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.”



Small Acts of Resistance

05 Jul

Yesterday morning on my way to work, a flying checkpoint had been set up near my house. A flying checkpoint is one that can be set up and taken down very quickly; no gate, just a string of spikes drawn across the road and a group of border patrol officers sitting in their jeep. As I walked by one of the soldiers, I wanted to shrink to about two inches in height so he wouldn’t notice me. I jumped a little when he said ‘hello’ and quickly nodded my head in return. Perhaps those who are used to dealing with armed soldiers feel differently, but it struck me that if I had made a conbscious decision to refuse to be intimidated by him and walked past with my head held high, instead of looking at the ground, that would have been an act of resistance, albeit small.

The consistent refusal by the Palestinians to be intimidated by the Israeli soldiers they encounter is, in my opinion, a form of resistance that is nonviolent. It is resistance to the legitimacy of the occupation and to the intimidating and often humiliating tactics the Israelis use to try and make life here unlivable. It is a way of saying, “I refuse to stop living my life here, on this land and I refuse to lose my dignity and humanity when faced with the threat of violence.” All of this, just by walking through a check-point with one’s head held high!

Of course, this does not always happen. There is a high level of frustration and despair over the occupation. And there is more that can be done than simply walking past a soldier and refusing to be intimidated. Regardless of what one might see on the news, especially in the United States, I see the Palestinians’ resistance to the occupation as being overwhelmingly nonviolent. These small acts don’t make the 11 o’clock news; they’re not as exciting as the suicide bombings, but they happen everyday and they are much more effective.

Unfortunately, these small acts are as much about survival as they are about resistance. There is no coordination or strategy behind them. They are the acts of individuals or small groups who, that day, have had enough and want to show themselves, as well as the soldiers, that the occupation has not taken their spirit, their humanity.

MEND is doing good work teaching communities and individuals creative ways of resisting the occupation through nonviolent means, as well as trying to build a more extensive and coordinated means of resistance. They have opened community centers in Battir, just outside of Bethlehem and Ramallah and they hope to open more in Jenin, Tul Karem, Qalqilya and Nablus. In each of these communities there is first an intensive, 15 day training in methods of nonviolent resistance, conflict mediation and conflict resolution. The training is given to those in the community who are already activists and leaders, those who will then be best equipped to pass on to the rest of the community what they have learned.

The community center helps the sustainability of the trainings by providing a space where people can come and learn more about the theory of nonviolence, meet to exchange ideas and organize acts of resistance, or simply learn how to use a computer. The hope is to empower individuals and groups so that larger-scale acts of nonviolent protest and resistance will be organized which will perhaps even lead to the end of the occupation.

Next week I’ll get to learn more about the nonviolent tactics that are taught at these trainings. I am hoping it will help clear up for me the somewhat nebulous term “nonviolent resistance.”

Posted By Caitlin Williams

Posted Jul 5th, 2003

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