As 2015 comes to a close, Palestinians look back on a year of false promises. The year began with the promises of a rebuilt Gaza, promises of renewed efforts to end Israeli military rule and promises that Israel would finally be held accountable for its war crimes, particularly those in the besieged Gaza Strip. Yet, as we enter 2016, Palestinians see that the loads of false promises we have been fed — and there have been plenty — are not simply unfulfilled promises, but outright lies designed to appease Palestinians and those around the world seeking justice.
Take, for example, United States President Barack Obama. As Obama now is in the final year of his final term, he now joins the ranks of American presidents who preceded him — all of whom had promised that Palestinian freedom would come in their time. Obama, it should be recalled, made his first telephone call as US President to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) leader, Mahmoud Abbas, promising Palestinians that his administration would work hard to secure Palestinian freedom. Yet, now, like former US presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and others, Obama too has announced that he will not be able to turn his attention to Palestine before he leaves office. But this is not simply a policy decision that he took after weighing options around him. Obama has spent the past seven years coddling Israel, protecting Israel diplomatically, arming Israel and, above all, paying Israel while it maintains its nearly 50-year military rule.
The international community has similarly been complicit. Following Israel’s devastating attack on the defenceless, civilian, refugee population of Gaza last year, Palestinians were quickly promised that Gaza would be rebuilt quickly with more than $5 billion (Dh18.39 billion) pledged in assistance. But thanks to Israel’s strangulation of Gaza, and the international community’s unwillingness to challenge it, less than one-third of the money came through and, worse still, of the nearly 100,000 homes and offices demolished or destroyed, the international community has built a total of one house in Gaza — yes, one house.
And the falsehoods do not stop there. Abbas, whose term expired long ago, will soon commence his 11th year in office, though he was elected for four. Reconciliation for him has merely become a slogan, like his promises of democracy, elections and reform. At the end of 2014, frustrated by America’s lack of interest in him or Palestine, and following criticism that he had done nothing to pursue accountability for Israel’s crimes, Abbas finally joined the International Criminal Court (ICC). But Abbas seems to have quickly changed his mind and has failed, in 2015, to file any claims against Israel in the ICC, for fear that his popularity with the donor community will somehow wane or be characterised as an obstacle to the farcical peace process. For Abbas, quashing opposition and dissent, while consolidating power, has become the norm. Instead of protecting Palestinians, Abbas has chosen to protect our occupier and oppressor by maintaining a “security coordination” (a euphemism for turning the PNA into the body that arrests and imprisons Palestinians) while continuing to pretend to have legitimacy of the people he represents, despite his ever-declining popularity.
The one dose of honesty this year came from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose words finally matched his deeds when he declared that Palestine will never be free from Israel’s grip. While many dismissed his words as part of election campaign bluster, through the continued colonisation of Palestine, the continued theft of Palestinian land and resources, through continued siege of a now-destroyed Gaza Strip and through destruction of Palestinian homes, Netanyahu has shown the world that Israel can continue to do whatever it pleases and not face sanction from a weak international community.
And we, Palestinians, have sadly grown accustomed to false promises: Since 1948, the year of our dispossession and displacement, we have been fed false promises that the global community will ensure our return to our homes and homeland, no longer languishing in crowded refugee camps. But we have also grown accustomed to resistance. And, while 2015 was filled with false promises, it is also marked by growing resistance to these false promises. Trapped between an oppressor that seeks our erasure or subjugation and the PNA that seeks to quash our dissent, Palestinians — men and women, old and young — are rising up, all throughout historical Palestine — in Galilee, in Naqab, in the West Bank, in occupied Jerusalem and in the Gaza Strip — demanding freedom, equality and above all else — dignity. In place of futile negotiations, Palestinians are pushing for accountability. We know, all too well, that Israel may never face justice before a court of law but it will face justice in the court of public opinion. With the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement increasing in strength and with protests continuing throughout Palestine, will soon realise that Palestinian resistance will prevail over Israeli oppression and decades of falsehoods.
Diana Buttu is a Ramallah-based analyst, former adviser to Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiators and policy adviser to Al Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.