Susan Abualhawa: Of Arabs at Annapolis

By Susan Abualhawa
Special to

Annapolis was hoopla, smoke and mirrors, much ado about nothing, a ho-down of politically bankrupt men trying to garner popularity among their respective constituencies. 

It seems that George Bush and Ehud Olmert have figured out how to join the ranks of those who exploit the Palestinian tragedy and suffering to further their political ends without actually doing anything to alleviate that tragedy. For all the ruckus, speeches, leaders and dignitaries, what came out of Annapolis was yet another meaningless statement, this time (drum roll, please) Israelis and Palestinians agreed to agree on something by 2008. 

And yet…I wish the absurdity of it were truly so benign as a hullabaloo. If you were paying attention, you’d have heard the menace of ethnic cleansing and seen the malignancy of cowardice.

George Bush made it clear that the United States will not pressure Israel into doing anything it doesn’t like.  Plainly, the United States, the country that gives Israel $14,346 for every woman man and child in Israel, will not insist that Israel withdraw from the West Bank, which it has been occupying illegally since 1967. It will not insist that Israel stop detaining and torturing Palestinian men, women and children, leaving them to languish for years without charge or trial. The US, a country founded on the principle that all men are created equal, will not insist that Israel provide full rights under the law for non-Jews equal to that it accords for Jews. The US will continue to give Israel more money and weapons that it has ever given to any country and we will not even insist that Israel comply with one single UN Resolution (out of over 200 resolutions censuring Israel) or the Geneva Conventions, or any other tenet of international law. We will not require, in concurrence with our own laws, that this recipient of massive foreign aid do something to correct its abysmal human rights record. We will, however, in 2008, issue the first instalment of a brand-spanking-new $30 billion aid package to Israel.   

Onto Ehud Olmert, who made it clear that Israel will only hold “bilateral negotiations” with Palestinians – no third parties allowed.  Plainly, again:  Palestinians can turn blue in the face and die, but they will still be denied their natural right as natives of that land to return to the homes from which they were forcibly expelled for the high crime of not being Jewish. Their resources, particularly water, will of course, always be controlled by Israel. Similarly, all borders, hence all movement and every aspect of their economy, will be controlled by Israel. Other basic human rights, for which Palestinians are required to “negotiate” include the right to education, the right to move freely in one’s own country, the right to pray in their holy places, the right to live and thrive in Jerusalem as they have for all of time, the right to life, the right to live without snipers situated all around you and checkpoints everywhere you go, the right to get to a hospital when you’re having a baby or when your father is having a heart attack, the right not to be beaten arbitrarily, the right not to be humiliated because you aren’t Jewish, the right not to have your family’s farm confiscated because Jews from New York want to come over and play cowboy with state issued Uzis, the right to visit your grandparent’s graves, the right to play. You name any inherent right, Palestinians are required to negotiate with their oppressors to have it.

I suppose this is nature of imperialism, and how cruelly it operates when good people do nothing to stand in its way. It’s a bitter truth, but I get it.  No one really expected Bush or Olmert to care whether Palestinians live or die.  Israel’s primary aim has always been clear: Palestine without Palestinians.

What I don’t understand, however, is what were all of those Arab leaders doing participating in that charade in Annapolis?  I don’t remember what Abu Mazen said.  I don’t care. Turning on his brothers said more than I wanted to hear. What was going through their heads in Annapolis, knowing that, in the meantime, Israel has cut off food, medicine, and fuel to 1.5 million human beings trapped in the open prison that is Gaza. Children as young as five years old in Gaza are forced to leave school and work 10 back-breaking hours a day to bring two shekels ($0.26) home, which now has no electricity, no clean water, no food, no fuel, no joy, and is constantly under the threat of sonic planes that fly from Israel to break the sound barrier over them, terrorizing everyone on the ground; making women miscarry and small children so traumatized that they become brain damaged. What gives Israel the right to do this? To starve 1.5 million Palestinians, half of whom are children?  How do Abu Mazen and other Arab leaders turn their backs on our tortured brothers and sisters to shake the very hands that drip with Palestinian and Iraqi blood. What are we to make of that?  What are Gazans to make of it? 

Palestinians in Gaza are dying like dogs, of hunger and lack of medicine. This is not happening because a tsunami hit their shores, or because a drought has created famine, or because a tornado has destroyed all infrastructure of civil society. This humanitarian catastrophe, for which the UN and human rights organization around the world have condemned Israel, is man-made. Our countrymen are being intentionally starved!  Or, as Dov Weisglass joked, “[Israel’s] idea is to put Palestinians on a diet”. 
Nor is Hamas innocent. They have put pride and power above the welfare of their people.  And so, Gazans go hungry, cold, and sick. Fishermen are not allowed to fish.  The sick cannot leave for medical treatment. There are no antibiotics, vitamins, or vaccines in hospitals. Students cannot leave for university. There is no work. No industry is functional. Classrooms are as empty as the bellies of the children who should be occupying them.  Israel is cutting off electricity to Gaza and so they live in darkness. 

Is there no mercy for 1.5 million besieged souls?  Have we not one Arab leader with the courage to put a stop to this genocide?  Not one leader with courage enough to intervene in the internecine fighting between Fateh and Hamas? To demand that the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people be included in any summit or negotiations?  How is it possible that Arab men who command the greatest natural resource ever known to man manage to be utterly powerless to stop the wholesale robbery and rape of Palestine or Iraq?  Is attending such a farce as Annapolis the best they can do?

-Susan abulhawa is the author of The Scar of David ( and the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine (

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