It’s common around this time to wish people a Happy New Year, but it’s unseemly to do so when you meet Palestinians, not just because your wish will not be granted, but because it may appear that you’re rubbing salt into their wound — the wound of seven decades of dispersal in exile and five decades of suffering under occupation. It’s a raw wound that gnaws at the core of their history as at the constitution of their personality.
But all is not lost. Palestinians know that, in time, God will make good the havoc wrought upon them and that, in turn, history will compensate them for their agonies.
For a whole century now, this struggle for justice has been both their pride and burden. as it had been that of other wronged people before them. Yes, that teleological spirit that Palestinians are imbued with makes them emphatic in their conviction that the ways of the Lord and the laws of history will show themselves to be not in the least wanton, but altogether rational.
How do you assume for yourself the task of predicting the noteworthy theme that will dominate 2019 in Palestine? Predicting the workings of history is a fool’s errand, but in this case, you can do so with impressive ease.
The one sure thing we know is that the current administration in Washington will launch its harebrained “deal of the century”. After the United States last year recognised Occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, rendering the issue “off the table”, this year it will double its efforts to end the refugee status of five million Palestinians, rendering the issue of the Right of Return equally off the table.
And the three principal officials behind this sappy deal, Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman — men so distressingly ill-qualified for the job — couldn’t be as aligned with the thinking of Israel’s expansionist, hard-line Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, if he had chosen them himself. All three are novices with zero diplomatic experience. Though ardent supporters of the colonist enterprise in the Palestinian territories, they know little about the history and culture of the Middle East.
Consider this as a case in point. In his article in the New Yorker last June, titled ‘Donald Trump’s new world order’, Adam Entous, a staff writer for the magazine who covers intelligence, national security and foreign affairs, wrote this: “Before [David] Friedman assumed his post as Ambassador to Israel, experts from the State Department briefed him on the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
At the end of the presentation, according to one attendee, Freedman said: “I just don’t understand. The people who live there are basically Egyptian, so why can’t Egypt take them back?” One of the briefers explained to Friedman that two-thirds of the residents of Gaza were refugees from what is now Israel.
The long and short of it is that this year, America may effectively forfeit its role as a peace-broker, let alone an even-handed one, given the fact that its envoy to Israel, a bankruptcy lawyer — and not an altogether closet Zionist — appears to believe that the stock value of the Palestine question has plummeted, and thus it is time for the administration to structure a bankruptcy-type deal for the Palestinians.
No matter. Palestinians will soldier on in 2019, at home and abroad, knowing that the proceedings of history are unendurably slow, and that their struggle — like that of other people before them who had confronted colonialism in the Third World, segregation in the Deep South and apartheid in South Africa — has what social scientists call an equifinality, that is, an outcome both inevitable and predictable.
It didn’t matter, for example, that Winston Churchill was “alarmed and nauseated”, as he said in a speech, in February 1931, at the idea of Mahatma Gandhi visiting Britain to lobby for Indian independence, dismissing him as a “seditious fakir, [poor] to parley on equal terms with representatives of the King”. It didn’t matter that in his inaugural address as governor of Alabama, in June 1963, George Wallace hollered, “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”. And it didn’t matter that P.W. Botha, South Africa’s last hard-line apartheid leader, explained that he was not “prepared to lead white South Africans on a road to abdication. Not only will we survive [the boycott], but we will emerge stronger”. Sure, sure.
These folks, like their Israeli counterparts today, were challenging, improbably, the imperatives of history and disputing the immutable dictates of equifinality.
In 2019, Palestinians will continue to mock death and expose Israel for what it is — really a mere daffy scarecrow, here today, gone tomorrow.
Fawaz Turki is a journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal.