By Jamal Juma
Palestinians in our homeland and the Diaspora remember the 30th of May as Land Day. On this day in 1976, six Palestinians were killed and a hundred injured by Israeli forces as Palestinians went on strike against a massive land confiscation scheme in the Galilee. Land theft and colonization continues in the Galilee, Naqab and the West Bank until today.
More than 30 years later, we will again be out on the streets and in the fields confronting the Occupation. Over 20 protests and demonstrations will unite the people in villages and cities across the West Bank in a week of continuous mobilization, while Palestinians on the other side of the Green Line will hold protests against the ongoing racism and colonization of their lands. But is the world willing to see our protests and the reality on the ground?
In the West Bank, including Jerusalem , the Israeli Apartheid Wall, settlements and their road systems are de facto confiscating over half of our land and most of our water resources and agricultural fields. Israeli apartheid is creating something worse than Bantustans: Palestinian residential areas surrounded by 8-meter high cement walls and sealed by gates, checkpoints and terminals.
Never have Israeli crimes been so evident and well-known all over the world. To dozens of UN resolutions has been added the decision of the International Court of Justice calling for the Wall to be dismantled. Violations of human rights and international conventions are reported daily. Lately, high level officials and envoys from the UN, the US and European states have to line up if they are to receive appointments with the Fatah-wing of the new Palestinian authority “government”. By now, they should be well aware of our ghettoization as well.
Diplomacy of the unipolar world focuses on Palestine , but with what purpose? The US-Israeli axis toed by Europe has never been willing to allow any of our rights to be implemented. Thus, scepticism shrouds whether the hectic diplomatic agenda in Ramallah is aimed at furthering our rights or justice in the region.
Rather than any concern for the Palestinian people, US elites are increasingly bound up in a discourse of “negotiation” in response to new realities. Iraq and Afghanistan have turned into veritable quagmires for the “alliance of the willing”. Moreover, the mounting body tolls and expenses and never-ending scandals of corruption, outright lies and torture have convinced more and more countries to withdraw their troops. Oil profits are definitely flowing from Iraq but at the same time, the sectarian divides fuelled by the US turn against them as resistance movements. The lost occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan have put the US in the Middle East in the hands of Iran and Saudi Arabia , respectively the Shia and the Sunni regional powers.
While some still push to drive the madness further and to attack Iran , others look for diplomatic solutions. It is not only voices from the region that have suggested a move on Palestine as a pre-condition to get the US out of the Middle Eastern trouble; the home-made White House Baker report has stated the same. Our homeland and people have become the political card which is expected to save global imperialism from drowning in the Middle East.
If the US were willing to force Israel to grant us our rights, it would not require the current intense schedule of meetings. Our rights are internationally recognized and detailed; it only needs that the step be taken to implement them. The diplomatic traffic aims at finding a solution that appeases the Arab world and international public opinion without demanding anything from Israel . The question is how to coax the Arab world into normalization with Israel while bypassing our claims for our land and the right of our refugees to return to our homes. Not surprisingly, renowned experts of Middle East negotiations surface in the discussions as the neo-con strategy shows signs of strain. Baker’s able “multilateral” policy that shaped a 34-member alliance in the first gulf war has definitely given greater benefit to US hegemony than the current US policy. At the same time, another expert of normalization between Israel and the Arab world, Jimmy Carter, has joined the debate with his controversial book on Palestine.
US policy might slowly move from the stick to the carrot again, but the final aims of control over the Arab world and support for the Zionist agenda to continue its racist control over all of Palestine are beyond doubt. Pressure on the upcoming Arab summit has thus far been unsuccessfull in taking out the Right of Return from the Arab Peace Initiative. Now, efforts are being made to arrange direct meetings between Israel and leading Arab states. A new Camp David, a new “peace” between Israel and the Arab world on the back of our rights, is sought.
In the meanwhile, the newly formed Palestinian government has to be integrated into these plans to ensure it underwrites the formula. The ongoing sanctions against the Palestinian people represent the backdrop of international pressure and such efforts.
In this situation, it is neither Palestinians nor those in the Arab world that strive for justice and self-determination that need a deal. The ongoing resistance in Palestine and Iraq is the unpredictable factor that might change the cards on the table. It is time to underline the principles of our struggle and the baselines for peace and justice: the end of the occupation, equality for all of our people within our homeland, the right of return to their homes for our refugees, Jerusalem, home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and cultural and economic center of Palestine as our capital, are integral parts of our right to self-determination. It is only when diplomacy is forced to see and change the reality on the ground in Palestine and accepts the pillars of our struggle, human rights and international law that justice comes closer.
The demonstrations and protests all over Palestine for Land Day are thus yet another call to our leadership and the wider region that they at least second, if not lead, the steadfastness and resistance of the people. Approximately 97 villages in the West Bank are completely isolated and slated for destruction or ethnic cleansing and some 4,500 houses are under demolition order to make space for Israeli colonization. Dispossessed farmers watch industrial estates growing on their land in a system designed to exploit and control. Six out of ten Palestinians live below the poverty line. Yet the calls that lead the demonstrations do not ask for food or survival. It is the calls for dignity and rights – the full implementation of our rights – that brings the people onto the streets. Another popular Intifada is inevitably building up as long as our rights are ignored and our future confiscated.
(For more info visit: Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign – www.stopthewall.org)