Saturday, 15 September 2012

Boycott us all!

Jusuf Daher, a christian Palestinian of
 Kairos Palestine. Views expressed
 in this post are his personal and might not reflect
 views of his organization. 

Voices from the 'End the occupation' movement (2)

"Stop giving us money. The aid system that the Western powers provide to the PA (Palestinian Autonomy) actually normalizes the occupation” says Jusuf Daher, a Christian Palestinian and one of the leading figures of Kairos Jerusalem, the network that facilitates co - operation between different Palestinian and international churches in their struggles to halt Palestinian misery in the Israel/Palestine. ‘The situation right now is terrible. It has never been that bad. But yes, I believe we can live peacefully here together with Jews and with Muslims, like we did for thousands of years’ - ads Daher.

Western aid to PA prolongs the occupation
According to Daher’s view, the foreign aid that PA gets allows to create a completely artificial economy in the West Bank which indeed offers jobs and helps to cover for the basic needs of the population, but at the same time creates the false impression of stability. ‘You cannot run a healthy economy when Israel controls all imports and exports’ - he explains. What is more, Israel,  as the occupying power is mandated by law (IHL International Humanitarian Law) to care for the population under occupation. ‘This means that actually when you pay money to the PA you pay Israeli bills’.

Certainly, there is a humanitarian aspect to it that goes beneath political one. What the aid agencies try to do is to mitigate the results of the occupation and to make life in a West Bank a bit more bearable for the people. Without it, there would be even less hospitals, even less schools and even less jobs. ‘The thing is that at the moment people are more interested in their economic needs than political resistance' - explains Daher. In his view  the PA backed by the Western money actually diverts people from opposing the occupation to focusing on the consumption needs.

Radical as it sounds here, there is a certain point to it especially when I look back our own Polish experience of transition to democracy. Communism fell in Poland because mainstream population and especially workers joined the freedom struggles of democratic opposition that initially emerged as a project of intellectual elites. Workers might have joined for political freedom, but they rushed to the streets primarily when the economic situation forced them to. Had Poland received more international aid at that time, people might have focused just on coping instead on fighting the system.  And this seemed to be exactly Daher’s point.

In his view PA has just enough resources to keep people going, on the low level but still and this prolongs the occupation. In his view every action that actually ‘normalizes’ the occupation - like the foreign aid or even increasing the comfort at the checkpoints actually gives legitimization to the Israeli presence in the West Bank. And increasingly moves the situation from the ‘temporary’ to the ‘permanent’ which is the biggest threat for Palestinains.

How to remain hopeful if even the bible says ‘Promised Land for the chosen people’ ?

For Jusuf, a Christian Palestinian active in the dialogue between various Christian churches in Palestine, the implications of the Israeli occupation are even more complex given his Christian background.  After all, the Bible says that Jews are the ‘chosen people’ and Palestine is the 'promised land'. So than does it mean that Jews they have the right to do whatever? Does it mean that even the Bible orders Palestinians to acknowledge the primacy of Jewish rights to Palestine?  

Jusuf Daher and other Christian Palestinians did not take part in the Second Inifada. But at that time Jusuf was among those Christian Palestinians who felt that a message of hope was needed to support fellow Palestinians in their sufferings. ‘We wanted to say to brothers and sisters that the Bible cannot be good news only for the Jews’.  Instead, they urged Palestinians to ‘love the enemy’ (in the declaration issued by Kairos Jerusalem). But ‘loving the enemy’ also means ‘liberating the enemy for the sin. But in the peaceful way'. And occupation is sinful according to him.

Therefore, Daher strongly believes in civilian acts of resistance like in the First Intifada. Boycott of Israeli goods is one example. Even if it means boycotting Palestinian goods. In his view only the acts of civil disobedience and civil resistance movement really could move the situation forward.

Too late for a two state solution

His personal view is that it is too late for the two state solution. He points out to the facts on the ground in the West Bank and the complete factual take-over of the area C (Israeli controlled) that are resulting in a situation in which there is no more place left in the West Bank for a Palestinian state.

Indeed, looking at the UN- OCHA maps the area, West Banks looks today like the dozen of tiny Palestinian Islands in the sea of otherwise - Israeli controlled land. You cannot cross from one Palestinian city in the West Bank to another without crossing through Israeli controlled land. But this is a subject for another story.

To learn more about Kairos, Christian Palestinians and Kairos declaration go to:

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