Civil Disobedience Campaign Gets Mixed Reviews from Arabs

A four-stage civil disobedience campaign in the administered territories was announced here Thursday by East Jerusalem journalist Hanna Seniora.

He said it would begin Friday with the ultimate aim of-ending the Israeli occupation by making it “unprofitable.” But judged by the lack of response in the Palestinian community, the project may be stillborn.

Seniora, the editor of the Arabic daily Al Fajr, met with foreign correspondents. He had intended to hold a full-scale news conference. It was deferred until Friday and then canceled, because, according to Seniora, “the authorities prevented a number of people from taking part.”

But it may well have been Arab skepticism about the campaign that forced its cancelation. Several leading Palestinians played down the importance of the move. Hikmat al-Masri, the Israeli-appointed mayor of Nablus who is deputy speaker of the Jordanian Parliament, said Seniora’s announcement was “symbolic” and had no practical significance.

Seniora said the campaign would take the form initially of a boycott of Israeli-made cigarettes. He observed in that connection that the late Indian independence leader Mohandas Ghandi “started off with salt, and the Palestinians will start with cigarettes.”

The second stage of the campaign is to begin two weeks later, when Palestinians in the territories stop buying Israeli soft drinks. Then they will stop paying taxes. The final stage, according to Seniora, will be an Arab boycott of their jobs in Israel.

Claiming that Israel earns $200 million in annual revenue from the administered territories, Seniora said, “In order for the occupation to end, it should become unprofitable.”

Seniora initiated the campaign earlier this week, along with Mubarak Awad, founder and head of the Center for the Study of Non-Violence in East Jerusalem.

AWAD DOESN’T SHOW UP

Awad, who was not present at the meeting with reporters, is a Jerusalem-born naturalized American citizen. Last month he was ordered deported, but strong pressure from Washington prevailed on the Israeli authorities not to implement the order.

Seniora declined to name other Palestinians he said were behind him. But he insisted that a majority of the population in the territories would support the boycott. He stressed it was voluntary.

“This is something that is not being forced on anyone. It is up to the free will of every person. I believe that at the moment, with the present situation, the people are ready for such a move,” he said.

Israeli authorities do not seem disturbed by Seniora’s campaign, but are watching it closely because of his stature in the Palestinian community. Jerusalem police were reportedly trying to determine whether the call for civil disobedience was illegal. Police Minister Haim Barlev met with a group of Palestinians earlier in the week to warn them against inflammatory statements.

The boycott call seems to represent a change of attitude on the part of Seniora, who has argued in the past that the best way to advance the Palestinian cause is to work within the Israeli system.

Last year he announced he might stand for election to the Jerusalem City Council. He dropped the idea after getting negative feedback from the Palestinian community. His name came up last year as a possible Palestinian representative on a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation to negotiate peace with Israel. The delegation never materialized and the peace move remains stalemated.

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