x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Two politicians show the farce of Europe's concern for Palestine

Whenever politicians speak about Palestine, they make it sound as if it has been hit by a natural disaster, not a brutal, man-made apartheid regime

Pep Montserrat for The National
Pep Montserrat for The National

Occupation of one's homeland is an abnormal experience. Those languishing under its stranglehold experience extraordinary circumstances, such as having to both deal with, and yet at the same time fight against, those abetting the colonisation.

In Gaza, my birthplace, these extraordinary circumstances are part of daily life. It is to here that European diplomats and politicians come in fabulous suits to deliver statements of peace (conditional, of course) that we must either accept or be crushed.

European politicians come here thinking themselves saviours, and yet they aid and enable, on a daily basis, Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.

From Gaza, this is how Europe's help looks. We must forget our history, renounce armed struggle, and give a standing ovation whenever the "peace process" is mentioned.

Europe, we must tell ourselves, is a shining example of democracy, modernity and well-being, and we, the uncivilised, ought to emulate them to "free" ourselves from Arab-style backwardness.

Never mind the fully-fledged financial and political support to a settler-colonial project that continues to expel the indigenous population from their homeland and discriminates between people on the basis of their religion since all is done in the name of peace.

Having lived in Gaza all my life, and bearing witness to the post-Oslo period, it did not take me long to realise that despite the flood of diplomats and foreign aid, life in the "territories" has anything but improved.

Whenever I hear politicians speak about Gaza, they make it sound as if it has been hit by a natural disaster, not a brutal man-made apartheid.

Statements begin and end with voicing "concerns" about worsening "humanitarian conditions" without addressing, at least in part, Israel's responsibility for and role in maintaining and furthering them.

Instead, they, the diplomats, take pictures with us, the poor and needy they pretend to help, then post them on their Twitter accounts before going to Tel Aviv to meet Israel's politicians and decision makers, the very people who have been confiscating and colonising our land for more than six decades now

Over the past year, I have had the chance to speak to two high-profile Swedish politicians from different ends of the political spectrum.

In Stockholm, I met Ann Linde, the international secretary of Sweden's Social Democratic party, and, more recently in Gaza, Gunilla Carlsson, Sweden's minister of international development cooperation and vice chairman of the centre-right Moderate Party.

In both cases, it was very entertaining to listen to the schizophrenic views that characterise the European Union's policies as a whole with respect to the Palestinian question.

Ms Linde, the "leftist", adopted a very reductive attitude all throughout the discussion.

Each time I said something critical of the European Union's unconditional commitment to Israel, she replied by telling me how I must have felt.

She sat across the table from me, beginning each of her sentences with an evasive "I understand your frustration".

Ms Linde's dismissive behaviour suddenly became confrontational when the issue of boycotting Israel was brought up. She was very straightforward: "Israel is a state that has the same rights as other states," she said at one point. She made no mention, however, of Israel's responsibilities as a state that has the same responsibilities as other states.

What I found striking about the Swedish left is that it holds views very similar, if not identical, to those of the Zionist left.

For both camps, the Palestinian-Israeli "conflict" began in 1967 when Israel occupied Gaza, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, Sinai and the Golan Heights.

For Ms Linde and her party, the depopulation of the indigenous population of Palestine in the mass exodus of 1947 and 1948 did not seem to exist.

For the social democrats, as is the case for the Zionist left, the main problem is Israel's siege on Gaza and colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Anything that occurred before the Six-Day War is simply irrelevant.

Unabashedly, Ms Linde also praised Ehud Barak, Israel's former defence minister, as a leftist who, according to her, deserved to be co-operated with.

That - in Mr Barak's own words - the Qana massacre, which was carried out during Israel's invasion of southern Lebanon in 1996, was merely an "unfortunate mistake", was not something that Ms Linde acknowledged.

I was not surprised. Ms Linde serves as a case in point of what it is to be "leftist" in today's EU.

The second encounter, with Gunilla Carlsson, took place three weeks ago. Predictably, the meeting was fruitless and only added emphasis to the European Union's unwavering support of Israel.

I was at the meeting together with other young Palestinians to discuss how the EU can support youth initiatives in Gaza.

Ms Carlsson was expecting us to ask for some cash to set up some project like the kind of projects the EU has been funding since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

What Ms Carlsson seemed oblivious to was the uselessness of these sorts of projects, which fail to address the Israeli occupation as the root cause of the present social and economic problems.

We were expected to think exactly the same way and still look up to the "peace process" as the only way out for us.

I tried to point out the EU's complicity in funding the Israeli occupation - a complicity that Ms Carlsson herself admitted during the meeting - but she was there with a prescribed agenda that she wanted to finish. When matters did not go the way she planned, she and her crew simply stood up and left in the middle of the meeting.

A day later, Ms Carlsson was in Tel Aviv posing next to Yair Lapid, Israel's finance minister, who said it would be shortsighted not to do anything about the growing number of Palestinians in Israel.

Ann Linde and Gunilla Carlsson are only two players in the larger farce of European countries coming together to sign as many business dealings as possible, no matter how exploitative they are.

To them, Palestine has been reduced to a "peace process" and to "development aid", which they can withdraw the minute the Palestinians dare to take a genuine step forward towards liberation.

 

Rana Baker, 21, is a recent graduate of Business Administration in Gaza. She writes for the Electronic Intifada and Al Monitor.

On Twitter: @RanaGaza