As Americans commemorated their annual celebration of independence from colonial occupation, rejoicing in their democratic institutions, we Palestinians were yet again besieged by our occupiers, who destroy our roads and buildings, our power stations and water plants, and who attack our very means of civil administration. Our homes and government offices are shelled, our parliamentarians taken prisoner and threatened with prosecution.
The current Gaza invasion is only the latest effort to destroy the results of fair and free elections held early this year. It is the explosive follow-up to a five-month campaign of economic and diplomatic warfare directed by the United States and Israel. The stated intention of that strategy was to force the average Palestinian to “reconsider” her vote when faced with deepening hardship; its failure was predictable, and the new overt military aggression and collective punishment are its logical fulfillment. The “kidnapped” Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit is only a pretext for a job scheduled months ago.
In addition to removing our democratically elected government, Israel wants to sow dissent among Palestinians by claiming that there is a serious leadership rivalry among us. I am compelled to dispel this notion definitively. The Palestinian leadership is firmly embedded in the concept of Islamic shura, or mutual consultation; suffice it to say that while we may have differing opinions, we are united in mutual respect and focused on the goal of serving our people. Furthermore, the invasion of Gaza and the kidnapping of our leaders and government officials are meant to undermine the recent accords reached between the government party and our brothers and sisters in Fatah and other factions, on achieving consensus for resolving the conflict. Yet Israeli collective punishment only strengthens our collective resolve to work together.
As I inspect the ruins of our infrastructure — the largess of donor nations and international efforts all turned to rubble once more by F-16s and American-made missiles — my thoughts again turn to the minds of Americans. What do they think of this?
They think, doubtless, of the hostage soldier, taken in battle — yet thousands of Palestinians, including hundreds of women and children, remain in Israeli jails for resisting the illegal, ongoing occupation that is condemned by international law. They think of the pluck and “toughness” of Israel, “standing up” to “terrorists.” Yet a nuclear Israel possesses the 13th-largest military force on the planet, one that is used to rule an area about the size of New Jersey and whose adversaries there have no conventional armed forces. Who is the underdog, supposedly America’s traditional favorite, in this case?
I hope that Americans will give careful and well-informed thought to root causes and historical realities, in which case I think they will question why a supposedly “legitimate” state such as Israel has had to conduct decades of war against a subject refugee population without ever achieving its goals.
Ismail Haniya is the Palestinian prime minister. This article was originally published by the Washington Post