By Karma Nabulsi, a fellow in politics and international relations at St Edmund Hall, Oxford University (THE GUARDIAN, 26/11/07):
If you want bad symbolism, you need look no further than the venue. The US naval academy of Annapolis is the current representation of unrestrained global supremacy, from where young cadets are being sent forth to occupy Arab land by force of arms. Appropriate place, then, for the US to host the meeting between Palestinian officials and the Israeli state, with every important government and international institution in obedient attendance. No one has misunderstood the nature of this meeting or is vaguely fooled by what is taking place. What we have at Annapolis is yet another ultimatum to the Palestinian people to surrender their sovereign rights.
The language of the Middle East peace process has become utterly weary, intellectually bankrupted; embarrassing. The tarnished trickery of those tired catchphrases – «last chance for peace», «painful compromises», «moderates against extremists» – is now worn so thin a child would not be taken in. There is no peace process, and hasn’t been one for a very long time. It is no secret this conference won’t bring an improvement in the intolerable status quo. It is a meeting to legitimise that status quo. And all this dust and fracas because the leaders of Europe are fed up, and feel they can no longer face the obstinate, immovable strength of the unilateral US and Israeli positions.
More worrying than the acquiescence of our political leaders is the intense defeatism now pervading the mainstream media. They, too, are apparently too exhausted to inform their readers of the shocking reality in occupied Palestine and the refugee camps – especially the unbelievable horror of blockaded Gaza – and report fully, accurately and consistently the long list of Israel’s daily illegalities. True, it has now become nearly indescribable. Why report that three times as many political prisoners were arrested by Israel as were released in its «goodwill gesture» for Annapolis? Somehow, the colossal number of outrageous facts cancel each other out – one can’t keep repeating, especially into a political void. Fed up with telling the same grim story over and over without a glimmer of change from their governments, they have finally accepted the hegemonic version signalling their defeat.
Our leaders, our pundits, are worn out, defeated: they simply want it over with. They no longer believe they can do anything to help the Palestinians gain their freedom, or even have a responsibility to do so. And if Britain, with its nuclear weapons and modern military, its defence treaties and international alliances, its centuries-old democratic institutions, has not been able to stand up to the current US order, and instead has buckled into participating in an unpopular illegal war, then why won’t the Palestinians (with no sovereign state or army to protect them, blockaded, impoverished, hemmed in on all sides by a regional superpower, locked into prisons, bantustans, behind borders, walls, checkpoints, and refugee camps) give up? The desire emanating throughout European ministries for the Palestinians to surrender is now palpable.
Yes, these are tired politicians without valour who are holding the reins of power in Palestine, the Arab world and the west. And there has never been a more visible rupture between governments and ordinary citizens than we witness today. But this also reveals a more hopeful reality: ordinary citizens all over the world have not given up on the Palestinians, and the Palestinians have not given up on themselves. They are organising to create a national consensus and democratic representation, calling for steadfastness and courage: this general will is manifest everywhere today except Annapolis.
In Venice the astonishing art of young Emily Jacir, which paid tribute to the sublime in the Palestinian history of freedom, won her the Golden Lion at the Biennale, and demonstrated to the world that the undimmed Palestinian heart is true and free. Today in Villiers-sur-Loir, a village near Paris, more than 100 young Palestinians from every continent overcame the obstacles of visas, checkpoints and lack of passports to join a remarkable initiative, the Palestinian Youth Network, to «prove that the cause of Palestine remains in the hearts and consciousness of this new generation of Palestinians throughout the world» and to further discussions on a common political platform. Today our eyes are not on Annapolis, for there is no future there. Today they are on Villiers-sur-Loir.