May 13 2015

Remember the Suffering of Palestinians

Published by at 9:34 am under Articles,Palestinian politics


Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

AMMAN — Sometimes it is difficult to remember the daily suffering of Palestinians living under occupation.

The wars and turmoil all around us tend to divert our attention from genuinely terrible issues that might seem mundane when compared to the wars in Syria or Yemen. But the human tragedy in Palestine is real, even if it is not headline news.

Take, for example, the case of Khaled Abu Arafeh, Ahmad Ottwan, Mohammed Totah and Mohammad Abu Tier, who have been denied their birthright to live in Jerusalem and are forced to reside in nearby Ramallah without any documentation.

Their crime is that they were elected (in the case of Abu Arafeh, minister) following the victory of the pro-Hamas parliamentary list in 2006.

For 10 years, they have been fighting their case in the Israeli courts, and were imprisoned three times. Their main sin (as per the Israeli prosecutor) is that theyhave not shown loyalty to the state of Israel.

East Jerusalem, the birthplace of these men, was unilaterally annexed by Israel shortly after the 1967 occupation. No country in the world has recognized this annexation.

Further south, there is the case of the villagers of Susya, a rural community south of Hebron that the Israeli forces have been using for military exercises.

When the villagers complained to the Israeli high court, it ruled in favor (you guessed it) of the army, not of the third-class Palestinians living on their lands.

In April 2002, Israel surrounded the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in an attempt to arrest a group of Palestinians who had decided to hide there. After intensive negotiations, Israel agreed to allow the 39 Palestinians temporary free passage to various locations. Thirteen were sent to different European countries and 26 were sent to Gaza.

The agreement was for them to stay there for two years, after which they would be allowed to return to their homes in Bethlehem. Thirteen years have now passed, and there is no sign that they will ever be allowed to return.

The above are only a few cases that show some of the problems faced by Palestinians who have been living for nearly 47 years under a foreign military occupation.

This occupation, which also features a colonial settlement enterprise, has just received an even bigger push from the election of the most radical right-wing government in the history of Israel.

In the last hours of negotiations that led to the formation of the government, the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home Party sought and was granted positions that directly affect Palestinians.

Now the deputy defense minister in charge of the lives of four million Palestinians is a pro-settlement right-wing Israeli nationalist.

The more direct position of head of civil administration is from the same party.

The civil administration, which was supposed to be closed down as part of the Oslo Accords, is now in charge of some 60 percent of West Bank land defined as “Area C” (under full Israeli civil and security control).

This is the one area that a future Palestinian state can exist; it is now in the hands of pro-settler Israeli officials who will no doubt double or triple the numbers of Jewish settlers and settlements, pushing even further away the chance of any reasonable possibility of a two-state solution.

The Israeli high court, which some argue keeps the army in check, will no doubt turn even more radical now that the new minister of justice, from the same right-wing party, is on record as being committed to weakening the court.

Some argue that such a right-wing government will produce the kind of international pressure that will force the Netanyahu government to refrain from provocative actions against Palestinians.

Few Palestinians believe that. Experience tells us that with such a government, even worse things will happen to Palestinians, and the international community will do little more than give lip service against such acts.

However, Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian professor and initiator of calls for an academic boycott of Israel, said in a column in the New York Times that Israel’s extremism will encourage a global boycott of Israel. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement will no doubt receive a big boost as a result of the new government, which no longer includes members who could give the appearance of wanting peace.

In some way, the new Israeli government is a true reflection of the state of Israel without the makeup and masks that have been so cleverly used for years.

As Palestinians remember the 1948 Nakbeh (catastrophe), when they lost their lands and homes to what is now the state of Israel, it is sad to realize that we are so far away from any reasonable solution that could provide for the other part of the partition plan: an independent Palestinian state.

With the prospects for an overall peace slipping farther and farther away, it is important not to forget the human element of this decades-old tragedy, especially that of Palestinians living as deportees within their own country or as refugees around the world.

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