THIS WEEK IN PALESTINE: “Budding Palestine” April 2013 March 31, 2013

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The Last Word – Long Live the People

While Barack Obama was giving a speech to some Israeli youth, Rabee’ Eid, a conscientious Palestinian “heckler” from the town of Eilaboun (near Tiberias), interrupted him and shouted, among other things, “Did you see the apartheid wall?” A day later, fate had it that Rabee’ would get his wish: an unusual sandstorm hit the region and, instead of travelling by helicopter as planned, the President of the United States had to be driven to Bethlehem through the Bethlehem checkpoint which is adjacent to the notorious and monstrous-looking apartheid wall. This is the Holy Land, after all, and we’re used to miracles! To remain in this mystical setting, it’s worth mentioning that we also had a decent number of locusts that invaded southern Palestine a few weeks ago; an eerie reminder of one of the plagues that struck ancient Egypt when gross injustice prevailed.

Divine intervention and signs of the times aside, reality on the ground remains the same pre- and post-President Obama’s visit, which got huge media coverage. I don’t believe any Palestinian expected great drama; in fact, apprehension, mistrust, and even anger because of four years of missed opportunities laced with hollow promises were the predominant Palestinian feelings. Analysts claim that President Obama’s new approach or strategy is to bypass the political establishment (specifically the Israeli political establishment) and go directly to the public; to the youth in particular. He hopes that they will pressure their governments into making peace with their respective foes. The same analysts, however, cast serious doubt on the efficacy of this new strategy, for reasons beyond the scope of this column.

Irrespective of whether or not this new strategy will work, it is vital for the public to put pressure on government – through non-violent means, of course – in order, at least, to ensure coherence between the government and the people. The question is how far should the public go? And how tolerant should government be? A political activist who normally posts daring material on his Facebook page recently posted a critical remark after a young lady informed him that although she often agrees with what he posts, she’s afraid to “like” it for fear of being targeted. “If we don’t have the courage to even express our opinion,” he wrote, “how will we have the courage to fight occupation? Bury your fear!” he concluded.

Palestine is blessed with powerful labour unions that boldly take government head-on when it comes to labour rights. Budding human rights associations with international affiliations are sprouting everywhere and playing an important role in ensuring the protection of human rights and transparency. Syndicates, unions, and associations of professional sectors, however, leave much to be desired since most are weak and fragmented mainly because of factional rivalry and everlasting financial problems, which, in turn, are partially due to a weak economy. Nevertheless, these associations exist, and they ought to shape up in order to play their role in building our nation.

Freedom of expression, tolerance, unions, peaceful resistance, and lobby groups are but some basic elements of a culture that any civilised nation should embrace, a culture which forms the basis for proper rules of engagement between the public and the government and which serves as a guarantee for a functional society. With the growing power of Israeli squatters in the new Israeli government, Palestinians have very little faith in Obama’s approach to honour his commitment to a two-state solution (which is almost a joke now); his call for the public to play an active role in politics and social issues, however, should be picked up and acted upon. For us Palestinians, this is, in fact, essential.

Sani P. Meo



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