Good News from Palestine?


Aimee Pratt shares first-hand experiences of a nation teetering on the brink of statehood

There is a popular Arab proverb; he who swings an aggressive sword will be swung by it. But when Palestine submitted their bid for independent statehood last week to the United Nations, a contemporary twist could now easily be added; he who swings an aggressive sword will be swung by it – unless your name is Israel and you have a best mate that goes by the name America.

When the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas addressed the UN General Assembly on Friday, he was simply asking for two things: freedom from Israel’s brutal occupation and formal international recognition of Palestine as a fully-fledged independent sovereign state. Considering Israel’s violation of several UN resolutions concerning their illegal attainment of Palestinian land, Abbas’s decision to try seeking diplomatic refuge in this huge international organisation is undoubtedly justified.

However, much to the delight of Israel’s growing Zionist movement, the hidden political hegemony of America was predictably on hand to halt any progress. Obama delicately informed UN delegates on Thursday that the same country which so often prides itself on how it values ideas of democracy and freedom would veto Palestine’s bid if it managed to reach the Security Council. In his most pro-Israeli speech yet, Obama told the world that the only road to peace was through diplomatic talks between the two countries; mirroring Bush’s somewhat nonchalant approach some years earlier.

The US President also praised Arab citizens in countries such as Libya and Egypt for having the courage to seize their freedom from unruly dictators during the Arab Spring. One thing is for certain, even though Abbas’s bid for statehood will ultimately fail, the glaring hypocrisy of Obama’s foreign policy towards the Middle East has become embarrassingly obvious. The continuous violation of Palestinian human rights by Israel is without a doubt on par with some of the crimes carried out by regimes such as Gaddafi’s. America’s decision to veto does nothing more constructive than epitomise the image of politicians who openly talk of peace, but inadvertently promote war. With the Presidential elections looming next year, it seems Obama’s domestic political aims have trumped his international responsibilities. Never mind the Israeli war-planes continually bombing innocent civilians in Gaza Obama, you may be able to sway a few hundred on-the-fence voters with your pro-Israeli stance.

Street art and graffiti on the West Bank show contrasting emotions. Picture © Aimee Pratt

On reading this article, you may think that my opinion of Obama’s approach to the Palestinian bid for statehood is overly aggressive and perhaps even slightly belligerent. But on spending the summer there, I witnessed a disgusting display of human rights abuses by the Israelis and it is an experience I will not hastily forget.

From random tear-gas attacks on innocent children to sporadic electricity and water cuts in refugee camps, Palestine is a nation screaming to be saved from Israel’s oppression. The 8ft tall concrete wall that has been thrown up around the West Bank and Gaza to prevent those without a permit from leaving, stands as a physical reminder that Israel’s paranoia of the spread of Islamic fundamentalism has gone too far.

Speaking to one bar owner in Bethlehem in the West Bank about his views on the future of Palestine, the demoralising effects of the Israeli occupation really hit, “Some people call this place a prison”, he said, “But I call it a zoo. People come and watch us suffer and leave again like caged animals. There is no hope for Palestine, there is no money here. Everyone with money is emigrating and soon we will have nothing left.”

Even respected members of the Palestinian Parliament themselves have limited hope for peace, regardless of whether Abbas’s bid for independent statehood is successful or not. On speaking to Anwar Al-Zboun of the Palestinian Legislative Council – who is also an ex member of Hamas and has been imprisoned 6 times for this affiliation – it was clear too much land had been taken illegally by Israel since 1967 for him to happily accept a sovereign Palestinian state with post 1967 borders. He told me, “it could not be a real state, it would only be a state on paper. Everyday Israel continue to take what they want from us because they are strong and we are weak. But they have taken my land from me and I do not want to give up before I have got it back.”

It certainly would be the case that if Palestine did become an independent state with agreed borders on the 1967 Green Line, many Palestinians would still be classed as refugees, and a lot of land that was illegally taken before 1967 will remain in Israeli hands. Diana Alzeer, a young Palestinian activist from Ramallah also agrees; “I do not feel like celebrating the quest for a state on the 1967 borders. Those borders mean the loss of 70% of the land that we Palestinians call “Palestine” – the area where Palestinians lived before 1948.”

Amongst accepting this inevitable compromise that may come with an independent state solution, problems concerning quarrelling between Palestine’s different political factions would undoubtedly entail. With Hamas ruling Gaza and Fatah the West Bank, it might be difficult for Palestine to unite.

But according to Jospeh Dana, a respected Israeli journalist, Palestinian unity is possible, even during the Israeli occupation continues. The key to Palestinian power and unity, he believes, is unarmed resistance. Dana, who described Israel as an, “island of authoritarianship in a sea of emerging democracies”, believes that the best way to overcome Israel’s oppression is economic boycott by consumerws outside the conflict zone. But clearly this would be tough to achieve, considering America, the world’s biggest economic power, is eating straight out of Israel’s hand.

With a dozen different theories floating into the diplomatic arena concerning Palestinian statehood, one thing remains clear; human rights are still being violated in Palestine, and the longer the issue is stalled at the United Nations, the longer the unbearable suffering of Palestine’s declining population will continue.

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