The Daily Gleaner (Opinion)
August 13, 2011 - 12:00am

We don't often hear about nonviolent resistance in the Middle East, but it happens much more often than we might think.

Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta has written a book on the subject called Refusing to be Enemies - Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation.

The hardcover came out in January 2010, but the paperback with an updated afterward arrived in North American stores sometime in March of this year.

"It's based on interviews with over 100 Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent activists, and a few internationals, and also conference presentations," she says.

"Basically my idea was to show, much more than most people are aware, Palestinians are engaged in and have been engaged in non-violent resistance to the occupation and before that to the initial Zionist colonization. All you see are relatively small amounts of violence and probably because it's a relatively small amount is what makes it newsworthy."

Kaufman-Lacusta wrote the book to raise awareness about what is really happening.

"People, particularly in North America, don't seem to be aware that the bulk of the resistance to particularly Israel's expansion into the West Bank after the Six Day War, with the illegal colonization by Israel citizens on Palestinian land, the bulk of the resistance to that has been using nonviolent means," she says.

"Also the other aspect is that they very often do this with the co-operation of Israeli individuals or organizations."

This is hardly ever reported in North America, though Europeans are much more informed about this issue, she says.

North Americans tend to be in the dark unless they go to the websites of some of the organizations involved in this activity.

"A book is one way of getting it out there, and going around and flogging the book is another way of reaching people who might not otherwise hear about it."

Kaufman-Lacusta will be in Fredericton speaking about this issue Monday, Aug. 15, from 7:30-9:30 p.m. in Room 202 of Brian Mulroney Hall on the St. Thomas University campus.

That evening she plans to introduce the audience to a few of the activists featured in her book, to illustrate how varied they are. She will also talk about reasons Palestinians and Israelis would choose nonviolence for their organization or their movement, what strategies have been effective and bring things up to date, as movement has occurred since the book came out.

The evening is sponsored by Fredericton Friends (Quakers), St. Thomas University Peace Studies Program, Fredericton Jews for a Just Peace and the Fredericton Peace Coalition. The Canadian Friends Service Committee is an overall sponsor for any of her talks.

Kaufman-Lacusta will also be speaking at the Unitarian Fellowship, 874 York St., on Aug. 14 at the regular Sunday service, starting at 11 a.m. Visitors are welcome to attend.

The author hopes people take away from her book and her presentation an awareness that nonviolence in alive and well in the Middle East, particularly in Palestine.

"Palestinians cannot be all tarred with the brush of terrorism. Palestinians and Israelis do work together, those folks that are refusing to be enemies and not just sitting down and talking but actually working together to try and end the occupation."

It's their actions that speak to her and it's their actions that people are uninformed about.

"Also, there has been a really disturbing trend in Canada to make criticism of Israeli policies, as anti-humanitarian as many of them are, to make criticism of them labelled as anti-Semitism. Nobody wants to be called an anti-Semite. But when you really look at it, that's not what's going on."

Kaufman-Lacusta is a duel citizen of Israel and Canada, and says she doesn't agree with everything the Israeli government says and does, just as Canadians don't always agree with everything their government says and does.

"It's not the only country whose human rights violations are being criticized," she says of Israel, "but when it is there is such an uproar raised ... that you forget that other countries are being criticized."


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017