The more Things Change, the more they Stay the Same

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In those fleeting moments of complete desperation, most Palestinians have probably thought it would have been better to maintain our status as a revolutionary people under Israel’s military occupation. That way, the road to liberation would have been clear cut and our means of achieving it would have been through methods utilized by a people oppressed, with no government, no state and a leadership in exile. Yes, when all else fails, we Palestinians revert back to what could have been if only we didn’t decide to believe in the promises of the western world who told us negotiations and peace deals were the best way to go.

Nearly two decades after our transformation from a revolutionary people fighting for their freedom to a quasi-government, semi-autonomous, severely dissected people, most of us have come to realize that nothing really changes where Israel is concerned. Maybe, on the contrary, things have actually gotten worse.

All of this negativity was not created in a vacuum. The past two weeks have been a circus of diplomatic statements and slogans, which in the end, mean absolutely nothing. Take for example, the US’s supposed anger at Israel’s treatment of Vice President Joe Biden on this recent trip to the country when the construction of 1,600 housing units were announced in the illegal Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo. At first, the Palestinians detected a distant waft of dissent in the Obama administration. Yes, maybe this time, the US would turn their usually inane statements when it comes to upbraiding Israel into real actions. Words such as "unhelpful" and "unproductive" in regards to Israel’s blatant violations of international law this time transformed into chides such as "insulting" and "condemning" in regards to Israel’s settlement policies in Palestine. This, hoped the Palestinians, was a golden opportunity for real change, the kind of change President Barack Obama has been promising since he took office last January, the kind of change he has proven he could make happen like this week’s pass of the new health care reform bill. If settlement construction is so damaging, why not cut it off at the knees?

Alas, such hopes are as naïve as they come. It was not long after this "insult" that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said while he was sorry for the "unfortunate timing" he would not compromise Israel’s position on Jerusalem. "There is no difference between building in Jerusalem and building in Tel Aviv," he opined. During the annual AIPAC conference in Washington DC, Netanyahu reiterated that "Jerusalem is no settlement" and that building in Israel’s "eternal capital" would continue unhindered as it has for the past 42 years.

What is even more audacious from the cheeky Bibi is his offer to withhold from publicly announcing settlement construction, especially when US officials are visiting so that nobody would be embarrassed. Talk about an insult. Is this the kind of loyal ally the US is so proud of? Apparently so. Clinton, who last week spurted out some of the strongest-toned language ever towards Israel, heaped loads of praise on the country and reassured it once again of the US commitment to Israel. "Guaranteeing Israel’s security is more than a policy position for me. It is a personal commitment that will never waiver." If this were not clear enough, Clinton spelled it out for the pro-Israel Americans listening to her, just to set their minds at ease.

"Under President Obama’s leadership, we have reinvigorated defense consultations, redoubled our efforts to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge, and provided nearly $3 billion in annual military assistance. In fact, that assistance increased in 2010 and we have requested another increase for 2011."

That doesn’t sound like someone who is opposed to Israel’s actions, as illegal and as oppressive as they may be. This sounds like typical America and whoever deludes themselves into thinking America, even under a president like Mr. Obama, is really going to turn things around for the Palestinians is just that: delusional.

That is why the Palestinians are becoming so cynical in terms of the so-called peace process. It has brought us very little if nothing at all. Actually, it has given us one thing, and that is a ball and chain that has shackled us even more to the iron gates of Israel’s occupation, which by the way, is just as strong and just as permanent as it was 42 years ago. What’s worse, we can no longer play the revolution card without being shot down by the international community for breaking our side the agreement, even as Israel is allowed to breach these same agreements time and again, settlement construction being the most glaring example. Following the debacle over the east Jerusalem settlement expansion, the Quartet also "condemned" the construction. However, even this foursome could not help but throw us into the mix. "The Quartet urges the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth…and to refrain from demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem. The Quartet also calls on both sides to observe calm and restraint and to refrain from provocative actions…"

Now that the Palestinians have a government, a president, prime minister and a cabinet, apparently the term "both sides" is applicable even when the sides are far from equal. We are bound hand a foot by the mistakes of our past, the Oslo Accords being the biggest mistake of them all. Now we must face a world that pressures us into entering negotiations with an enemy that does not compromise its intentions even with its biggest ally and financer, and oppress our own revolutionary inclinations against a very alive occupation because we pledged years ago to renounce violence. The worst part of it all is the overall feeling among the Palestinians that we have been duped. The compromises, the suppression of our legitimate rights at times would have all been worth it if the sacrifices had reaped real results. However, as settlements continue to grow and Israel remains as impertinent as ever, it is a cruel wake up call for us Palestinians that even though so much has changed over the years, even more has stayed the same.

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