It’s May 15 today and May 15 is the day Palestinians call Al Nakba. 65 years ago, the creation of the state of Israel implied the displacement of thousands of Palestinians who left their homes and were forced to settle elsewhere. It led to the physical separation of Palestinians across the region – to refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, to the West Bank, to Gaza, to Jerusalem – which continues today, aggravated by movement restrictions, discrimination, housing demolitions, closure and siege.
The political division between Gaza and West Bank is but one of the more recent developments that continues to drive a stake between the Palestinians living in this case just a two hour drive apart. (The division, in brief, came when Hamas won the 2006 parliamentary elections, and concluding in their control of Gaza, and Fatah responding by claiming the West Bank.)
One of the trickiest things in working to promote women’s rights in conflict is answering the question that follows when you tell someone that conflict affects women differently. “But how, give me a specific example,” they say.
That is why I am always so happy when I come across clear and communicable examples. Like this one! The Norwegian Refugee Council recently launched a report on “shelter” (humanitarian speak for housing, basically, but simplified) in Gaza. The long and extensive report has five pages that really speak to me – and that is when women in Gaza, in plain words, explain the link between overcrowding (a cause of the destruction of homes, and inability to build as there aren’t enough materials being imported due to the siege) and gender-based violence.
As a Palestinian who has been living under Israeli Occupation since 30 years of my life, the 29th of November marked an important day for me. The recent vote in the United Nations General Assembly to give the Palestinian authority a nonmember observer state status is a great achievement in the Palestinian struggle. It is such a significant step that the Palestinian Authority took, which is in my opinion should have been taken place since a long time, after we reached to a dead end with the negotiations with Israel and the biggest failure of Oslo accords. The Palestinian people have reached to a great despair and frustration from the situation and the occupation that have lasted for 64 years, which such a step confirms our rights as Palestinians with the boarders of 1967, and the lead to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.
It is the first time in my life that I see the conscious of the world become alive and vote positively for Palestine. It was a great surprise to me after all the disappointment that we got from the UN as Palestinians. I could say that, this voting brought a birth certificate to the state of Palestine yet much to go as well. No longer can Israel deny our right for self- determination, and no longer can they say we have no right for the boarders of 1967.
The UN recognition negates claims of Israeli apartheid and makes clear that all that remains is a rather standard conflict between two states over borders.
Actually, changing the degree of its non-membership in the GA is fairly trivial. The apparent diplomatic victory is itself a consolation prize for the collapse of our bid last year for actual UN membership for Palestine, which was rejected at the Security Council. The truly historic aspect of the acknowledgement of PA statehood is that it contradicts the repeated tropes about Israeli oppression, occupation and apartheid. Statehood is a precondition of UN membership, not a result. There are no “peoples under occupation” with GA “state” status.
Now the challenge is in front of us as Palestinians, will a real state take place when already we are divided to ghettoes ? Can we put down the apartheid wall ?? Will we be able to bring all the refugees back ?? When will we have no checkpoints ?? Will the settlers accept to leave their settlements ?? Many questions and problems are still facing us and our president to really have a viable state. Yet beside all that I am still hopeful that one day we will get all our rights and can have a normal life as any citizen in the world. Long live Palestine!
Rana Al-Arja Khoury