all people in the popular resistance. I call for every person to ask themselves each day when they wake up what they can do that day to resist the occupation, whether it is coming up with a new slogan or music, writing something, it doesn't matter what. What does matter, what is crucially important, is that all people are engaged in this popular struggle.
He continued, This is not a substitute for the armed struggle. This is not a method for normalization with the occupation. Our goal is to revive the popular resistance until every person is involved in dismantling the occupation.
Awad said that he is planning for the Holy Land Trust trainings to reach the Gaza Strip where an organized mass movement could be highly effective. He also stressed that participants come from all economic and social sectors, from the Islamic and national factions, and from all ages and genders.