image of jerusalem 2018

Palestine: What goes around comes around!
“What goes around comes around” or “as you sow, so shall you reap” is pretty much the basic understanding of how karma, the law of cause and effect, works most times in our lives.

11 September   |   2018   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

After cutting $200 million in Palestinian aid last month, US President Donald Trump decided to cut a further $25 million from hospitals serving Palestinians in Jerusalem. Mind you, the official statement was that it was “redirecting” this aid money (which amounts in EU currency to just under €22 million), but do let us not quibble over semantics.

I suspect that Palestinians were not jolted by this latest cruel gesture from a mercurial president who often views political conflicts as a balance sheet of credits and debits. But no matter the levels of anticipation or surprise, this latest gesture will also impact 5 hospitals in Jerusalem. Two of those - St John’s Ophthalmic Hospital and the Augusta Victoria Hospital - are well-known to me personally from my time as a kid in Jerusalem (Jordan at the time). Besides, both hospitals have assisted needy Palestinians over many decades, and I can still recall the queues of Palestinian patients going into those two hospitals in order to undergo eye surgery or else to receive treatment for cancer.

So it might sound mean - no, venal - that the US would cause so much human suffering. Or does it?

One suggestion is that the US Administration is punishing the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah for its refusal to discuss the so-called ‘deal of the century’ that Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman are stapling together. After all, just look at the consecutive steps that were taken over the past few months. The US Embassy has been transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Financial aid to UNRWA has been chopped off drastically. The Right of Return for refugees is being gradually eroded away from the negotiating table. The PLO Mission in Washington DC has been shut too, and the US Ambassador in Israel never misses an opportunity to repeat that Israel can do whatever it wills with settlements. Mind you, much of this runs contrary to International law, human rights laws and accepted norms of diplomacy or legitimacy. Yet, in one year, the Trump Administration have become political gunslingers aiming at Palestinians without any compunction about the impact on ordinary Palestinians. After all, the leadership can insulate itself from hardship and so will not be the ones to wince from the pain of such decisions.

Sadly, attempting to remove those core issues from the negotiating table, and bullying traditional partners or even the ICC in the process, is not the politic way of brining the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Nor does it define any long-term strategy that strengthens a two-state solution - assuming we are still even talking of two states living in peace and security next to each other. After all, such actions remove whatever hope there is of a peaceful resolution and begs the question as to what Palestinians are meant to negotiate over? Their total and abject surrender?

I have followed this conflict since the early days of the now-defunct Oslo chapter, and I have seen moments of hope and others of despair along the way. However, I have rarely come across such despondency, resignation and weariness as I sense today among ordinary Palestinians. Even the attempt by some Palestinians to break a political taboo by entering into a coalition with Israeli Jewish partners and running in the municipal elections in Jerusalem in October reeks more of exhaustion than of boldness. Yet, these decentralised efforts to deal with their existential challenges are one way for Palestinians to defy brutishness and to find alternative solutions to their endemic problems.

So what can happen in the future? The Trump Administration is wedded hook, line, and sinker with the Israeli objective of neutering the Palestinians completely so that they end up having a “state minus” at best that is no more than blobs of disjointed lands held together by the largesse of Israel and the wink and nod of some states. Call it autonomy without sovereignty. This wilful and complicit collaboration aims to morph a political conflict into a humanitarian issue. It needs to be resisted by Palestinians with the help of the EU and other states, organisations or movements that are concerned about the repercussions of another unlawful re-jigging of geopolitical realities in the region.

As you sow, so shall you reap: this popular phrase traces its roots to Galatians in the Christian New Testament. It has stood the test of time for some two millennia. So despite a horizon that is bereft of encouragement, Palestinians can still take heart that - to paraphrase an opinion piece written by Hussein Ibish recently - they might be knocked down once more but they will not glibly be knocked out no matter the constellation of forces against them.

And that to me spells hope no matter the dankness of the moment – for both peoples.

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2018   |   11 September


Print or download a copy of this article.


Google: Yahoo: MSN: