Friday, September 03, 2004

Gandhi's Grandson Visits Gaza Through Video-Conference, Describes Occupation as 'Ten Times Worse than Apartheid'

The International Press Center (IPC)


The peace advocate Dr. Arun Gandhi, founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence and grandson of the legendary peace icon Mahatma Gandhi, addressed the members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in Ramallah, and Gaza members through video-conference.

During his speech, Dr. Gandhi asserted that his recent visit to the Palestinian territories has put the picture in its right perspective, saying that many people around the world and especially in the United States, where he lives, have a distorted image of the Palestinians s a terrorist nation, created mainly by the American media.

"I had a very distorted vision when I came here, mostly generated by the media of the United States. When my friends in Memphis, Tennessee, heard that I was going to Palestine, they all came to me with a worried look on their faces and said to me that you're going to a terrorist state, you'd better be careful or they'll kill you," Dr. Gandhi told the PLC members.

Mahatma Gandhi's grandson reaffirmed that nonviolence was the only option for the Palestinian people to reclaim their rights, as it made both moral and practical sense. "I don't think Palestine has the economic capacity or the military capacity to face a huge state like Israel, which has far more military, far more arsenal, and powerful friends, and they can, in1967 , win a war."

Dr. Gandhi maintained that the culture of nonviolence is present and taught in every nation and culture, but it is being suppressed and not expressed properly, as sporadic nonviolence does not make any difference. He stressed the necessity to learn nonviolence well before carrying it out as means of resistance.

"Nonviolence understood properly and used effectively can make a big difference in impacting the oppressor … people think when we talk about nonviolence that it's the non use of physical force, so as long as we're not at war or not killing each other or not beating each other, we're not violent, but that's not nonviolence. Nonviolence is much deeper than that. It's a much more powerful philosophy than that, and that's what we need to understand," Dr. Arun Gandhi said.

Addressing the situations he had encountered during his trip of the occupied Palestinian territories, Gandhi said that what he saw here was ten times worse than the peak of the Apartheid era in South Africa, where he was raised.

"When I come here and see the situation here (in the Palestinian territories), I find that what is happening here is ten times worse than what I had experienced in South Africa. This is Apartheid," he said.

Gandhi continued by referring to the Israeli Apartheid Wall, being built around West Bank cities and towns, saying that "I realized that the Wall is not a wall of security to keep out terrorists, it is a wall to create Bantustans. It is a wall that is isolating communities here, so then these communities can be frustrated and eliminated, not physically, but people can get totally demoralized and leave the town, and that's basically what they (the Israelis) want."

Gandhi pointed out that the occupation of Palestinian land and the manner in which Israel has taken over the Palestinian territories and spread illegal settlements indicates that what is happening is a de facto a part of Israel.

"We are going to recognize this fact, and we're going to rebel against it, not rebel violently and give them the opportunity to crush us, but rebel nonviolently and show the world the injustice you're suffering," Gandhi advised the PLC members.

Gandhi's grandson further mentioned that the more Palestinian people become helpless, the more the world would believe that they are silent and doing nothing towards their injustice, which only means that they are enjoying their life and are happy about it.

"We should not feel helpless, and I think it's the responsibility of you as leaders of the community, to give proper leadership to the community, to make them realize that we have means to fight this kind of situation," Dr. Arun Gandhi spoke to the Palestinian MPs, referring to the famous Berlin Wall, which was created when Adolph Hitler rose to lead the then crushed German people, who were so helpless that they followed anyone, and then brought more misery and oppression on them, and lead to the creation of this Wall.

Dr. Gandhi said that in a few days he would return with his peace delegation to the United States, in order to rectify the image of the Palestinian people in the minds of people there.

"(the Palestinian) people are not terrorists, people are not violent, people are people, people are loving, people are warm-hearted and people want peace and freedom like everybody else."

Revealing a plan he had imagined similar to his grandfather's famous "Salt March" in India, Dr. Gandhi proposed that Palestinian refugees from neighboring Arab countries could march nonviolently back to their homes in Palestine, in order to show the world that they want their freedom and land back.

"What would it look like if there was something equivalent of the 'Salt March' … in 1930 my grandfather launched a salt march, and he marched for 247 miles along with tens of thousands of people following him … what would it look like if a group of leaders from Palestine would lead those50 , 000men, women and children in a march back to Palestine, and let the world know you're coming back to your homes, not to a foreign country nor violating any country's border … maybe the Israeli army would shoot and kill several people, they may kill a hundred or two hundred people; men, women and children, and that would shock the world, and the world would get up and say what's going on. That's the kind of electrifying action that needs to be taken."

Concluding his speech before the PLC, Dr. Arun Gandhi expressed his gratitude to the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people for their hospitality and warmth, and he ascertained that some of the members of his delegation would come back here, hoping that their return would be to a free Palestine, where all Palestinians can freely move between their communities.



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