Palestinians have faced many curves and zigzags before, but today we face our greatest challenge yet since Donald Trump took office. His added support for Israel’s racist and expansionist policies—through his blindness and outright recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and his promoting the “deal of the century”— aims to liquidate the Palestinian issue and to end any possibility of establishing a Palestinian state in the future.
Weeks ago Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to annex 30% of the West Bank on July 1, although he pushed past that deadline today. That land is a main component of the 22% of historic Palestine that is the basis for establishing a Palestinian state in the framework of a two-state solution. Specifically, the land is from the Jordan Valley, which is the Palestinian bread basket and produces about 60% of our agriculture. This is because the region has access to water, the weather is temperate and the soil is rich. Many fruits and vegetables can be grown here throughout the year.
What is happening now is that Israel is taking advantage the Trump administration’s support to implement the aspects of the “deal of the century” that are the most beneficial to it, keeping in mind no party has signed onto this deal. At the same time, Arab governments are preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic, although Arab inaction is increasingly common at this point, especially in the Gulf where the Trump administration has forged closer ties.
While we do not know when Netanyahu will resume his annexation bid, our crisis is not over. Daily systematic abuses of the occupation continues and ethnic cleansing continues, driving forward the practice of annexation despite no formal announcement. Tomorrow, Palestinians will still live under Israeli occupation, one that controls the most acute details of our lives. Recent years have thrust us into an unbearable hell. Unemployment before the pandemic was 24% and youth unemployment was 34% (over 60% in Gaza) which is all the more alarming because Palestinian society is a young community.
Our political options to rectify this economic collapse have been blocked over the years by Israel’s refusal to implement international agreements, including the two-state solution that it signed onto during the Oslo process, and UN resolutions that called to end systematic abuses.
In Hebron, where I live, collective punishment dictates our lives. The city is divided in half, with Israeli forces controlling the Old City. Their harsh policies of segregation interfere with our daily lives to such a depth that I cannot even walk on the streets, as the army does not allow Palestinians to use certain roads, only Israeli settlers. Inside of the quarter of the Hebron where I live we face serious pressure to abandon our homes with Israeli settlers seeking to increase control over our properties. What’s more, during this pandemic, Israeli soldiers and settlers and were caught on video spitting on the doors of homes of Palestinians in Hebron.
One of the reasons for the spread of the pandemic in Hebron, the current epicenter for the virus in the West Bank, is the lack of Palestinian health enforcement in the part of the city under direct Israeli military control, known as H2. Palestinian security forces and officials are not allowed to enter the area and this places a barrier in the Palestinian government’s ability to enforce quarantine measures and inform the public about preventative measures. The virus ramped up in the West Bank after Palestinian workers entered Israel to work via crossings outside of the checkpoints where health teams conduct checks for symptoms.
The Palestinian people’s message is always that we are fighting for justice, freedom, and the establishment of a state on our land. We have always rejected proposals to make us disenfranchised residents of enclaves, or deny us the right to live in our homeland. The governments and people of the world bear a moral and human responsibility, so that the situation does not explode.
If the occupying power is not ready to apply international law, namely United Nations resolutions to establish a Palestinian state, it must be ready to establish a democratic single state for all of citizens without distinction in rights by race, religion, gender, or skin color.