Palestine Update 448
Democrats are as big a threat to a just peace in Palestine as Republicans
Motivated by their justifiable aversion to former US President Donald Trump, many analysts have painted, rather rashly I believe, a rosy picture of how Democrats could quickly erase the bleak trajectory of the previous Republican administration. This naivety is particularly pronounced in the current spin on the Palestinian-Israeli discourse, which is promoting, again, the illusion that Democrats will succeed where their political rivals have failed. There are obvious differences in the Democrat approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but only in semantics and political jingoism, not policy. This assertion can be justified if the Democrat administration’s official language on Palestine and Israel is examined, and then considered within the context of policies on the ground.
Take the recent remarks by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a CNN interview on 8 February, for example. Blinken reminded us of the clever — albeit disingenuous — US foreign policy under previous Democrat administrations. His no doubt carefully selected words may seem to be a complete departure from the belligerent, yet direct, approach of his predecessor Mike Pompeo, but…”Look, leaving aside the legalities of that question [the illegal Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights], as a practical matter, the Golan is very important to Israel’s security,” said Blinken. Later in the interview, he sidelined “legalities” yet again. “Legal questions are something else,” he insisted, before continuing to speak vaguely and non-committedly about the future of Syria.
Now juxtapose Blinken’s position on the illegal Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights with statements made by Pompeo in November. “This is a part of Israel and central part of Israel,” said the then US Secretary of State as he was accompanied by Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi on a tour of the occupied territory. Pompeo’s position, which is a blatant violation of international law, was duly condemned by Palestinians and Arabs, and criticised by various governments and international bodies. Blinken’s position, however, generated little media attention and negligible, if any, serious criticism regionally or internationally. This should not have been the case.
‘What did the world give us?’
Excerpts of a letter to President Biden from Nabi Saleh
Salam, or peace – as a value, an identity, and a common project for all of humanity. A peace that we hope will serve as a manifestation of our national existence on our land, and as an extension for our ethics. A peace that valorizes human life, and is embodied in the civil interaction between our people and the land, in our homeland of Palestine, with all its ancient history. This is the peace upon which we seek to build our tomorrow and our children’s future. The peace which the enemy wants us to forgo so that it can fulfill its biblical fantasies, which led the world to believe that this was a land without a people.
I used to believe in peace and the two-state solution adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organization — our people’s leadership — as our path to liberation from the occupation. I defended that solution, debated others over it, and struggled to achieve it. I sang for peace and named my own son “Salam” as a harbinger of a different future. But after decades of the peace process, “peace” itself is yet to be born. The power balance is skewed in favor of our opponent. The bulldozers impose a reality on the ground that cannot be overcome with the good intentions of love and peace alone. Mr. President, one day, when Salam was five years old, he came to me crying and said: “Change my name, I don’t want to be called Salam!” He had heard people mocking and cursing the “peace” process; my son believed that he was the “salam” they were talking about. How, Mr. President, will you restore the word’s meaning so that my son begins to love his name? How will the meaning of freedom, justice, and democracy be restored in the minds of our children? How will we protect them from the lurking temptation of terrorism, from which we all suffer today?
Nearly three decades after the Oslo Accords were signed, I had a discussion with my daughter, Ahed, and her friends after we attended a protest against annexation and settlements. Amid a cloud of teargas and bullets, and with the force of state terrorism aimed at the new generation of freedom fighters, I attempted to display my intellectual prowess by making an argument in favor of a two-state solution. Ahed told me then: You, your generation, and the generations before you fought and were imprisoned, wounded, and killed. Our leadership — with all its history and symbolism, and the trust that our people placed in it — believed in this solution. You trusted the world, the UN, and international law, and gave up on 78 percent of the land of Palestine for this solution, for peace.
What did you gain? What did the world, which promised you a country, actually give you? Don’t you see the settlements, father? Don’t you see the wall? Don’t you see the world doesn’t care about our blood and suffering? This world wants our suffering to continue, because it allows it to escape the burden of regret for a crime it committed against humanity. A crime for which we pay the price in pain and suffering, ever since the Balfour Declaration said our country will be the place where the State of Israel is established, to defend the interests of colonization. So, if we are to be killed, wounded, and jailed for an experiment that the world has proven it cannot achieve, then we ourselves should sacrifice for the liberation of our people and land. We should establish a State of Palestine in which everyone lives freely and peacefully, without discrimination based on race, religion, or color. A free country for free people. This peace begins with Palestine as the foundation on which to build from, as we strive to overcome the obstacles of the past and the demands of the present, and to cross the bridge of hope with optimism and confidence.
Bassem Tamimi, is a Palestinian community leader and activist with the Nabi Saleh Popular Struggle Committee.