– “I understand your frustration.”
“I’m not frustrated,” I shot back.
That’s how it went between me and Ann Linde, the international secretary of the Swedish Social Democratic party after almost each question I asked.
It is very interesting that a “leftist” who offers “full support for Fatah” and who strongly believes that the EU must not boycott Israel, would “understand my frustration.”
In May, I had the honor of being admitted to participate in the Young Leaders Visitors Program (YLVP) in Sweden. YLVP is a forum held annually by the Swedish Institute wherein Arab youth from the Middle East and North Africa meet to work together on areas of social change in their respective countries.
On Wednesday, I and four other participants of a larger group of 27, had a meeting with leftist youth at the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League (SSU) in Stockholm.
It is important to note here that the collective position of these youth on the Palestinian issue differs dramatically from that of Ann Linde. Linde neither belongs to SSU nor represents it.
Three hours after insightful presentations by the youth, Linde walked into the room and began to describe the different relations the Socialist International (SI), the worldwide organization of social democratic, socialist and labour parties, has with the Middle East North Africa region.
Solidarity with Palestinians or with Fatah?
As she went on, she stressed the fact that the SI “fully supports Fatah” because Fatah “fully supports” them. She also described the party’s involvement with the EU. The debate erupted exactly here.
“What you’re saying is very interesting; it seems to me that your party plays a huge role in the EU. I was wondering why the Palestinian people see no results on the ground despite the EU’s relentless support for the two-state solution. When will Israel be held accountable for its crimes?” I inquired.
That’s when she answered, “I understand your frustration,” looking directly into my eyes and I insisted “I’m not frustrated.”
“The money that goes from the EU to Palestine is huge. Israel does not get any money” she said.
“But the EU has just upgraded its trade relations with Israel. That too is money,” I replied. And off course the EU’s extensive economic, political and military ties and favorable treatment toward Israel are well-documented.
–“I understand your frustration”
– “I’m not frustrated.”
“No that is frustration. Palestinians would not have what they have without the money of the EU. Many projects in Palestine are funded by the EU,” Linde said.
Opposing or supporting boycott?
At this stage I was enjoying the discussion. Linde was kind enough to explicitly describe the condescending views the EU and its politicians have of the Palestinian cause. But the conversation did not stop here.
“The money you give goes to the Palestinian Authority and its neoliberal policies. Just a week ago, Palestinians in the West Bank protested rising prices, the PA is bankrupt and lives on grants,” I commented.
One here never sees the line between what I said and Linde’s totally irrelevant answer: “I went to Palestine. They [Israel] evacuate villages and destroy many EU projects.”
“The EU can do a lot to stop this and force Israel to accept the two-state solution,” I suggested.
“We cannot force Israel to do anything,” Linde replied.
“Why not? You can put pressure on Israel instead of upgrading trade relations. You can boycott Israel.”
Here I was expecting another “I understand your frustration” but it seems to me that she was too angry to remember the introductory line.
“We don’t want to boycott Israel. Israel is a state that has the same rights as other states. No boycott Israel,” she said in quite an aggressive and confrontational tone but she retreated a moment later: “But we are considering a boycott of Israeli settlements.”
In a response to a follow up email, Linde amended her position:
We don’t want to boycott Israel. Israel is a state that has the same rights as other states. But they do not have the right to occupy. We are proposing labelling of products from settlements on occupied territories. This can lead to boycott of settlements products by consumers.
Say no to double standards
Some people tried to convince me that Linde’s personal views differ from those she uttered and that she said what she said because had to. I don’t accept this. A principled and courageous person does not have a double personality and stands up for justice and humanity regardless of the time and place in question. Ann Linde chose to exclude herself from this category.
Linde was also able recognize Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who described Qana massacre in 1996 as an “unfortunate mistake” as a “leftist” whose party deserves to be cooperated with. As if there is a difference between the policies of Netanyahu’s Likud and Barak’s Independence Party when it comes to the issue of Palestine and the Palestinian people.
My discussion with Ann Linde highlighted the double standards and hypocrisy of politicians who shamelessly claim to be peace supporters while offering excuses and apologies for the status quo.
However, it is always in the hands of the people to make the world a better place.