The Movenpick Hotel in Ramallah suddenly has empty rooms and available conference space. Up until yesterday afternoon, one of Palestine’s biggest conferences to date was scheduled to take place in the five-star hotel, not to mention that the foreign ministers attending the meeting were to sleep in its plush rooms.
The conference was to bring together foreign ministers from 12 of the 13 countries in the nonaligned movement meeting on Palestine in Ramallah for the first time in history. The Palestinian Authority took out all the stops in terms of preparation for the meeting, planning every detail and minute the delegations would be in the country. According to foreign minister Riyad Al Malki yesterday, the first delegation of foreign ministers were to arrive via helicopter from Jordan’s Marka Airport. The second delegation was scheduled to enter the country by crossing the Allenby Bridge. There was just one small hitch. Up until a radio interview at 8:00 a.m. yesterday morning with Al Malki, the delegations still had not gotten approval from Israel to enter from its borders.
Alas, the delegations of four countries were barred entry– Malaysia, Indonesia, Cuba and Bangladesh. Israel said its decision was based on the fact that these countries do not have diplomatic ties with it. The Palestinians, who expected that Israel may botch up their plans called the move, "a blatant and crude exercise of power and a form of political siege."
"Israel's treatment of Palestine as an internal issue and its attempts to isolate the Palestinian people from the rest of the world further emphasize why we need to achieve state status at the United Nations as a step towards our exercise of self-determination and freedom," PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.
While she is right, the fiasco uncovered other malfunctions of this awkward situation where the PA operates as a government but without the jurisdictions of one. Even when we tend to forget, Israel always seems to pull us back to the stark reality that it is in ultimate charge of our lives.
This is certainly not to say that we should lie down and accept this dismal fate. The Palestinians should fight to the last breath for their freedom and independence but perhaps there is another way to go about it. This guise that we have created for ourselves, with the help of signed agreements and the international community of course, sometimes causes more harm than good. Yesterday’s cancelled meeting is a perfect case in point.
We Palestinians have come to believe that we have a government, complete with ministries, a parliament, a president and prime minister, a national budget, passports and the whole works. We receive heads of state, we lay out the red carpet and we are trying more than anything to become a member of the UN. But when push comes to shove, we are not a state and our government is only allowed to operate in that capacity insomuch as Israel allows it to. And that is one of the biggest frustrations of our reality today.
We are now faced with a situation where the international community expects us to act like a government and holds us accountable just like a sovereign state, all without the actual perks of being sovereign. If we cannot even hold our own conference in our own country than maybe we should rethink our political status. We are a people under occupation – an occupation that is thriving even as we plan events and vote for our parliament and presidents (who by the way could be arrested or killed by Israel by any given moment). It is building more and more settlements, it is taking great handfuls of Palestinian land and it is zeroing in on Jerusalem, the place we hold dearest to our hearts.
Let us be who we really are – an occupied people who are fighting one of the world’s most insidious and lengthy military occupations. We don’t need conferences and seats of power; not yet. We need to liberate ourselves. After that, all of these trappings of a state will fall into place and they will be real and lasting. Anything short of complete liberation will just continue to be castles in the air.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.