Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has relished the spotlight so far this year. In February, the PA launched the five-year National Policy Agenda which prioritised national unity and economic independence, among other plans. Meanwhile, Hamdallah was pushing for PA control over Gaza as the enclave succumbed to unprecedented humanitarian deprivation as a result of collective punishment inflicted by Israel and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas’ relinquishing control over Gaza so far seems to be going according to Hamdallah’s plan.
Last Wednesday at the annual olive picking festival in the district of Bethlehem, Hamdallah accused Israel of hindering Palestine’s economic growth. The rhetoric chosen by the Palestinian prime minister is weighed down by a multitude of facades – the most prominent among them being the impression of a leadership in concordance with the will of the people. Using imagery and evoking the Palestinian people’s tenacity towards the land, Hamdallah’s attempts at glorification, while remaining dissociated from the ramifications of settler-colonial expansion, could have impressed only if the leadership possessed a sliver of will to protect the remaining fragments of Palestinian territory.
Quoted by Wafa news agency, Hamdallah stated:
Israel aims at undermining our potential and resources, marginalising Palestinian productive base and obstructing the ability of our national economy to grow and develop.
Israel’s targeting of Palestine’s agricultural heritage is a continuation of the earlier historical violence unleashed upon the territory through the promotion of industrialisation. In recent years, settler violence has routinely targeted Palestinian cultivation of the remaining territory – stealing produce and damaging olive trees are a regular occurrence. This week, the International Middle East Media Centre reported the flooding of olive orchards in Deir Al-Hatab with sewage water. Restricting Palestinian freedom of movement has enhanced the settlers’ freedom to extensively damage Palestinian land and produce with impunity.
Hamdallah’s summary of Israeli violations, however, does not incorporate a challenge to the colonial authorities, to the extent that the damage incurred by Palestinians, in terms of politics and human rights, amounts to a mere illustration of daily infringements. There is also a lack of correlation between the projects which the Palestinian Authority, according to Hamdallah, is undertaking to aid the agricultural sector, and Israel’s usurpation of natural resources, such as water. The permanent backdrop of settler-colonies and military occupation is eliminated in the context of PA projects, thus enabling Israel to indulge in additional aggressive tactics.
If one had to glean anything of significance in Hamdallah’s speech, it would be the persistent isolation of Palestinians facing constant settler attacks. Indeed, the isolation is emphasised: “You bear the message of truth, justice and steadfastness in the face of destruction, displacement, settlement schemes and land confiscation.” If the PA was truly a representative of the Palestinian people, Hamdallah would have spoken differently. The futile glorification would have been replaced with a collective strategy that is politically supported by the leadership. There is a lot to be said about PA’s culpability in reducing Palestine to a transient metaphor, when Palestinians are actively resisting plans of obliteration.