Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is back in the Middle East and she is in a “very concerned” state. For someone who has played Israeli ambassador to the Middle East since her tenure began, her on again, off again call for the plight of the Palestinian people has become more predictable than orange alerts during election season. In her newest stint, providing false promises and pernicious rhetoric, Rice vowed to “redouble” US efforts to “improve conditions for the Palestinian people.” Rice, however, came to the table empty handed, with photographers trailing closely behind to capture images of hope, concern, and heartfelt declarations. Nevertheless, eye catching headlines and West Bank photo ops will not put food on the table for the Palestinian people, nor will it end the economic, physical, and political blockade imposed upon the Occupied Territories by the international community.
If Rice was concerned for the well-being of the Palestinian people, she wouldn’t have waited until hundreds of Palestinians had perished at the hands of Israeli forces to take interest. A humanitarian would have intervened to stop Israel’s siege and immediately combated its effects: the rise in poverty and unemployment, the drop in wages, constant food shortages, and the heightening of tensions between factions in Gaza and the West Bank. At any point, Rice could have rode in on her white horse to fulfill last year’s promises: the implementation of bus convoys between the West Bank and Gaza, the sustained entryway and exit through the Rafah border and a bolstering of freedom and democracy throughout the region. Furthermore, the feeding tube that had been inserted into the Palestinian economy–”made necessary by 39 years of occupation–”would not have been pulled with her expressed support.
The BBC quoted UN special rappoteur on Palestinian human rights, John Dugard, as stating, “In effect, the Palestinian people have been subjected to economic sanctions –” the first time an occupied people has been so treated.” Moreover, as we’ve seen in Lebanon, the enforcement of Israel’s requirements–”i.e. abiding by UN resolution 1701, which Israel clearly violated by conducting a Special Forces mission in the sovereign state of Lebanon–”has not been enforced, adding to the multitude of double standards already in place. The Palestinian government is expected, and pressured on a variety of levels, to accept Israel’s right to exist, end armed struggle, and accept the Oslo Accords and all previous agreements (a condition which hardliners in the Israeli Knesset refuse to do). These demands come at a time when Israel unabashedly flouts international law and refuses to implement just one UN resolution pertaining to it. Nonetheless, this continues to be standard US policy–”safeguard Israel from criticism and punishment at all costs.
The Future of Palestine
The Palestinians for their part have fallen into the trap set by Israel and America–”divide and conquer each other. Hamas and Fatah know well that the way forward is together rather than in disgruntled factions vying for power. Civil war status will bear fruit for no one. It will only serve as a catalyst for further Israeli attacks and augment the future bombing campaigns in Gaza. Now that its first round in Lebanon is over, Israel will undoubtedly use the coming days to focus on Gaza.
The Palestinian voice has been its strongest when unified. It is crucial that the two parties join together, whether based on the joint Hamas-Fatah prisoner document or on negotiations of their own making. The Palestinian people’s best foot forward will emanate from cohesion rather than submission to Israeli/American pressure. Those in the Occupied Territories were taught a lesson by the blockade: in the absence of complete acquiescence, the international community is willing to coerce, strangulate, impoverish, and kill in the name of the greater goal. This lesson should have been learned after the years of the international backed sanctions on Iraq, the NATO bombings of the Balkans, and America’s relentless pursuit to conquer Vietnam. Yet current and past victims seem to let these events become distant memories, while its proponents justify crimes with omission and attempt to cleanse themselves of fault with post-invasion phrases like “in hindsight.”
The Palestinian people cannot continue to let the international community omit their struggle, nor can it let the international community degrade the value of their lives with taglines and catchy phrases. There is too much at stake: the future of Palestine, the security and well being of its people and the right to create a life of its own design.