03 apr Unskilled Ink from Palestine
Author: Ilyaas Sherally
The sun set swiftly over the Palestinian horizon, as if trying to express its own desire to escape the latest round of tear gas, live ammunition and kerosene bombs. Beyond the military checkpoint – which cut straight through the olive grove – the valley below me was covered with thick, acrid smoke. Prominent among the cacophony of explosions and wailing sirens were my thoughts – louder than ever.
I could write about how Gaza is experiencing severe humanitarian collapse; how polluted water and scarce electricity is the norm; how illegal settlement expansions in the West Bank have doubled; how Palestinian land continues to be bulldozed, whilst families are receiving increased eviction and demolition orders; how olive groves are being set to fire; how agricultural machinery and energy facilities remain largely confiscated; how human rights activists and children continue to be unlawfully detained and abused; how donors proceed to be raking water uphill, only exacerbating the status quo; how radicalization includes the Islamic State, yet excludes European Jews who join the Israeli military; how BDS movements and the right to armed struggle works under international law; how settler violence remains uninterrupted; how military night raids, kneecapping and shoot-to-kill policies remain permissible; how civic freedoms continue to shrink and how the Oslo Accords remain despondently unfulfilled.
But what would that truly add?
Despite active attempts to obliterate history, the books and reports are there for us to read. The films and documentaries are there for us to see. The narratives and people are there for us to listen to. The realities are there for us to visit.
Yet, it does not seem to suffice.
Having just returned from the military court hearing of Ahed Tamimi, as well as a heart-breaking field visit with the EU to Al-Khalil (Hebron), I am preparing for my next visit to Gaza. Last week marked my seventh month at the Netherlands Representative Office in Palestine. With only five months left before I head to New York, I am inconsolably reminded that self-determination remains a difficult, costly march for the occupied. In Palestine, no matter what the weapon of choice – whether voice, pen or gun – there is a steep price to be paid for its use.
As my thoughts drift across the inimical Palestinian valley and its undying reverberations of conflict, I recall a quote by historian and scholar Walid Khalidi.
What will it truly add? Shall it suffice?
I do not know, but it is a quote I shall leave you with.
“The Palestine tragedy – for that is what it is – did not unfold in some obscure era of history, in an inaccessible frontier area of the world. It has been enacted in the twentieth century, within the life span and under observation of thousands of Western politicians, diplomats, administrators and soldiers, in a country, Palestine, well within reach of modern means of communication. Nor was it the spontaneous outcome of fortuitous circumstances and uncontrollable forces. It was initiated by deliberate acts of will. The major decisions which brought it about were taken in two Western capitals – London and Washington – by constitutional leaders. The decisions were taken in the teeth of the existing realities in Palestine, and against both the agonized appeals of the Palestine Arabs and the warnings and counsels of Western expert observers. The Palestinians are not the first and will probably not be the last people to be disposed and banished; but so far they are – perhaps – in the unique position where not only is their catastrophe ruled out of the Western court as being irrelevant to their reactions against its perpetrators, but where these very reactions are held to incriminate them. ”