A year of impunity
As 2015 closed, we Palestinians looked back and saw the world had failed us.
Palestinians marked 2014 with two significant events: Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip, in which it killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, demolished or damaged more than 100,000 homes and businesses and bombed hospitals, schools, water infrastructure and clinics; and the accession to International Criminal Court.
Palestinians expected 2015 would be the year of accountability; that, after granting Israel impunity for nearly 70 years, the world would wake up and stop Israel flouting international law and humanity. We expected that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would do the same.
Yet 2015 was a year of impunity. After Israel’s bombing campaign, and with the help of the international community, of the thousands of homes and buildings damaged or destroyed during Israel’s onslaught, the United Nations has assisted in the construction of only one home. Yes, one home.
The reasons? A combination of lack of funds (though the international community pledged more than $5 billion, less than one-third was actually paid) and Israel’s insistence (as accepted by the United Nations) that Israel be allowed to control the flow of construction materials to Gaza. The result is that thousands of Palestinians remain homeless despite assurances to the contrary.
And the impunity does not stop there: Not a single country, including the PA, has held Israel to account for its 2014 onslaught or for its continued theft of Palestinian land. Not a single Israeli has faced criminal charges and Israeli officials continue to be received in foreign capitals as though Israel’s 2014 assault did not occur.
This impunity bolstered Israel’s actions in 2015. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s landslide victory came as no surprise to anyone paying attention to Israeli politics given the shift to the extreme right. Today, of the 120 members of Israel’s Knesset, only the anti-Zionist party (holding a mere 13 seats) support equal rights for Palestinians while the vast majority of members of the Knesset do not support Palestinian freedom.
And it shows: In 2015, the Israeli government actively pushed for increased settlement construction and expansion, supported right-wing extremists who seek to destroy the Haram al-Sharif, instituted shoot-to-kill policies against Palestinians protesting Israeli rule, turned a blind eye to the murders of the Dawabshe family whose home was set ablaze by Israeli settlers, and continued its home demolition policies.
With Israel receiving unbridled diplomatic support in the face of this and increased US financial assistance, it is little wonder that Israel continues to do as it pleases.
The European Union’s response to Israel’s crimes has been similarly meek. After 20 years of pressing for labelling of Israeli settler goods, the European Union has finally decided to institute its own policies. And before it pats itself on the back for confronting Israel, this labelling is nothing more than that — labelling — and does not involve holding Israel to account or even banning settlement goods.
For Palestinians, however, the Palestinian Authority and its authoritarian, unelected “leaders” continue to abet Israel’s crimes. The promised swift PA response to Israel’s crimes was instead now typical PA fear of alienating the United States, Europe and every other donor to the flailing Palestinian Authority.
While protests are erupting throughout all parts of occupied Palestine, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas continues to busy himself with consolidating his power, destroying the remnants of democratic Palestinian institutions and ingratiating himself to an American leader who has made it clear that he will not do anything to secure Palestinian freedom before his term expires in a year.
And so the year of Israeli impunity will give rise to the year of Palestinians claiming their rights; a year in which the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement will continue to grow despite Israeli attempts (and sanctioned by the Israeli Supreme Court) attempts to quash it. The Palestinian Authority will make itself even more irrelevant in the eyes of Palestinians and a year in which Palestinians — fed up with living under repressive Israeli rule — will continue to rise up to demand freedom, equality and above all else, dignity.