Woe to the Powerless! Once Again Palestinians Are Paying the Price

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

During this century, 2020 seems like a year we would like to remove from our memory.  With life being toppled upside down for everybody all over the world due to the Corona Pandemic,  forces of evil still find a way to strike again and again

We hardly got over the shock of the explosion in Beirut on August 4,  and the loss of so many lives  along with the destruction of a large area of the city when we got another shock  on August 13, with the breaking news of the United Arab Emirates’ recognition of Israel and the normalization of  their relationship on all levels.  Why would the Emirates do that at a time when the Palestinians are at their lowest ebb, and they need the support of all their Arab neighbors to sanction Israel instead of allying with it.  A promise for full Arab States relationship with Israel was stipulated clearly  in the Saudi initiative at the Arab summit meeting in Beirut in  March 2002,  provided Israel  ended its occupation and withdrew from all the Arab  territories it occupied 1967, in accordance with Security Council 242 and 338.  However, the Israeli  occupation has been further entrenched by the establishment of settlements all over the West Bank.  So, is the UAE rewarding Israel? Or, is it encouraging other Arab countries to do likewise, and further abandon the Palestinians?   It is shameful indeed and no justification is acceptable.

My first reaction was that  Israel won once again,  and succeeded in driving a wedge in the midst of the Arab countries.   All colonial countries are experts on the policy of “divide and rule”.   As a Palestinian,   I was old enough to remember this kind of policy  during the British Mandate, and later on I  learned that it happened wherever the British Empire ruled.  So ever  since the creation of the State of Israel which was a byproduct of the British Mandate,  such a policy continued to prevail, except that the major player now supporting Israel is the USA.  Without its unequivocal moral and financial support, Israel could not have been able to maintain the occupation of the Palestinian Territories. And during the term of Donald Trump, the USA has been exceptionally generous with Israel and rewarded it with  a United  Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,  the Deal of the Century, and this latest  UAE initiative.   In  the meantime, and very sadly  the wedge between the Palestinians continues to prevail.  However, the words of Condoleeza Rice, the US Secretary of the Sate from 2005-2009,  and who was the National Security Adviser to President George Bush during the invasion of Iraq,  become so pertinent at such a time  as she had   declared  at that time that the USA  wants to see a New Middle East. Who else but Israel, their ally in the region, who would help them attain that, being Israel’s  wish as well?   Since then we have seen what happened in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and all the region in general.  So with this latest announcement, what else is new?

My second reaction to the deal was that the “wizard”  Bibi Netanyahu, as he was referred to by one of the Hebrew papers, as well as the business man, Donald Trump, are facing problems and challenges  in their political careers and upcoming elections in the US and another  possible  election in Israel.  What better distraction and promotion could they get than striking such a deal at such a time.  And especially that all three of them,  the UAE,  Israel,  and the USA share a common enemy – IRAN-.

Yet,  I could not help but reflect on the Oslo Accords by which the Palestinians accepted to establish their state on the 1967 borders for the sake of peace.  We were given the impression that peace was really around the corner;  our deported young men would  be allowed to come back, and the prisoners would be released.     Yes, many of the deportees did come back, but many of the prisoners are still languishing in Israeli jails.

To start with, the Palestinians recognized Israel,  whereas  Israel did not recognize the State of Palestine, but it recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization.  Representatives of the Palestinian National Council amended the PLO  charter to renounce the armed struggle as a means of liberating the country, whereas International law stipulates  “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle”. And the worst part of the deal besides dividing the occupied territories into areas A, B, and C,  was to  defer the  following basic issues, Jerusalem, borders, refugees, and settlements, till the end of the first phase of the negotiations, which was five years.

And the five years went on for  four times five, until  all negotiations came to an end and the Palestinian Authority cut all relations and coordination with Israel as well as  the USA for not being an honest broker.   In the meantime, Israel had created a new reality on the ground by establishing settlements all over the occupied territories, and by announcing Jerusalem as its capital and moving the USA  embassy to it.

Once again the Palestinians are paying the price.  And throughout our history, and despite all the compromises that we have made for the sake of peace,   we were never offered a fair deal.  We were demanding justice, and we even made a compromise on it and were willing to settle for a  relative justice,  but even that we were denied, because we were powerless.  Yet all along we were  being accused of “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”   That opportunity was either a bad one or a worse one.  While we have been so powerless under occupation, we still  had faith in our just cause and were counting on the international community to pressure Israel to abide by international law and  United Nations Resolutions.  But apparently in an era of power and domination,  neither justice nor the United Nations resolutions seem to work.  The title I chose for this reflection, “Woe to the powerless,”  could not be more true than in those times when our cry is not only the cry of the powerless, but a cry in the wilderness, when even our closest friends are not listening.

My family and friends continue to wonder why I even bother to go on writing.  I am starting to wonder myself, but amidst all this hopelessness,   can I really lose hope? Of course not.  History has taught us that no injustice or empire can last forever.

Samia Nasir Khoury is a Jerusalemite Palestinian author whose life has been greatly affected by the Nakba and Israel’s occupation of Palestine. She is the author of Reflections from Palestine: A Journey of Hope and blogs on reflectionsfrompalestine blogspot.com