Caitlin Williams

Caitlin Williams (Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy - MEND): Caitlin earned a joint degree in Religious Studies and International Relations from Brown University. She worked as a research assistant at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. At the time of her fellowship, Caitlin was studying for a joint degree at the Arab Studies program and Georgetown Law School. After her fellowship, Caitlin wrote: “While I don’t think I did much in the way of real capacity-building at MEND, I do think I have provided much needed temporary help in the office and some real help for the Palestinians that participated in the workshops I helped to organize. The two workshops provided me with an immense amount of satisfaction and a new perspective on nonviolent resistance in Palestine.”

Living with Violence

05 Jun

I seem to be in a hot spot right now. As I watch the pictures of the attacks on Gaza and the suicide bombing on TV I feel strangely disconnected from it all, even though the suicide bombing took place within 10 miles of my house. I was actually relaxing on the shores of the Dead Sea when the bombing and the Israeli retaliation took place. Driving back to Jerusalem, I thought of Hanan al-Shaykh’s book “Beirut Blues”, a novel set partly during the Lebanese civil war where she describes the main character’s struggle to live life as normally as possible in the midst of war and chaos. While East Jerusalem is nothing like war-torn Beirut in the 1970s, I find it strange that I can spend my afternoons by the Dead Sea, horseback riding in Jericho or even just sitting quietly on my veranda reading while all this violence is taking place. I suppose I feel that I should be more immediately affected by it than I am.

It isn’t that I’m indifferent. Quite the opposite. When I see the columns of smoke rising over Gaza, I now have personal memories of the people and the place. I remember walking past Israeli tanks in Beit Hanoun on the way to Gaza City and seeing the hovels that people live in. I remember Gaza City – how beautiful the sea is, how wonderful the fish are and how warm the people are. I will never forget the man at the beach camp who took the blanket off of his bed and nailed it to the entrance to the outhouse so I could use it in privacy. I also have memories of West Jerusalem; of driving around, of the shops and the restaurants. So it breaks my heart to see what’s going on.

What I find perhaps saddest about this recent cycle is the seeming inevitability of it all. After the assassination attempt on Rantisi, no one wondered if Hamas would retaliate, they just wondered when. After the suicide bombing occurred the general attitude among the Palestinians I spoke with was, “so, what did they expect?” That’s exactly why I think MEND’s work is so important. I try to imagine what it would have been like if, instead of the “expected” reaction, Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian population had responded with coordinated, creative, active, nonviolent measures. This is not passivity that I’m preaching, but the strategic rejection of the use of violence in a conflict where violence is obviously not working for anyone.

Posted By Caitlin Williams

Posted Jun 5th, 2003

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