Reflection on the Current Situation in the Middle East
by Dr. Bernard Sabella, Executive Secretary
Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees
Middle East Council of Churches
The Middle East is in need of healing both internally and externally. We as citizens of that region not only are perplexed by what is happening but feel worried that with Arab weakness, powerful regional and international actors take over without respect to the needs and rights of ordinary people. The malaise in the Middle East puts more urgent need for healing. Unfortunately, the recent peace plan by President Trump puts the Middle East further into troubled waters. While I do not go into all the dangers that the Trump initiative pose for us Palestinians, making us into a Bantustan or a number of citytustans controlled forever by Israeli occupation forces.
No recognition of Jerusalem as a shared capital for three religions and for Palestinians and Israelis; annexation of settlements; imposing Israeli rule on the entire Jordan Valley and full control of Israel on borders, import taxes and a free hand in continuing to have checkpoints and imposing other security measures at will. The US has stopped making any pretext that it is an honest broker for peace between Palestinians and Israelis as it has taken the side of Israel and disregarded entirely the Palestinian position, narrative, history and rights. Aside from freezing financial aid to Palestinians, the Trump Administration stopped funding for UNRWA which cares for over 5-million Palestinian refugees. This endangered the continuity of needed health and education services to hundreds of thousands of refugee camp residents.
Healing of the political void in the Middle East is of paramount importance at present. I ask in this context what is the role of Europe; the EU, the Council of Europe and the variety of organizations and state institutions that monitor and follow up on issues of human rights on what is going to happen in Palestine, or if you prefer the Occupied Palestinian Territory, now? Would all of you, in Europe and in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other Western countries, usually champions of democracy and human rights, remain silent? Would you allow the hopes and aspirations of Palestinians and of Israelis who believe in a genuine and lasting just peace go unanswered? What would be the role of those who believe in peace and the involvement of both Palestinians and Israelis in pursuing peace given the lopsided and utterly neglectful Trump peace proposal of the Palestinians and their position? Given also the impossible conditions that the Trump proposal places on Palestinians, what should be done to avoid going into a hellish and nightmarish kind of scenario in the Occupied Palestinian Territory? Or would the diplomats in your country advise for a kind of a “balanced” review of the Trump peace plan that would allow time to study the proposal which is in reality a non-starter, as the Palestinians have been marginalized and put aside in an disrespectful and condescending manner?
If my Palestinian people feel frustrated, disappointed and unreceptive to the Trump proposal, it is not because we want to reject every plan presented but because the plan puts all of us in the corner with our back to the wall. We have, according to the plan, to sign our capitulation to what the Israeli rightists and settlers decide on our own behalf and agree on all the steps and measures that Israel has introduced in the Palestinian Occupied Territory since 1967. For the foreseeable future, say in 20 or 30 or maybe in 50 years, if we behave according to the plan and act like good boys and girls we may be offered by Israel the opportunity to run our own affairs within the overbearing security machine run by Israel and that would determine our every move and breath. This is not a plan for peace between two peoples that respect each other and that strive to recognize their conflicting narratives in order to eventually reach reconciliation and healing. This is a plan of surrender.
A genuine peace between us and the Israelis can be an important step for a healing process that would affect positively the whole of the Middle East. Help Palestinians exercise their natural and inalienable rights to a state with East Jerusalem at its capital; help end Israeli occupation and give hope to Palestinians that they can lead a normal life. It is only through this formula that peace and harmony with all of our neighbors, including Israelis, can be achieved. We Palestinians have nothing to fear from PEACE; in fact we are in dire need for peace and for living normal lives. We believe that when Palestine is at peace with itself and with others that this will affect the healing process of all in the Middle East. It is now that each one of you can make a difference in the healing process of Palestinians and Israelis that will eventually reflect also on the healing process of the entire Middle East.