Punishing the Palestinians

Diplomacy has taken on new forms: coercion, unemployment and starvation.

Ramla Bile

In a world where checkpoints and blockades have made it impossible to survive economically, yet alone prosper, it’s unfortunate that the latest assault on the Palestinian economy is the retraction of foreign aid. The decisions to halt assistance are groundless and unfair.

The European Union, the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority, which employs one-third of the Palestinian population, suspended funding to the Palestinian Authority. There is actually a bill in the U.S. Congress titled “The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006,” which is composed of a series of “corrective” measures that somehow are aimed at “fixing” the Palestinian mistake by slashing funds that protect human rights and placing travel restrictions as well as visa barriers on Palestinian representatives in the United Nations. There are strong diplomatic and human rights implications behind this bill.

These decisions were based on a few basic and unsubstantiated notions. The first is that we are clinging onto documents written 30 years ago and using this rhetoric to justify starving people. The second issue is the illegitimacy of the decision by the West to support Israel’s request that Hamas must renounce its terror and also recognize the state of Israel. What makes the request illegitimate is its unilateralism and discrimination.

This is an interesting request because Hamas has, for a long time, ceased fire. The fact that Hamas actually has honored its cease-fire truce appears to have little effect when the problem is supposedly an issue of terror.

This cease-fire is nothing new. But more importantly, the request by Israel and the reaffirmation by the rest in the Western blocs urging Hamas to “renounce violence” are rather mocking.

Hamas does not launch attacks from nowhere; their violence is strictly retaliation. So the question of what Hamas is resisting must be asked, and Israel has a lot of inner questioning to do before it can make this sort of request. There is a double standard in the West because there seems to be accountability placed on the obviously oppressed and less privileged authority, but not the authority that is accepted by the so-called “developed” nations.

Last Monday, Israeli soldiers, apparently targeting terrorists, shelled a home, injured 12 and killed an 8-year-old girl. This is the story that makes the Palestinian question, but of course, we’re supposed to believe this systematic killing isn’t terror.

Who, after all, decides what does and does not constitute violence and terror? To place Palestinians in a position of “renouncing terror” while Israel is not subject to the same scrutiny and accountability is not only hypocritical and unjust, but also places Palestinians in a position in which they as a population are associated with terror. This I find racist. Finally, if we truly wish to act as pioneers of peace, there must be no discrimination in condemning violators of human rights.

Haaretz reported that Egyptian mediators conveyed Hamas’ proposal for an extended cease-fire on the grounds that Israel will not attack Palestinians. This seems to be a fair proposal. This initiative by Hamas proves its willingness to work with Israel and its commitment to peace as long as the feeling is mutual.

To put it simply, the global punishing of the Palestinian people is something that brings up questions of what democracy is accepted to mean. Is democracy only valued when it pleases the West? Palestinians didn’t vote in Hamas for a fundamentalist agenda, but because they felt the need to express denial of the corruption that ironically was the U.S. ticket. For whatever reason, the United States happens to support the notoriously corrupt at times, and because it stands in the position of the global bully, it uses this power coercively. In a region plagued with high levels of unemployment, starving the Palestinian people because someone believes they elected the wrong person to power is downright unethical. So much for democracy when coercion undermines the voices of the people. Students should be aware of the coercion our world leaders, including our own representatives, are engaging in.

In an era of supposed enlightenment and democracy, we support the building of apartheid walls and seek to punish processes of democracy. It’s clear there is little question of values present in the West. We continue to, at the most basic level, view people as political ploys and not human beings.

Ramla Bile is a member of the Minnesota Daily editorial board. Please send comments to [email protected]