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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 23, New Delhi, May 22, 2021

justice for the Palestinians - Letter to President Biden | Humra Quraishi

Saturday 22 May 2021, by Humra Quraishi

IMPRESSIONS

May 21, 2021

Dear President Joe Biden,

I’m writing to you, President Joe Biden, as you are heading America, the world’s most powerful country and the supposed ‘super power’ as far as the military might is concerned. And I must also add that I was greatly relieved when you defeated Donald Trump in the presidential elections. In fact, immediately after your victory I wrote that rays of hope and survival rose, with you as President of America, because your speeches relayed that you’d be leading the world towards a better world order! A better and safer place to survive in, sans violence and human destruction.

But these last few days have left us shaken, seeing shots of death and destruction in Palestine. Very, very painful scenes of children dying, bleeding, crying, and screaming in pain, with injuries and deep wounds all over their forms. Even the alive don’t really look alive in the midst of the massive bombardments. Each one of them looks shattered with grief and gloom, trauma, and the terribly devastating times they are witnessing…I’m certain you must have watched the video of a Palestinian father, whose wife and four young sons were killed last weekend during Israel’s bombardment in Palestine. That hapless man was standing chanting, thanking God for that one alive son – his five-month baby found in the rubble! No, I can’t even visualize what my condition would be if my children are killed in seconds, in bombardments …military might showered rather too ruthlessly on the civilian population! Barbaric killings! Mass murders!

Nah, I’m not going into those mathematical figures of the over two hundred Palestinians killed and ten Israelis left dead in these last few days. Even if one human -being is killed we ought to hang our heads in utter remorse and guilt. After all, we are said to be living in supposedly developed times, where any given conflict can be resolved through dialogues or discussions. Definitely not through the killings of hundreds of innocent children and women and men. Families and clans are getting destroyed and ruined for generations to come.

Right from my school days I have been reading details of the tyranny inflicted on the Palestinians. The killings of the Palestinians leaving me all too bruised and shattered. In fact, my first short story which I wrote whilst still in school, centred around a hapless Palestinian. Nothing much has changed …in fact, the situation has worsened with killings becoming the order of the day. Politics has only compounded the ground realities in the years. Today the situation is not just complex but also alarming. Commentators and analysts are holding the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political moves and manipulations responsible for these recent violent attacks. Not to overlook the role played by the arms lobbies and political strategists, furthering defence deals along the expansionist designs! All at the cost of the hapless human being! Killing and torturing hundreds and thousands, so that arms dealers and political lobbies flourish! What the world is coming to…no worth of the human being or what!

It would be naïve of me if I remind you of the Oslo Accord or of the two earlier Accords or one of your predecessor, George Bush, even promising a Palestinian State by 2005! Right now there is an emergency in that region with hundreds perished, orphaned and homeless. To put it bluntly and as starkly and urgently as possible: We, the alive, have got to ensure that our fellow human beings are not killed and murdered and destroyed and hundreds and thousands left so very traumatized and tortured.

I do realize that a cease-fire has come through just a day back, on Egyptian mediation. Please President, would you and your government ensure that the sanctity of this ceasefire holds sway. Going beyond the ceasefire, two more aspects of great significance if you are determined to protect the human life and soul and psyche. A series of political dialogues to resolve this conflict on a permanent basis. Also, an immediate and complete halt to the latest proposed US arms supplies to Israel. Latest news reports do state that US Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a resolution on this Thursday/20 May, aimed at halting a $735 million arms sale to Israel, following similar moves by progressive Democrats. But will this resolution hold sway? I do wish it does. Because that alone would mean that the present American government cares for human life and wants to stop killings.

In fact, here I must also state that several other Arab diplomats and commentators and analysts had stressed a stark fact: without America and its support Israel would be zero! Israel cannot survive a single day if America didn’t support it!

Today we are all well aware of the grim ground realities in Palestine. We are all well aware of the fact that Palestinians are humiliated in their own territory…surviving, semi-jailed and cut off. As one of the former Palestinian envoys to India, Osama Musa told me during the course of an interview that the very lives of the Palestinians are in control of the Israeli government and forces. In fact, he had also stated that America is well aware of this fact, yet it continues to support Israel.

Its such a tragic situation where the occupier has also grabbed the role of the oppressor of the occupied people – the Palestinians. Palestinians recount the tragedies they face on any given front. Double or triple whammy as Israeli bombardments kill scores of children on any given day!

In fact, I have before me besides other volumes on the Palestine situation, this earlier published anthology of essays - Palestine Essays – Winning Essays in the Palestine Essay Contest organized by the Milli Gazette ( Pharos Media)– written by young Indian scholars and students and activists. And I was amazed to read the detailed analysis of the ground situation in Palestine by our young Indians. To quote the Ahmedabad / Gujarat based Dona Mathew from her essay tucked in this volume: “It is not easy to misconstrue a situation as that which exists in Gaza. Even if both sides tell different stories, it is not rocket science to grasp how a blockade affects people living inside it. If one were given a choice, being born into a strife-torn region would be anyone’s last option. But what happens when circumstances are such that an agency of the State ensures that you do not have freedom of movement to even equal medical care?...”

The disparities stand out, stark. Yes, the Palestinians face disparities in each and every sphere. Even where the Covid vaccine is concerned.

To quote Matthias Kennes, MSF Medical Adviser Palestine, dated 22 February 2021, “ As a medic, I am shocked. The internationally-acclaimed Covid 19 vaccination success of Israel has a dark side, the consequences of which are being felt cruelly in the West Bank territory of Palestine where I work, and in the blockaded Gaza Strip where my Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) colleagues work…Israel has managed vaccinate nearly 4.2 million people with a first dose – that’s around 50 per cent of the population – and 2.8 million people with the full two doses – that’s more than 30 per cent of the population…Meanwhile, only several thousand doses are available in the Palestinian West Bank, and delivery of 20,000 reported to have arrived last weekend in Gaza scarcely scratches at the surface of the needs. At a generous maximum, assuming that the 35,000 reported Sputnik and Moderna vaccines are all available, that would be around 0.8 percent of the Palestinian population…You are over 60 times more likely to have a vaccination in Israel than in Palestine. To make that clearer, you are over 60 times more likely to have a vaccination in Israel than in Palestine…”

I could go on writing about the human tragedy spreading out in Palestine and in the adjoining regions. Please, President, do let this ceasefire pave way for justice for the Palestinians. Let them live and survive in peace and dignity in their homeland.

Warm regards

Humra Quraishi

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