The Israeli occupation regime steamrolls on, as does the international community’s inaction to protect the rights of Palestinians.
I come to Palestine as a diplomat, as a development worker. I come to create change. To make something better. I had a lot of useful experiences and have been to many countries in Africa, Asia or Latin America. Palestine was not my first country.
When you leave two, three, four or five years from now, change has been created. Land has been stolen, houses have been demolished, people have been killed. Settlers have moved onto stolen land protected by the Israeli army. Change has taken place, it has become worse. As a diplomat or development worker together with all others I can now just feel that I have become a total failure.
I have been listening to the Quartet, to Merkel, to the Swedish Foreign Minister, to Obama. While they have been talking, while I have been listening, another house has been demolished and another family has been displaced. It often happened outside the compound of the diplomatic missions. On the other side of the road. I just couldn’t miss it.
I have known it the whole time. I have written about it in confidential reports back to Stockholm. Often, early in the morning when I have my morning coffee, I got a message from a UN office; a house will probably be demolished today in Silwan, or a family will be forced out, 412 steps from Blair’s bedroom at the American Colony.
Everything became clear to me one morning when I was having breakfast with two older men. One Palestinian and one Israeli. They are childhood friends and have breakfast together every three months. The Israeli man is now retired, but was recently head of Shin Bet, the Israeli Security Agency.
Suddenly the retired Shin Bet guy tells his Palestinian friend, “My friend, just make sure you have a good life.” “What do you mean, I live under occupation, how am I supposed to have a good life?” says the Palestinian man. “I know, but it is the only thing you can strive for,” says the former agent. “People forget and seem unable to read or understand what has been said. A long time ago, one of our leaders said, ‘We just make sure that the world stays engaged in a constant peace process, but we never sign the peace agreement.’ And today,” he continues, “we are winning every day and there is not much more to take. We will never sign it.”
However, what has not changed are the actions of the international community, or lack thereof. There are certain exceptions, brief episodes, an event here and there, but in general, we continue to deepen our relationship with those undertaking the occupation, colonialism and which today has come to mean apartheid.
My first real meeting with reality occurred in 2004 on the Gaza Strip. I met a little girl who had become homeless a few weeks earlier. Israel had destroyed her family’s house. It had been a multi-apartment building that had been razed to the ground by some caterpillars. Now she was sitting in a small refugee room talking about all the terrible things that happened that day. But she also said that she longed for the little red and white bird that used to come and eat breakfast with her on the porch.
It struck me then that occupation, colonialism or apartheid is not only about death, death, death but even more about constantly losing something small, day after day. Every day, something is lost. But the little that is gradually and constantly lost is so small that no one writes about it.
You do not write about longing for a little bird. That decades of occupation are about many hours, days, nights of loss. In the end, you have nothing else to lose. Only longing remains.
Obama and Blair failed. They know it but do not really want to admit it. Failed when they experienced that the last part of Palestine was stolen. In what many call the 20th century’s greatest theft.
Yesterday, Trump called it something else. On the stage we could all see when the thieves performed. They do not negotiate; they just bluntly inform us all.