Apparently the U.S. and Israel treat nonviolent protesters as being as much of a threat as terrorists:
Bil’in Protest organizer Abdallah Abu Rahmah was sentenced to two months of imprisonment and to a six month suspended sentence, after a five year long trial on charges clearly related to freedom of speech.
Abu Rahmah was convicted of two counts of “activity against the public order”, simply for participating in demonstrations, in one count despite the fact that “No evidence of violence towards the security forces was provided”. Abu Rahmah was also convicted of “obstructing a soldier in the line of duty”, for shouting at a police officer and refusing to leave the scene of a demonstration, of “breaking curfew”, for being in the street in front of his house when the army declared curfew on Bil’in to suppress a demonstration, and of “incitement”, which under military law is defined as “The attempt, verbal or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order”. Abu Rahmah was convicted of inciting others to “[…] continue advancing [to their lands during a demonstration in Bil’in], claiming that the land belongs to them.
For years the U.S. and even Israel have been saying that groups (or individuals) who use violent means to get their point across, will not have a place at any negotiating table. Increasingly we are a seeing not only peaceful groups use economic boycotts and peaceful civil disobedience, but also traditionally violent groups like Hamas begin to realize the political power of civil disobedience and other forms of protest. And no, unfortunately Hamas has not renounced violence but more and more it has become clear that they recognize the power of being able to attract public attention through means other than violence. This presents a big problem for the U.S. and Israel, both of whom once called on people to use these very means we are now condemning.
I believe that the U.S. never really expected certain groups/organizations people to use civil disobedience so we never thought we would have to face a situation like the flotilla incident or the growing number of boycotts, peaceful protests in Gaza and other parts of the Occupied Territories. And what has the US response been? Have we praised groups for their nonviolent means of getting their message out? No, we have sat quietly by and Israel has violently repressed free speech, the right to assemble and nonviolent protests. We have sat quietly by as Israel murders protesters, enacts draconian laws which violate free speech and we have joined in the demonization of these protesters by changing our rhetoric- now we say things which infer that “those who attempt to deligitimize Israel…” are as dangerous to Israel’s security as those who plant bombs or use missiles to get their point across.
This is shameful on our part and shows just how the U.S. never really supported nonviolence to begin with. The same thing happened with Northern Ireland when Sein Fein began to realize the power of civil disobedience. Although because Northern Ireland is not Israel, we eventually accepted them and allowed them to negotiate a peace treaty.
Israel refers to the boycott movement as “economic terrorism” and justified killing nine people flotilla because they sought to “delegitimize” the Jewish State. That’s the big story which the media is ignoring- what happens when groups use nonviolence in the Mideast, like we’ve been begging them to do for years?