Monday, November 13, 2006

Middle East Musings

This is an email my friend Louisa sent me. If you don't know of Louisa, she is my British friend who (this is putting it in very vague terms) works in Israel promoting human rights issues for various international groups. She has a much more interesting life than the two of us and we thought her perspective on this issue would be a great thing to spread around. Enjoy!

For a long time now I have wanted to write an e mail to all of you with my thoughts about what has been going on here over the past couple of months. It is only now, with enough distance and time to reflect that I am able to talk about the Lebanon conflict, for example, and the recent killings in Beit Hanoun( http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1942963,00.html ) in the Gaza Strip I think will require a similar period to digest. I’d like to preface the e mail I am about to write by telling you all that this won’t be a particularly eloquent political analysis and since I don’t really know where to begin, it may be that it turns into my thoughts in a random order (well…some things never change do they!). It’s also only half of what I’m thinking – feedback appreciated and I can tell you all more.

I have now been living and working in the occupied Palestinian territory for 2 ½ years all together. I’d say that I came here with the notion that Israel was somewhat justified in taking steps to thwart ‘terrorism’ no-doubt fuelled by news stories from home which I now see don’t paint the correct picture of what is going on over here. I went from being pro-Israeli to being vehemently pro-Palestinian, when you are here, you just can’t help it – constant checkpoints, army incursions, building of the wall, targeted assassinations and systematic discrimination of the Palestinian people makes you very hard-line. Then the Lebanon war happened and I felt that the response by Western Governments made me ashamed to be British for the first time in my life. Then I went home for two weeks to recharge and now, well now I’m just sad and that’s all.

I feel like I should go through these stages, explaining events that have shaped my beliefs and altered me into someone altogether less idealistic, and a little bit more jaded than myself 2 ½ years ago.

(This was a paragraph that explains exactly what Louisa does, but we thought it best to leave all work related things off the internet)

And so, I took over the job just as thing were looking good – the structure was reformed so that all meetings were joint PA and Donor Government meetings which would allow for policy dialogue – lets build a viable - Palestinian state! And then, Hamas happened. Honestly, I can hardly say I can blame people for voting Hamas – they are transparent and at least they say what they mean!! The banners in Ramallah before the elections read ‘The US and Israel want Fatah…who do you want’ that says it all really – and our job became a nightmare as no one could sit with the government, meetings became donor only and coordination slowed to a minimum..increadibly frustrating.

Now donors can work at a director-general level down in PA ministries but there is hardly a PA left. Aid bypassed the government and turned into emergency provision mostly..lets forget about a Palestinian state..lets just keep people at a minimum poverty level so that they don’t complain too much. All sorts of technical mechanisms were employed (which I won’t bore you with) to get money to the people (a seemingly good intention) without addressing the roots of the problems and without looking to the real cause of the degradation in the Palestinian territory…Israel and the Israeli response to ‘terrorism’(whether justified or not)(and you definitely need to work with the Palestinians to stop it from happening…did we learn nothing from Northern Ireland at all?). The donors flocked to communicate with the Presidents Office, that nice Western friendly Mr. Abbas without thinking about the capacity of that office. The PA is hideous to work with anyway..infighting and in some cases, downright incompetence I can tell you (I should know – I work with them every day!) but if all donors are going to work with one office, there needs to be more than 4 people there you can work with!

So that’s the situation now..the PA about to collapse and at least 350 Palestinians have been killed in the past 5 months..we are waiting to see what will happen next.

And so to Lebanon…no one argues the right of self defence but if that defence means dropping cluster bombs on civilian areas when you know you have three days left to go in a conflict (they are still killing people by the way) and targeting 4 unarmed UN peacekeepers, then sod defence. The Western Governments said..oh..ok..you can have three more days to finish it off….bloody hell..who ever gave a country free reign to pound another country? A good friend of mine was the one you may have heard of in the news, o n the phone to the Israelis the whole day telling them they had unarmed UN peacekeepers in a base that had been there for years..and then, while another of the UNTSO soldiers I was talking to the other day was on the phone to the peacekeepers… the radio went silent…and yet again, the Israelis apologised, yet another mistake from the army that is supposed to be the best in the World.

So you see, now I’m just sad..and writing ranting e mails to all of you at home because I know now that none of us working over here can really do anything to help! We work as hard as we can to keep it all going and we try to maintain the universal standards of dignity and respect for the human person that makes us want to do this crazy job! But I ask you..why not one state? One state for two people…

So there you go---that’s how I’m feeling now about the politics and to make life much more interesting the hedonistic ex-pat life continues, I’m off to the US Marine Ball tonight..life isn’t that bad after all!

1 comment:

Retha said...

I have to say that, I really do not understand even half of what Louisa is talking about. I hate to admit it but I know nothing about the conflicts in the middle east. I wish I did, I think I would have to have someone sit down with me one on one and explain, and even then I don't know if I could grasp it. But I also was left with a feeling of sadness after reading the post, maninly because I understand the feeling that she has to help and feels so useless in this situation. Also because it makes you wonder why human beings have no compassion for one another.

Retha