Presentation :Mass Reaction

“Mass Reactions” How Society Reacts to a Tense Political Situation
IPRA,25th General Conference

Nadia Harhash
11 August 2014

For the last 20 years, Palestinians went through an intensive “Peace Education Program” that was implemented in school programs and extended in the creation of NGO’s that adopted the notion of “Peace Education” as a strategy for funding. I have always called this “Peace Industry Program,” and to satisfy my ego, I can proudly say I was right.

Since Oslo, the Palestinian Educational system was put under a major scrutinizing operation that changed it to what satisfied the general conditions of funding.

A significant gap that took place in this was the definition of “Peace Education.”
The peace education for someone like me who sees her “Freire” student is majorly different from what has been implemented.

For more than two decades, our children, our society have been injected with terms that educated them about “Peace with Israel,” “Recognizing,” “Accepting,” “Tolerating.” …Israel.
While all this is right, and a must do. What was missing was Peace with the Palestinian Question.
Recognizing, accepting, tolerating … Palestine.
Our peace education notion worked in isolation on bridging gaps with enforcing the recognition of the “State, the Being, the Existence of Israel” on all levels, rather than working on the “Palestinian identity’s” need of adaptation with peace with Israel.

For a society that lives under Occupation, by an oppressor that continues to oppress, violate, kill, sabotage its people and all means of living.
What the Palestinians needed was a growing sense of bridging the gaps between what the Palestinian identity holds in belief and what it can afford in reality.

Instead, the word “occupation” was systematically dropped from the Palestinian dialogue and was replaced by the Israeli coordination on a primary daily life issue.
If they allow it or not.
Israel however, continued to engrave occupation systematically.
We Palestinians became busy in the Holocaust education, and the Nakba was firmly becoming the “fleeing of people.”

Peace education starts by learning how to End Occupation.
By Educating Palestinians about the “just cause of Palestine.”

We need a generation of Palestinians who know their rights in having a homeland that is made up of Justice and Equality:
Justice and Equality cannot be addressed without Sovereignty.
Sovereignty cannot be in life that is comprised of a settlement in your neighborhood, a checkpoint before your next stop, a segregation wall that separates you from your grandmother’s home.

The ongoing conflict is about occupation; a nation/state occupying another country.

It is not about if the Israelis have a historical right or if they are the same ancestors of Moses or Abraham.
It is not about if the Holocaust took place or didn’t.

Israel has managed to drive us out of the context of the conflict into making it a historical debate, that doesn’t concern the situation mainly.

And instead of fighting for our rights in ending the occupation, we got entangled in proving our right in living in our country and denying or undermining irrelevant historical occurrences to our issue.

The fact that the Israelis /Jews were in the country 2000 or 5000 years ago or the fact that millions were massacred doesn’t disempower our position.
If they have a right to a Homeland after 2000 years, then we have more chances of a Homeland after 60 years.

The fact that they were expelled and massacred doesn’t mean that they should expel other nations and kill them.

I believe in the pedagogy of the oppressed as a design of a future education.

To build peace, we need to make peace for us first.

Israel can only discuss peace with us when we are in full awareness and tolerance towards our strengths and our confrontations with our weaknesses.

I firmly believe that our strengths are made as well, out of the shortcoming of history towards the Israelis.
Israel after all behaves (claims) towards itself as a democracy, and human rights are significant in their approach. The moment we Palestinians start sounding like people towards them they will start acknowledging their shortcomings towards us.

The only time we Palestinians can face the Israelis is when we can understand their background, their fear, and their insecure areas. When we can admit that history also treated them unfairly.
To make them see us as (fellow) human beings, as equal people, we need to see them as people as well.

To defeat them, we need to understand them. We need to analyze them in and out. We need to try to put ourselves in their place. We need to get to their mindsets.

We also need to understand ourselves properly. What happened, and where and why did things go wrong. Who is accountable for our situation?

We need to define our dictionary of concepts, (peace, resistance, struggle, Terror,) and learn when and how to use them.

We need to unite our discourse, not only in blaming the occupation but also in defining our cause.

Peace and Occupation are two notions that cannot live in harmony together. To find peace, one needs to be liberated first.
The most successful liberation acts all along history, are those that started from freeing their people.
The course of freedom is found when we begin as a nation to acknowledge our environs, to divulge our errors, to fray self-depreciation, to comprehend that liberation does not come through a revolution of forces, but through tolerance, self-awareness, education and peace-building that includes mutual understanding and justice.
As long as we remain unaware of the causes of our condition, we fatalistically “accept” our exploitation.
Changing society starts by changing individuals, so that they could struggle to bring about social changes.

People are not entirely free until they are in a fight for justice.

Ending the occupation is a social act, not just a political one. Our politicians can never proceed as long as we as a nation are occupied from within.

Peace will start the instant we can liberate ourselves from
The cultural, tribal, ethnic occupation that has occupied our minds and hearts and prevented us from even facing our reality.

We can never grow to become a liberated nation as long as we are prejudiced to our gender issues, as long as we are wedged with our collective thinking, as long as we are intolerant, as long as we don’t address children as future leaders and women as equals.

Ending the Occupation starts when our people start nourishing themselves into a more tolerant, educated, liberal, knowledgeable, self-aware nation.
How could we get out from the current situation with best results, minimum defeats?
There is nothing worse than losing another human life. Palestinian or Israeli. It is not the case. The issue is human lives.
Palestinians agreed by Oslo to go to a two-state solution, that by it formed a significant sacrifice into the dream of a homeland for Palestinians. But for the price of peace, this was passed. Palestinians were tired of the constant subjugation to the occupation. Yearning to a state. To sovereignty. To freedom.
In twenty years since Oslo, one thing was achieved. Palestine as a state. A state only with no rights. No sovereignty. Occupation stayed. And both Palestinian security and Israeli forces have policed freedom.

Undoubtedly, the Palestinian resistance changed its form in the last twenty years. The second intifada of 2002 proved its unsuccessful means. Too many high prices were paid politically and humanly.
However, negotiation led to a dead end. One cannot mention a single positive outcome for the Palestinians in the last ten years.

The Aggression on Gaza that was preceded by the assault on the West Bank weeks before on the occasion of the alleged kidnapping of the Israeli settlers and was “crowned” by the brutal, inhuman slaughter of Mohammad Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem brought the Palestinians gradually but quickly to one line.
The line of the only useful tool to legal existence under occupation: Resistance.
Through Resistance peace prevails on its own. Because resistance gives a real meaning of life. The life which is not about acquiring a prestigious job, or have a decent bank account, and house with a garden and going out to dinners and travel on vacations.
Life is about being free. And peace can only be with freedom.
In one line today, the Palestinian society stands with the resistance in Gaza that are barely and heroically facing the vicious attacks on everything that moves in Gaza.
An incredible unity among the people of Gaza and the fighting militants. Thinking of some tunnels that are ghostly spreading all over Gaza in unlimited levels, there has been no way that the population wasn’t aware. This is a work of society, not just a group of militants. The fact that the Israeli intelligence failed to know anything about it except the important idea that the world knew about them was surprising. And if it shows anything it demonstrates the solidarity of the population under siege to the horrific living in Gaza under siege for the last six years.

What happened in the West Bank as a result was also impressive regarding solidarity of a nation. It is clear that violence and terror are not the tools that Palestinians chose to use.
In the military resistance in Gaza, not a single civilian was attacked. The targets are always military people, posts, and settlements at most.
In the west bank the notion adopted two main lines of resistance:
-Boycott, a tool that has been in work for years, but hasn’t been seriously implemented in the west bank and Jerusalem. Boycott became a main instrument on the ground and all different levels. Committees from young activists and active civil society people came to action.

– Demonstrations in all cities. In support of Gaza

– Coalitions to hold Israel responsible in the international criminal court took action.

– Social media organized campaigns on Facebook and Twitter and other social media forums, bringing the story out, by first-hand narratives from people in Gaza under the aggression. By facilitating calls with international activists around the world. By exploiting the Israeli crimes and responding to the Israeli allegations immediately.

The result is that for the first time Palestinians are all sitting on one table holding to the same rules. No negotiations on what has been already demanded. The power on the ground is the one that is giving the final word. The Resistance backed by the masses of the population both in Gaza and the West Bank. And as a consequence, Israel and it allies are finding themselves in an unusual corner. Because in reality, those on the negotiation tables have no power on the ground anymore.
The struggle begins with men and women’s recognition that they have been destroyed. Propaganda, management, manipulation — all arms of domination — cannot be the instruments of their re-humanization. The only useful tool is a humanizing pedagogy in which the revolutionary leadership establishes a permanent relationship of dialogue with the oppressed. (Paulo Freire)

The liberation of the oppressed is a liberation of women and men, not things. Accordingly, while no one liberates himself by his efforts alone, neither do others liberate him. Semi humans cannot achieve liberation, a human phenomenon.
(Paulo Freire)


  1. Now, I understand your absence the past couple of days. This is a powerful piece. I feel fortunate that I met you through this medium and am able to benefit from your insight, struggles, and writing. “Changing society starts by changing individuals, so that they could struggle to bring about social changes.” This is something, I often say, in different ways. I find it interesting also, that in the past several months Paulo Freire has been mentioned in several blogs I follow, and personally to me by a friend. It has been decades since I read him, but his was an influence that set the tone for how I see the world. Thank you for enduring with strength, wisdom, courage, and resistance.

  2. Reblogged this on rigzenchomo and commented:
    This is a long read, but well worth the time. Nadia addresses the real issues for the Gaza resistance. Much of what she says can also be applied to other areas of conflict in this world from Syria to Sudan.

  3. Nadia, I am sympathetic with much of what you write. As you know, I have been critical of the way Israel has waged war on civilians in Gaza. As I read your essay, however, I was troubled by this statetment: “In the military resistance in Gaza, not a single civilian was attacked. The targets are always military people, posts and settlements at most.” I don’t know how you can make that statement in view of the rockets fired at civilian areas in Israel from Gaza. One reason I value your web site is that I am trying to understand the conflict. I am convinced you are sincerely interested in peace between Israel and Palestine. Your message will be more powerful if it is factual.

    1. lets just look at this in numbers . how many israeli civilians were killed in this aggression?
      how do we define non civilian targets from my end ? military posts . settlements . outposts . soldiers .
      if u really looked into the targeted locations u will see that . yes mistakes happened . thank u for ur comment and i appreciate it )

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