The Christmas season is when people in the Christian world are encouraged to think of those less fortunate, including of course people oppressed for no other reason than being a particular ethnic or national group by birth. And iconic in such misery are Palestinians. Palestinians are both Christian and Muslim. Few in the West know, for example, that the late President Yasser Arafat’s wife is Christian. Also Hanan Ashrawi the notable scholar, legislator and activist, and her mentor the late Edward Said.
Among the most unfortunate of oppressed peoples, the Palestinians lead the hellish existence of an open prison, surrounded by walls and checkpoints. Originally one fifth were Christian, some of the families in fact the original Christians, although their numbers have now diminished. Given the number of instances of Palestinians needing urgent medical attention being snarled at checkpoints instead of being rushed through, one fears if Joseph and Mary, in the apocryphal tale, had traveled to Bethlehem today, Jesus would have been born at a checkpoint.
The 22 percent of the land left to the Palestinians out of the original Palestine is sometimes quietly, sometimes noisily, getting gobbled up by illegal settlements. In theory, the US opposes them but in practice does nothing. So it came as a pleasant surprise when the U.S. did not cast its expected veto against the recent UN Security Council resolution condemning them. Congratulations are in order to the all too gutless Obama administration and to our Compromiser-in-Chief, a Peace Nobelist, who has remained nobly aloof (at least apparently) while a swathe of countries stretching from North Africa through the Arabian Peninsula and into the Pakistan border have been devastated, not to mention Ukraine destabilized through a coup.
Yet out of this cauldron of death and destruction plus a resulting refugee tsunami destroying a European experiment, comes a chance, a small chance, of some legacy — even Obamacare the health initiative has taken to its sick bed. In the three weeks remaining of this president’s term, he can recognize Palestine as a state. It would enable Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations and press its legitimate rights. Otherwise the future is bleak, both for Palestine and Israel.
President-elect Trump has signaled the last gasp of the two-state solution through his choice of ambassador to Israel. His friend and bankruptcy lawyer (used often) David Friedman is noted for his affinity with extremist Israeli settlers, illegally squatting in universally condemned settlements that also violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. He is president of the American Friends of Bet El Yeshiva and Bet El Institutions, raising money to support settlers.
Since the end of his presidency, Jimmy Carter and his exemplary foundation have undertaken many admirable challenges including the eradication of certain waterborne diseases in Africa. He has also written about the plight of Palestinians, the latest of which is an op-ed in the New York Times (November 28, 2016) titled America Must Recognize Palestine. He exhorts President Obama to recognize Palestine as a country and annul U.S. objections to it becoming a full member of the United Nations.
It is perhaps the last hope for a two-state solution.