Must Have Hope
To Move Forward
By Mona El-Farra
21 June, 2007
a physician from Gaza, I have treated far too many Palestinians wounded
by Israeli troops. Now a day has come that I thought I would never see.
Throughout our 59-year struggle
to obtain our freedom, we Palestinians debated strategy and tactics.
Political factions competed for popular support. But never would I have
believed that we would turn guns against each other. What brought us
to this point?
In 2006, Hamas won free and
fair elections on a platform that promised clean and efficient government.
But Israel and the West meddled with our democratically elected choice
by imposing devastating economic sanctions. How would Americans feel
if a foreign power expressed its dissatisfaction with your elected government
in this way? Our economy and our livelihoods have been destroyed, reducing
many of us to poverty.
At last, we exploded with
a desperation born of decades of oppression, lack of opportunity and
loss of hope. We brutalized each other over the crumbs of power. The
shame is ours — but the responsibility is shared between reckless
Palestinians and external powers that turned the screws on our people.
Israel might have removed
its soldiers and settlers from Gaza in September 2005, but it still
controls Gaza from the sea, air and land. The borders are mostly closed
according to the whim of Israel, transforming Gaza into an enormous
open-air prison for its 1.4 million people, half of whom are children.
Too many of these youngsters suffer from the stifling effects of violence
and hunger. Their future is dangerously circumscribed by the chaos and
uncertainty that envelops us.
To thrive, Palestinians need
access to the sea and to commerce. Most importantly, our people must
be imbued with a sense of hope.
Sanctions imposed after the
election of Hamas made hard lives harder, but we must not forget that
even under the "moderate" leadership of President Mahmoud
Abbas we did not control trade in and out of Gaza.
"There is a seeming
reflex," United Nations peace envoy Alvaro de Soto said in a report,
"in any given situation where the UN is to take a position, to
ask first how Israel or Washington will react rather than what is the
right position to take."
Washington's bias toward
Israel is significantly responsible for the appalling situation in which
we find ourselves.
Yes, we Palestinians must
accept blame for our perilous situation. However, Palestinian Foreign
Minister Ziad Abu Amr has correctly declared, "If you have two
brothers, put them in a cage and deprive them of basic and essential
needs for life, they will fight." The fact that we would sink to
this level is perhaps the surest sign of the terrible damage meted out
to us over the years by dispossession and occupation.
When one is in a hole, it
is imperative to stop digging. If we are to win our freedom, surely
it will not be done with one brother digging the grave of another. The
violence, therefore, must stop. That is our first responsibility as
Palestinians and we must meet it immediately. And the United States
and the international community must end the sanctions that deprive
us of our basic needs and our hope for a better future.
The Israeli leadership brandishes
our plight as evidence that we cannot govern ourselves nor be trusted
as "peace partners." White South Africans similarly claimed
that black South Africans were incapable of self-governance. In the
last years of apartheid, more than 250 blacks were killed in black-on-black
violence each month. Yet decency and equality eventually prevailed in
South Africa. Apartheid was vanquished and the world learned that black-on-black
violence was an outgrowth of apartheid — not an indication that
black South Africans were incapable of self-rule and undeserving of
We, too, have the right to
be free. But we must first free ourselves from fighting over the scraps
Like oppressed people everywhere,
we yearn for our rights. Out of this ugly period, we must promote a
new vision of equality for all peoples living on this land, regardless
of race or religion.
El-Farra is a physician in
the Gaza Strip.
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