By Julie Holm
Much can be said about United Nation Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s most recent visit to Palestine. And much has been said. Many Israelis seem to think that the Secretary General is biased towards Palestine while many Palestinians seem to think that he is biased towards Israel. However, while Israeli media focused on Ban’s words, stating that the Palestinians should go back to negotiations, Palestinian media focused on the fact that he called for a stop in building settlements and for a lift of the blockade on Gaza. The fact that the words of the UN Secretary General can be used in anyone’s favor like that, just shows how neutral they actually are. They are just words, empty words that have been said so many times before without actually changing anything.
But if the Palestinians actually want Ban to be more firm and unwavering in his comments on the situation they might want to reconsider their welcoming committee. Here, I am not thinking about the angry mothers of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, who rightfully protested against Ban’s visit to Gaza. The fact that Ban Ki-moon on several occasions visited the family of formerly captured soldier Gilad Shalit but refused to meet the families of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners is worth the criticism and protests.
The committee I am thinking of is the one that actually welcomed Ban Ki-moon to Palestine. If you want the Secretary General of the UN to condemn Israel’s actions in Palestine and recognize their crimes against the Palestinian people, it might be a good idea to show him what is actually going on here. Instead, the highlight of Ban’s West Bank visit was a tour of the first planned Palestinian city here. Ban said he visited the project to encourage sustainable development. The construction of the new city, Rawabi, north of Ramallah, has been slowed down by Israeli security concerns about a planned access road. This is all well and good, if visiting Rawabi was to show Ban how construction in Palestine is always slowed down or halted all together for security reasons, unless we are talking about the construction of illegal Israeli settlements of course. The problem is that deciding to take Ban to Rawabi was more to show off than to show reality; the Rawabi housing project is the largest private sector investment project in the West Bank. It is a luxury real estate project designed for upwardly mobile families. It is no secret that Palestine is in the process of applying for full statehood status at the UN and the Palestinians didn’t hesitate to take this opportunity to show the Secretary General that Palestinians can build houses too.
While the Palestinians were showing off, the Israelis took Ban Ki-moon to the desert to show him where rockets from Gaza had hit the previous day, and they showed him how the Israeli children can’t go to school without the fear of being hit by these rockets.
Now, this is not a public relations competition; whoever shows the most suffering wins the sympathy of the United Nation Secretary General. However if the Palestinians were a little more busy showing reality than just showing off, maybe the Secretary General would see what most other people visiting the West Bank realize: the Palestinians deserve an independent state, not just because they can build modern houses but because it is their natural right as a nation.
Demonstrating that Palestine is ready to be recognized as a state in the UN is not contradictory to giving Ban a true picture of reality. The Palestinian suffering is real, but it is not necessary to either victimize the Palestinian people or hide this suffering altogether. All I am asking is that next time the UN Secretary General looks at Palestine through the tinted windows of his armored car, what he sees should be a little closer to reality.
Julie Holm is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at [email protected]