There is an Arabic proverb that says February’s slamming, beating, and thunder will bring summer’s sweet smell. Outside the wind howls while rain mixed with sleet splatters against the small house in the small Bethlehem village of Al Masara. Despite the previous day’s sun, the February khabat (slammer) is upon us. Although thunderous and uncertain weather looms outside, Umm Mohammad’s (mother of Mohammad) coffee and conversation warms whoever is sitting next to her.
On February 4, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution that condemned the Syrian government’s use of force against its people and called for President Assad to step down. Following the veto, Hillary Clinton voiced critical reprimand against Russia and China, vowing “to expose those who are still funding the regime and sending it weapons to be used against defenseless Syrians, including women and children.”
Throughout the Arab Spring, the United States has tried to appear as the champion of human rights and democracy in the Middle East, not only voicing support for the various uprisings, but also providing military support for the people seeking their liberation from the tyrannical regimes. The Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Egypt revolutions have all received some kind of support from the US.
“What about Palestine? Does the US care for the people in Gaza? No, they are all liars, they do not care!” Umm Mohammad’s words echo the chorus of Palestinian voices working for freedom that have been ignored by the international community.
Throughout the Arab Spring, Palestinians have tried to gain their freedom, not through revolution and violence, but through diplomatic processes at the United Nations. Despite their nonviolent actions, they have been vetoed and punished for their efforts.
One year ago the Palestinian Liberation Organization drafted a UN Resolution calling for the condemnation of Israeli Settlements that are in violation of international law. Despite the Arab countries bringing forth the resolution at the Security Council with the support of an additional 130 UN states, and that the resolution was drafted based on President Obama’s statements against settlements, the United States vetoed the resolution.
Then in September the PLO went to the United Nations to declare statehood through the UN Security Council. President Obama critiqued, “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.” Although the resolution was never voted on, the mere approach to the UN brought reprimand from the United States and resulted in USAID freezing $200 million in aid, which could eventually result in 250 Palestinians losing their jobs.
Following Palestine’s acceptance as a country at UNESCO, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who chairs the House of Foreign Affair Committee, responded by saying, “Today’s reckless action by UNESCO is anti-Israel and anti-peace. It rewards the Palestinian leadership’s dangerous scheme to bypass negotiations with Israel and seek recognition of a self-declared ‘Palestinian state,’ and takes us further from peace in the Middle East.” Not only did the US ridicule the action of UNESCO, they later cut funding to UNESCO programming.
As another regime receives condemnation from the international community, for Palestinians like Umm Mohammad it feels like just another February khabat against the Palestinian people, leaving them cold and dreary, with little hope of sweet smelling summer.