On December 14, 1998, we had a day off at school. As an eight-year-old child, I couldn’t be happier.
All the shops were closed and there were roadblocks everywhere. The streets were filled with Palestinian flags, and white and red striped flags I couldn’t recognise. I asked my father and he explained that those were American flags, and that Bill Clinton, the President of the United States, was going to visit Gaza City later that day.
Little did I know that I would be hearing Clinton’s name almost every day for the next 18 years, but it will not be on happy occasions.
The late Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, had invited Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton to inaugurate the Gaza International Airport . Clinton’s helicopters landed on the airport’s runway in Rafah and then took off to Gaza City, where Clinton addressed the Palestinian National Council in what went down in history as the first visit ever by an American president to a “sovereign” Palestinian entity.
Clinton’s Palestine concerns
The following year, my siblings and I joined 65 other students in the newly opened American International School in Gaza, a school fully staffed by American and Canadian teachers, with textbooks that had come all the way from the United States to Gaza.
|Hillary Rodham Clinton is pictured with Yasser Arafat’s wife Suha at the Beach refugee camp in Gaza on December 14, 1998. [AP]|
In the meantime, Senator Hillary Clinton joined Elie Wiesel in addressing “anti-Israel” and “anti-Semitic” rhetoric in Palestinian textbooks ( PDF ). In 2001, she sent a letter to President George W Bush urging him to force Yasser Arafat into changing the Palestinian Authority’s “hateful rhetoric” as a condition for peace.
In 2007, she questioned Mahmoud Abbas’ eligibility as a “partner for peace”, given that textbooks issued under his administration were “inciting hatred”.
This came after she co-sponsored a Congress resolution that supported the building of Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank, which she defended by saying: “This is not against the Palestinian people, this is against terrorists.”
Despite Clinton’s passionate interest in Palestinian education, she had little praise for Gaza’s American school; on the contrary, when two American supplied Israeli F-16 jets razed the school to the ground in 2008/9, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had nothing to say.
Her indifference came as no surprise, and was no different than her reaction, or lack thereof, to Israel’s destruction of Gaza’s Airport three years after she herself had inaugurated it with Arafat and her husband.
Driven by a mission from God to spread peace and democracy in the Middle East, Bush pressed for a Palestinian National Council against all odds in 2006. But when Hamas, as predicted, won the elections, he approved a plan to overthrow Hamas by igniting a Palestinian civil war with the help of Israel.
|US President Bill Clinton and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during the official opening ceremony for the passenger terminal at Gaza International Airport in Rafah on December 14, 1998 [AP]|
In the meantime, Clinton was busy co-sponsoring a Congress resolution entitled, “The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006”. The resolution, which was introduced after Hamas won the elections and taken over Gaza as a result of Bush’s interference, denied Hamas any participation in the “peace process” unless it recognised Israel, disarmed and renounced violence.
The bill was signed into law by Bush in December 2006, and was effectively the approval Israel needed to launch its ongoing siege of Gaza. Effectively, Bush and Clinton tried to change the results of the elections they forced upon us with a violent civil war, and when that failed, they decided to punish us for making the “wrong democratic choice”.
When Hamas won Bush’s elections, I had just graduated from school and was ready to leave Gaza to study at the American University in Cairo. From that year on, crossing the border out of or into Gaza turned into a fine experience of hell on earth.
The US, like any other country on a divinely inspired global peace-promoting mission, had decided to lead an international boycott of Palestine due to the failure of both the elections and the civil war it ignited in tipping the balance of power as it wanted it. The boycott entailed vigorous US support for Israel’s complete imprisonment of the Gaza Strip’s inhabitants with occasional military assaults – three in less than six years.
Doesn’t matter who is in the White House
As a student activist campaigning for Palestine in the American University in Cairo , my colleagues and I found ourselves engaging in endless conversations with American study-abroad students, who had a positive opinion about the Bush administration’s policies towards Palestine, to convince them of the results of the democratic elections that had just brought Hamas to power. After all, these students needed to know the truth before voting in the next US presidential elections in 2008.
Barack Obama was running for office and our hopes were up in the sky, to the extent that a group of Palestinians in Gaza joined his campaign over Skype , hoping that Obama’s victory was going to bring a just solution to their misery. It didn’t.
Stuck in Cairo during the spring break because of the US and Israel’s continuous siege on Gaza, I remember watching Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo University with mixed feelings.
Despite his attempt to offer a more reconciliatory tone, he had already stated his positions on fundamental Palestinian issues in two speeches to AIPAC – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – during his campaign: He believed that “Jerusalem will remain the undivided capital of Israel” and was opposed to the right of return.
Hope quickly evaporated as Obama’s eight years in office proved to be no different for the Palestinians, especially those besieged in Gaza.
With Clinton as secretary of state, things got even worse: in her own words to the AIPAC, Clinton was an outspoken enemy of BDS (the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement), a proud opponent of any Palestine-related UN resolutions, a proud condemner of the Goldstone Report, a staunch defender of Israel’s assaults on Gaza, and a major factor behind the US blocking Palestine’s statehood bids at the UN.
When the US announced a plan to provide Israel with $38bn in military aid over the next decade, sealing off Obama’s heroic and peaceful legacy, Clinton expressed her delight in a statement congratulating Obama and Netanyahu on this important “diplomatic achievement”. She promised that “as president”, she would work to implement this agreement.
Sadly for Clinton, the plan will be implemented without her. She missed a historic opportunity to reaffirm her unwavering support to Israel. But has anyone in the US asked why this plan is the only one that was passed down from Obama to Trump without question? Is sending military aid to Israel more important than Obamacare, for example? Why do the AIPAC and Israel always emerge as victors regardless of who sits in the oval office?
As a woman, I’m deeply offended by Trump’s victory. As a Palestinian, however, particularly after watching Trump’s speech to the AIPAC , I couldn’t care less who won.
In truth, I stopped caring about American elections once Obama slapped us in the face with staggering indifference to Palestine, which in fact made our lives a living hell.
Hereby, I dedicate Trump’s victory to every democracy-loving American senator, congressman/woman, and campaigner, who gambled with our lives and futures in order to win more AIPAC votes.
In particular, I dedicate it to Hillary Clinton and her establishment, and to everyone who was distraught by the outcome of the democratic elections that led to Trump’s victory.
Will Clinton call for boycotting her own people for “making the wrong democratic choice”, will she impose collective punishment on them like she encouraged Israel to do with us? Will she justify the misery that American people will face under Trump like she justified the people of Gaza’s suffering under the 2014 Israeli assault by saying , “they’re trapped by their leadership, unfortunately”?
Yasmeen Elkhoudary is a Palestinian from Gaza currently based in London. She is an independent researcher specialised in Gaza’s archaeological and cultural heritage.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
Source: Al Jazeera