Holy Land Trust had four main areas of focus:
Resist the occupation
Create transformation in self and other through non-violent resistance
Develop and train leaders in non-violent techniques.
Our talk with Sami was perhaps one of the best of the entire trip; although all the speakers were top-notch. HLT was created after the 2nd Intifada (uprising) as an alternative to the violent acts of some members of Palestinian activist groups and Hamas. As Sami spoke about what they currently teach about non-violent resistance, I was flashing back to another one of our visits, to the tiny village of Bil'lin. While in Bil'in, our group did a home stay, sleeping on the floor of two homes in the village. Wayne and I stayed in the home of Rani, a young man who was shot and paralyzed by a snipers bullet during the 2nd Intifada.
The next morning, we awoke and walked to the wall that separates the residents of Bil'lin from their land. This wall has been the site of non-violent demonstrations at keast weekly for six years. International attention has been gained for these encounters between the soldiers who are there to protect both the wall and the Jewish settlement residents on the other side. Bil'lin activists were proud of a recent success-- because of demonstrations and taking their case to court, they were able to move the wall back 500 meters to allow farmers access to their olive trees. Many of the demonstrations we filmed: and they are well-known in the activist circles for their creativity. At the same time, there were times that the techniques used during the demonstration were not what I understand non-violence to mean. Sometimes the protesters got in the faces of soldiers, sometimes they threw dirt or shouted at them. They were clearly trying to provoke a response and usually they are prepared for tear gas at the least.
Non-violent activism in Palestine does mean different things to different people. For some, it means we don't try to hurt or kill anyone as an act of resistance. For others it means Ghandian non-violence. We never heard a Palestinian activist in all our interviews who would categorically condemn those who have used violence in the popular struggle. At the same time, we often heard, even in the towns and villages known for the intensity of their resistance, the statement that violent resistance has not worked and that non-violent resistance is the only way. It's an understanding that has come after the Palestinian people have paid a terrible price in retaliatory violence from the Israelis.