Is it the ‘worst of times’?

Once more as Palestinians we see ourselves making statements such as, “we are now living in the worst situation we have ever been in and it can’t get worse than this.” I have been hearing such statements for several years now. We all know what we will hear six months from now: “we are NOW living the worst situation and …” followed by: “I wish things go back to what they were six months ago.” Has this become our reality? Going from one level of “worst of times” to the next with little or no hope for a better tomorrow? How long can this last and what will the final “worse of the worst of times” look like? Is there no way we can disrupt this trend and move Palestinian society in a different direction where we start seeking and fighting for the “best of times”? I don’t disagree with the fact that we are living in difficult times and that the trend is moving us to a grimmer and more hopeless reality. Here are just some of the many issues facing us as Palestinians today:  –  The Israeli occupation machine is working overtime to building new, and expanding existing illegal Jewish only settlements in the occupied West Bank and
East Jerusalem. At the same time, Israel is forcing a strict confinement of all Palestinians living in Palestinian areas, even in the Gaza Strip which
Israel claims to have “de-occupied.” I am sorry, but I cannot get myself to say the word “liberated” in describing what happened in Gaza because Israel only moved from an internal occupation and created a large de-facto prison camp holding the
Gaza residents under strict and forceful control.
  – The Israeli government is building the Separation Wall (or Apartheid Wall) as if it is a spider on steroids building its complex and deadly web purposely dividing and cutting Palestinians from each other, from their land, and even their natural resources. It is now considered an actual miracle to be able to complete a usual half hour trip between two Palestinian cities in less than two hours. I cannot be convinced that this wall is done for “security reasons.” The wall and the military checkpoints are justified for Israeli security as much as the war on
Iraq is justified due to the Iraqi position of nuclear and biological weapons.    
 – The Israeli policy of assassinations, raids, arrests, and attacks has continued with great force. Like always, those who are suffering the majority of the attacks are the civilians. You have to even think twice now before taking your family for a swim on the
Gaza beach as we recently witnessed an Israeli missile attack that killed seven members of one family. Again, I know that many will ask what about the innocent Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian attacks? I oppose such acts and believe that it is a moral responsibility for all of us to prevent the killing of the innocent. However, it remains a fact that the greater legal and rational responsibility is for the occupier to insure the safety of those it occupies from its organized, well trained, and dominant forces than for Palestinians to insure the security of the occupier from unstructured, untrained and comparatively inferior militant groups.   
 – For the first time, following the Israeli lead, the international community is punishing, strangling, imposing economic sanctions, and demanding political concisions from an occupied people with no justified reason why such punishment is being inflected and no assurances to why such political concisions should be made.  This act of vengeance is in response to us engaging in democratically free and fair elections that resulted in an undesirable result to
Israel and the international community. Sanctions are usually imposed on countries that violate international law and precedents. Guess what?  Palestinians are being punished by the international community for engaging in free elections while
Israel continues to violate international law after international law without even the slightest criticism.
 – The economic sanctions have resulted in an economic disaster to all aspects of Palestinian society; public employees (mostly belonging to what the West and even Israel considers to be the moderate Fatah party) have not been paid in over three months, private businesses are falling into debt and going bankrupt, and the NGO community is witnessing tremendous monitoring of its financial transactions, forcing many donors to either cancel their aid programs or put their funds on hold until this issue is resolved. – Finally, even though there is great pressure not to move in that direction, the economic and political pressures imposed on us are bringing us closer than ever to an internal civil war.   Yes, the situation is bad and yes it can get worse, but the question remains one: for how long will we, the Palestinian people, remain silent? Yes, the Palestinian people, and no one else.  I believe that the time has come for the Palestinian masses to rise and in one united voice say enough is enough. Enough to us allowing the world to continue treating us as if we are victimizer; more importantly, enough to the internal feeling that we are the helpless victim. Enough to internal strife and bickering over pointless political statements and positions by our leaders; they only make the rest of the population shake our heads in disgust. Enough to fighting over ‘crumbs’ while ignoring the occupation that is devouring the ‘cake’ around us. Finally, enough to complaining about how bad things are and let us answer the question: what can we do to reverse this trend? To my people I say that we as Palestinians must stand up and say enough ignoring the fact that the power of the people engaged in nonviolent resistance and direct action can create the real and tangible change we are looking for. We must realize this, our leaders must realize this and the world must realize this as well. Everyone knows that
Israel already realizes the threat of a popular/non-armed resistance movement to the occupation. It is now our turn to realize this power that is within us and we must organize our resources, our strategies, and population around it. It is only through the empowerment of the people that we can make the change we seek.  The occupation is affecting us all and it is therefore our collective responsibility to do something to end this occupation as soon as possible and begin building for the ‘best of times’.
 Sami Awad is the Executive Director of
Holy Land Trust. A Palestinian nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the nonviolent resistance movement in
Palestine. For more information please visit www.holylandtrust.org.
 For the past few months Holy Land Trust has been conducting an intensive program of nonviolent and popular participation training across the
West Bank. Hundreds of Palestinians have been trained and hundreds more will be trained before the year is over. The results of the trainings have been extremely positive, promising and, dare I say, even hopeful! This program is only part of a growing nonviolent movement and will compliment the rest of the nonviolent work taking place in
Palestine.
 

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