Tarneem Hammad | 18-09-2019
Dear Mr. Trump,
When you came into office as the leader of the country that has done the most to allow Israel to maintain its colonization of my people by thwarting international law and multiple U.N. resolutions, you promised that this very track record gave you the leverage needed to negotiate the “deal of the century.” Now, your first term in office is winding down and what have you accomplished? Let’s take stock.
The first act you took was to cut and then eliminate funding for the agency that provides basic health, food and educational services for the now 5.5 million Palestinian refugees created and multiplied every year by the international community’s passivity in the face of Israel’s aggression. As a result, around 250 of my people lost jobs or suffered cutbacks in pay and more than 50 students did not receive the scholarships they need to attend school. I am a teacher in Gaza, so I speak from firsthand experience of the pain your cuts have caused.
When I told Deema, one of my students, about writing this essay, she said she wants to send this message: "I am a student who received the Abraham Lincoln scholarship for middle and high school students. I dreamt of learning English so I could to travel abroad for university. But then, after six months of hard work and commitment, I learned the U.S. had canceled it forever. Those words destroyed my dreams and those of my classmates.” Deema's dream is to be a translator, not only of Arabic but endangered languages, so they are preserved. She believes language is an essential element of culture and translation is one way of bridging differences.
Then you defied numerous U.N. resolutions from 1949 to 2017 recognizing Jerusalem’s status as the “soul” of Palestine. Although even the Israeli government had not demanded it, you moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying unilaterally that it now is the capital of Israel. Your move was rejected by a majority of world leaders and in the Palestinian protests that followed, at least 58 Palestinians were killed for objecting—the highest single-day death toll since the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza.
As if that wasn’t enough, you shut down the Palestinian office in your nation’s capital and now, as I write this, you are saying nothing after Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu announced that if he is re-elected, he will annex nearly a third of the West Bank, along the Jordan River—making a Palestinian state of our own impossible. Yes, it seems now that Netanyahu is on his way, but there is no evidence at all that Benny Gantz will be any better. As Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said, “the difference between Benny and Bibi is not much more than the difference between Pepsi Cola and Coca-Cola.” Earlier this year, Gantz even pledge to "bomb Gaza back into the Stong age"!
Yet your message repeatedly is that it’s us Palestinians who reject offers of peace [read: beautify our prison; freedom seems to be off the table].
Here's my own version of what your “deal” should look like. I call it the “appeal of the century” because this is about human rights, not money or trade.
‘Appeal of the Century’
First, it is time to condemn Israel's illegal blockade, occupation and annexation of Palestinian land. It violated international law in 1949 and 1967 and it continues to do so now.
Second, it is time to stop blaming the victims. An offer that no one else in our shoes would accept is no “deal.” And our rejection of it doesn’t mean we don’t want peace. Since when does peace come from forcing an entire people, who have a long and proud heritage, to accept crumbs? Remember how that worked with the Germans after World War I? The winners’ degrading treatment of the proud German people gave sustenance to the rise of Hitler.
Third, stop funding and supplying Israel's use of military force against us ($38 billion in defense “aid” over the next 10 years, plus a stockpile of U.S. weapons.) I heard a Palestinian say once that negotiating with the Israelis’ over land is like bargaining with someone over who gets a piece of cheese—while they eat it. While the United States is teasing us with “deals,” you’re passing weapons to Israel, so they don’t feel the need to negotiate. Why should they? You’re allowing them to eat all the cheese without giving up anything.
Fourth, it is time to remove the siege on Gaza and give us freedom of movement and control over our borders, airspace and water. You say you want angry young men to stop throwing rockets into Israel? And for the 2 million residents to support a government that is friendlier to you and Israel? That is the best way to achieve such goals—not by making us angrier and more desperate.
And you say you are tired of us being dependent on UN agency handouts that you have to fund? Give us freedom and we won’t need you. Let our fishermen sail without Israel confiscating their boats and equipment, our farmers farm the rich soil by the border, and our businessmen manufacture and export goods, and you will see how prosperous we can be on our own.
Posted: September 17, 2019
Mentor: Pam Bailey