“We, the Palestinians, are losing our shadow!” These are the words of 32-year-old Sanaa abo Gazal when I asked her to describe what life is like today in Gaza, the world’s largest prison. The people there simply cannot get out from under the 13-year siege imposed by Israel and Egypt. “They are waiting for their soul to come out of their body,” Sanaa says. “Two million are under siege. Two million are in curfew. No food. No electricity all day. No water every week. Some of us are waiting for the mercy of the Gulf states, dreaming of having the $100 from Qatar.”
September already brings bad memories. During this month in 1970 around 30,000 Palestinians were killed in fighting between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Jordanian army. The massacre at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps took place in September 1982 when Phalange troops butchered more than 3,000 Palestinians. In September 1993, Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Agreement, recognising the state of Israel and the ‘two state’ solution.
For Palestinians, this agreement meant giving up 77 percent of our land. Today, 27 years later, the two state solution has failed. More settlements have been built on the remaining lands. There is no Palestinian state, and in the West Bank another two million people are surrounded by a wall and live under a military regime in a state of apartheid. Once there was a hope, even when things were just bad. But today it is becoming more and more terrible. Covid-19 has affected everyone economically, socially and politically. People were infected, got sick and unfortunately some have died. Thousands of people are infected with the virus in Gaza and tens of thousands have it in the West Bank. But the humanitarian crisis is so deep because the medical system is unable to withstand the burden of so many more patients, especially amid a deep economic crisis.
As I walk the streets of Ramallah in September I would normally see many people out buying food, school supplies and school uniforms. People are in the streets, but for many it’s impossible to buy anything. I notice more and more kids working to persuade me to buy face masks, water bottles or bubble gum. There is also a moral crisis, I think, as people walk about without wearing face masks. When I ask a police officer about it he simply says, “They don’t have money for food. How can I fine them?” September is so dark this year, and not just because of Covid-19.
The threat of annexation of the northern West Bank is painful, while the Israeli prime minister has also promised to annex the Jordon Valley. If this is allowed to happen, the Palestinians will lose our most fertile land and will lose land from the West Bank. The Jordon Valley feeds us and is also a key source of income. Meanwhile, the general fear people have has been compounded by a terrible disappointment and betrayal from United Arab Emirates (UAE). In August, Donald trump declared peace between Israel and UAE. Israeli prime minister Netanyahu said, “A peace for peace.” But by that he only meant Israel will not give anything for the Palestinians. UAE said that by peace they mean Israel “stops the annexation of the West Bank”.
But then the US said, “It’s all about business.” To that end, UAE will buy F-35 fighter jets as one of the terms of the so-called peace transaction. Palestinians believe there is a moral and ethical crisis because UAE recognising Israel means that soon more Arab countries will recognise Israel. Bahrain followed with its peace deal. It means Trump’s “deal of the century” peace plan will have more supporters of Israel among the Arab countries.
It means an end to the dream of having a nation state for Palestine and an end to the dream of the right of return for Palestinian refugees. It means the Arab League, which once made decisions against Israel, will finally recognise it as legitimate. This is why September 2020 is especially sad for us.