"I AM OPENLY and consciously courting arrest," acknowledges Dr. Mubarak Awad, an American-trained youth counsellor who recently held a seminar in East Jerusalem and Ramallah which he hopes will be the start of a Palestinian non-violent resistance movement. "The worst thing the Israelis can do is to ignore me."
These two remarks immediately betray both the weakness and the potential of his programme. It is probably only through provoking a repressive response from the Israeli authorities that he will establish his legitimacy in the eyes of the local population and prove to them that methods he advocates have the potential of ridding themselves of occupation.
A long-time resident of the U.S., Awad has been curtly dismissed by West Bankers as "another one of those American Palestinians with their imported ideas" or even as "CIA or an Israeli agent."
But he appears unperturbed. Since the seminar, which was attended by only a few hundred mainly young Palestinians, Awad has been buzzing around the West Bank on a powerful motorbike he brought with him, spreading his ideas of passive resistance in refugee camps and villages.
"Despite the low attendance at the seminar, everyone has heard about me," he says.
A powerfully built man of 40 with a mop of curly hair, Awad conveys a strength of conviction which quickly dispels any notion of naivete a notion prevalent among many who have heard his ideas but have not met him.
Born to an Orthodox Christian family in Musrara, he spent his most formative years under the influence of the famous Katy Antonius, wife of the Palestinian historian George Antonius.
Katy, who ran the most popular salon in Arab Jerusalem during the Mandate, founded an orphanage in the Old City, Dar al Aulad, where the young Mubarak was taken when father was shot during the war.
"The house was in no-man's land, and to this day we don't know if he shot by Jews or Arabs," says Awad.
"It was Katy Antonius who taught that people are people and there is no reason to fear them or their rank," says Awad, who recalls overhearing the famous lady once cursing the Jordanian monarch on the telephone for his treatment of Palestinians.
AWAD IS BENT on drawing the attention of the Israeli authorities in a 12-page blueprint for passive resistance in the territories which he has prepared.
The non-violent struggle, he writes there, is a form of "mobile warfare." The Israeli soldier is "not a frightening beast or an animal devoid of conscience and feeling." He can be "demoralized because he constantly needs reasonable justification for his activities."
Borrowing methods from Gene Sharp's book, The Politics of Non-Violence, Awad suggests that Palestinians should hold protest prayers, fasts, silent demonstrations "using powerful symbols such as yellow armbands and concentration camp costumes."
In a chapter headed "Obstruction," he says that "Palestinians on the inside must attempt to block the roads, prevent communications, cut electricity, telephone and water lines, prevent the movement of equipment, and in other ways obstruct the tools of government in carrying out their unjust and evil plans."
"Harassment" is a method of psychological warfare aimed at the oppressor. "Hot/cold tactics may be utilized. This means a quick switching between protest and denunciation on the one hand and appeals and affirmation of good will on the other." The distinctive feature of this method is to "always take the initiative and aim at the morale, psychology and the mentality of the oppressor."
LIKE SO MANY observers of the situation in the territories, Awad concludes that "Israel cannot govern the West Bank and the Gaza Strip without the agreement, approval and cooperation of the subject people."
While such cooperation is elicited through individual and collective violence and intimidation from the authorities, Awad argues, the Palestinians still have the choice of going along with it or refusing if they are willing to pay the price.
A long list of areas of non-cooperation boils down to a schedule for civil disobedience. They include a refusal to build Israeli settlements, roads or "any other Judaization construction projects," a refusal to work in Israeli factories, to fill out forms or give information to the authorities, to carry and produce identity cards, to pay fines, thereby choking the already crowded jails "and disrupting the entire judicial and security apparatus."
Palestinians should refuse to submit requests for the numerous licences required by the authorities, refuse to appear when summoned to offices of the civil administration or the military government, refuse to cooperate with officers and employees of the military administration, refuse to sign, accept or submit forms printed in Hebrew, refuse to pay income tax and value-added tax, and refuse to abide by house-arrest orders, travel restrictions or curfew orders.
"This method of resistance, at a minimum, forces the authorities to utilize a very large number of employees and soldiers to rule the occupied territories," he explains, almost unnecessarily.
BUT UNLIKE other famous examples of passive resistance based on complete and overriding moral and religious faith at least among the leaders Awad's ideas are strategic, tactical and not without contradictions.
"Non-violence does not affect the methods open to Palestinians on the outside, nor does it constitute a rejection of the slogan of armed struggle. Nor does it negate the possibility that the struggle on the inside may be turned into an armed struggle at a later stage," he writes.
But only a few lines later he argues that non-violence would "remove the irrational fear of 'Arab violence' which presently acts like glue which cements Israeli society together. Removing this fear will contribute to the disintegration of Israeli society."
Awad sees his non-violent movement as something within the Palestinian consensus and ever within the PLO. He acknowledges however, that Labib Terzi, the PLO representative to the UN, told him that there was no room for such a movement.
The strategy of non-violence does not impose or indicate a particular political position. It is not necessary that such a position be politically moderate. For example, there is nothing that requires the non-violent movement to prefer two-state solution to a secular democratic state on all the Palestinian homeland," he says.
The non-violent movement must stay within the broad Palestinian consensus which, to choose two examples, includes self-determination and "the legitimacy and singleness of the representation of the Palestinian people through the PLO."
His talk of different strategies and another political "movement" has already incurred the wrath of PLO supporters, particularly those on the radical left and the Moslem Brotherhood in the West Bank.
"If the PLO is 'democratic,' as it continuously insists that it is, then it must allow other voices," says Awad, who sees the apparent demise of the PLO and its leader Yasscr Arafat as an opportunity and an opening for his ideas.
"If Arafat survives, and I hope he does, it will mean more moderation and more room for ideas of a non-violent struggle. If he doesn't, those who remain will be more rejectionist and that will open a greater number of choices to people here."
AWAD'S IDEAS have been met with much scepticism. He is, after all, a Christian, people point out, and that is a limitation in Arab politics. Moreover, the idea of nonviolence is totally strange to Islam, with its theme of jihad, or holy war, against heretical enemies.
"Palestinians are more politically aware than Indians or American blacks," says Awad, referring to the two outstanding examples of non-violent struggles Mahatma Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King in the United States. "Palestinians eat and sleep politics, they are married to politics," he says, implying that they are more than ready for the relative sophistication that a programme of passive resistance requires.
In the weeks he has been promoting his ideas, Awad has also reached some interesting conclusions. The villages, he says, are more politically inclined than the towns, where commercial interests dominate. Women are more politically passionate than men, and the refugees see their misery as something of a political statement in itself.
"We have a lot of people who just don't care or have no hope and have just given up. They have to be touched individually by the Israeli administration to get involved."
Although Awad acknowledges an increasing philosophical tension among Christians and Moslems and sees Christian national feeling as less "Arab" than Moslem national feeling, he believes that Palestinian Moslems would accept his ideas because they are political and not religious: "Arabs have learnt to borrow objects and ideas from the West because they work."
"Islam liberated a country for Moslems," he says, referring to Khomeini's Iran, and while there was non-violence in the early stages of the Koran, the idea of the Jihad soon took over. Nonetheless, he insists that it is possible to persuade Moslems of the validity of non-violent struggle on a political, but not a religious basis.
He is also aware that much of the resistance he has encountered comes from the Moslem Brotherhood: "I can convince them if they see that the faith I have in my cause is personal and political and not Christian."
Awad is highly critical of the churches in the West-Bank. "Ninety per cent of the church leadership here is foreign. There is a colonialist Christian mentality of having some 'native ministers' while the leadership of the church is in the U.S. or Germany and is not responsible to the people here."
NON-VIOLENCE is not an entirely new idea in the Palestinian struggle. Awad recalls in his paper the six-month strike of Arab workers during 1936 and Arab boycotts of Israel.
Some of his critics mention the defacing of Israeli banknotes that is a common "gesture of resistance" in the West Bank. And the practice of hooting or whistling at settlers or soldiers once common in Ramallah. None achieved anything apart from giving vent to frustration.
But Awad refers to the most recent example in the area as a model of what has to be done and what can be achieved. The Druse on the recently annexed Golan Heights have been conducting a powerful, concentrated and cohesive campaign of non-cooperation, he notes.
"Surprisingly, many Palestinians see non-violence as a weak way of resistance which, in their perception, they have already been through and have now escalated to violence. Others believe that it has been tried and that it has failed."
WHEN AWAD returned to the West Bank in March to start a programme of youth counselling, he was shocked by the extent of fear and despair he saw among local Palestinians.
"Some of the fear is real, some imaginary. Palestinians put restrictions on themselves that Israel doesn't like going out at night.
"There is so much individual hatred and it is so deep that the Palestinians are not functioning normally. The outside situation (the PLO and the Arab world) affects the inside situation so much they cannot function properly as individuals or as a group."
Awad arrived at his "non-violent conclusion" after he realized that the Arab world had neither the interest nor the means to liberate the Palestinians, while the PLO did not and probably would not have the means. All the while, he notes, Israel proceeded systematically "to take everything from us without any resistance."
"With preparation and a systematic approach, we could achieve more than has been achieved by violence," he says. "We have reached such a point of despair, feeling that our identity is going without admitting it to ourselves. That is the moment for a non-violent struggle."