Hope Springs Eternal

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Here comes the New Year. There is something rejuvenating about the start of another year, its true. We all tend to perk up a bit, make promises to ourselves and others and hope –” like all the years before –” that this one will be great.

On the personal level, I still do that. One cannot but hope that this year will be a bit different, better. Stupidly enough, I even hope that things will be better for the Palestinians, even though all the indicators point to the contrary.

I mean, there have been some good signs, right? The EU, under Swedish presidency, called for Jerusalem to be the capital of two states (true, in a watered down version of their first statement), the American people elected Barack Obama, who if anything, is the best of the worst, and Justice Richard Goldstone issued a report on the Israeli invasion of Gaza last winter that finally put Israel’s crimes into the limelight. Yes, there have been some signs indicating that certain truths about Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians are rising to the surface of the years’ long smokescreen of fallacies. A British court issued an arrest warrant for Kadima leader Tzipi Livni for her part in the crimes committed in Gaza during Cast Lead and a Swedish journalist accused Israel of illegally harvesting organs from Palestinians it killed during the first Intifada (an allegation admitted by an Israeli forensics expert later). Spanish foreign minister Miguel Mortathinos, whose country is to take over the EU presidency at the beginning of the new year, said one of his goals was to work towards the establishment of a Palestinian state. "My idea, and my dream, and my engagement, is to work for having in 2010, finally, a Palestinian state."

It sounds all good, I must admit. If only actions could be immediately translated into words, Livni would be behind bars, settlements would be halted completely and the Palestinians would be ruling themselves in their sovereign state with the Palestinian flag flying over east Jerusalem. Unfortunately, however, intentions go but so far and the fact remains that the situation on the ground is as bleak as ever.

I’m wondering what the new year will bring for those who have lost so much? For the people of Gaza, New Years brings the reminder of the horrors of last winter, when Israel pounded the Strip for 22 days on end and killed scores of innocent people. I don’t think the Samoudi family, who lost 48 members in the invasion, will have much to celebrate. Neither will the Sukarji and Abu Sharkh families in Nablus, whose sons were executed just last week by invading Israeli troops at point blank range, one of them before his pregnant wife and children. How about the demolished homes and the confiscated land, the prisoners and their families? There are scores of Palestinians, unrecognized soldiers, who pay the price of Israel’s occupation every day and for whom empty words from politicians mean absolutely nothing.

Realistically, most Palestinian predictions for 2010 are hardly full of hope. With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the top of Israel’s government, what can we really expect? Even when one of his own has been hidden away in captivity somewhere in the marshland of Gaza, Netanyahu does not bend. Gilad Shalit is not coming home any time soon from the looks of it, but then again, neither are the 10,000 plus Palestinian prisoners who have languished in Israeli jails for years.

But let’s not forget our own messy house either. The Palestinians are no closer to reconciliation now than they were six months ago. On the contrary, the longer our leaders remain divided, the more bitter the division becomes. If anything, all Palestinians, from all political spectrums and all walks of life should pool their collective psychic energies into one direction –” hope that the Palestinians will reconcile and reunite so they can get back to fighting for their ultimate goal of eliminating the Israeli occupation. This, contrary to our conflict with the Israelis, is actually attainable in the near future, if we set our minds to it. And once that is achieved, we can then move forward with isolating Israel and bringing it to justice.

I think perhaps the one thing to be learned is that there is always some glimmer of hope no matter how bleak. As a Palestinian I ache for my country and all that it has endured. I also know that as long as we continue to call ourselves Palestinians and refuse to compromise our love and loyalty to this land, there will always be the possibility of a better year and a better future for us all.

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