A week ago or so, I signed a letter in response to Donald Trump's abominable statement on Jerusalem. It was a note that was published in The Guardian and it was signed by about a hundred artists and writers. The text is short,
The Guardian reports (10th December) President Macron’s comment that recent US moves on the status of Jerusalem are a threat to peace. They are much more than that.
In recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Donald Trump seeks to achieve through a declaration what Israel has been trying to do for fifty years through force of arms: to erase Palestinians, as a political and cultural presence, from the life of their own city.
The Palestinian people of Jerusalem are already subject to municipal discrimination at every level, and a creeping process of ethnic cleansing. In addition to the continuing policy of house demolitions, in the last fifteen years, at least thirty-five Palestinian public institutions and NGOs in occupied East Jerusalem have been permanently or temporarily closed by the occupying forces. Cultural institutions have been a particular target.
At the same time Israeli authorities and entrepreneurs have spent millions in clearing Palestinian neighbourhoods to create ‘heritage’ projects that promote a myth of mono-ethnic urban identity, said to stretch back 3000 years.
We reject Trump’s collusion with such racist manipulation, and his disregard for international law. We deplore his readiness to crown the Israeli military conquest of East Jerusalem and his indifference to Palestinian rights.
As artists and as citizens, we challenge the ignorance and inhumanity of these policies, and celebrate the resilience of Palestinians living under occupation.
The organizers of the letter published it on a website along with a picture by the remarkable photo-journalist Ahmad Gharabli of AFP. The picture is above. I recommend you look for Ahmad's pictures. They are a fantastic montage of the Israeli occupation.
The girl in Ahmad's picture saw the website, read the letter and then wrote this response,
To the wonderful artists who wrote a letter to the Guardian December 12 2017
I would like to thank you for your solidarity and support, clearly expressed in your letter to the Guardian entitled: Artists’ letter on Trump and Jerusalem, December 12 2017.
Your letter has been circulating widely here in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. It reinforces our capacity to endure and resist all forms of occupation and oppression.
We as a people under Israeli military occupation and colonization believe in the justice of our cause, and that we are part of all peoples who have suffered from occupations all over the world.
We as Palestinian people are no different from other people who have either liberated themselves from colonialism, or are in the process of doing so.
We must continue to struggle for justice, freedom and self-determination until they are achieved.
We draw our ability to sustain our struggle from you support and solidarity.
On behalf of all Palestinians, thank you.
Amal, the girl in the picture you placed in front of your letter to the Guardian December 12 2017
Reading Amal's letter, I thought immediately of the letter written by Palestine's great poet Mahmoud Darwish on his deathbed, about ten years ago. That letter is powerful and here are the last few paragraphs from it,
Life here, you see, is not something taken for granted, it is a daily miracle. Military barriers separate everything from everything else.
Everything, even the landscape, seems temporary and exposed because bulldozers change it. Life here is less than life, more like slow death. Ironically, the escalation of repression, blockades, daily routine killings and the expansion of settlements take place in the context of the so-called peace process in a vicious circle, threatening to kill the idea of peace in tormented souls. Peace and religion are legitimate: freedom and justice. The occupation is also the legitimate father of violence.
Peace has two parents: Freedom and Justice. And occupation naturally instigates violence. Here, on this slice of historic Palestine, two generations of Palestinians have been born and raised under occupation.
They have never known normality. Their memories are filled with visions of hell. They see their tomorrows slipping through their fingers. And though it seems to them that everything outside of this reality is heaven, they refuse leaving for a heaven. They stay, because they are afflicted with hope.
The last phrase touched me deeply - afflicted with hope. It is the malady in Amal's note and in the determination of the Palestinians to never surrender. The UN, in 1960, declared that 'The process of liberation is irresistible'. It is. It truly is.