a week in washington, day three

Mary and I returned to the Palestine Center for lunch (delicious falafels and refreshing lemonade) and a talk, titled “Hamas, its Neighbors, and the Quartet.” The speaker was Nadia Hijab, senior fellow and co-director of the Institute for Palestine Studies (Washington office). She has written several books, including Womanpower: The Arab debate on women at work (1988) and Citizens Apart: A Portrait of Palestinians in Israel (1990). She has also worked as a United Nations development offer and a journalist.
Ms. Hijab presented the history of various peace treaties between Israel and the Palestinians, paying special attention to the Oslo accords. She also discussed the concept of human rights. She defined three important human rights as being self-determination, freedom from military occupation, and the ability for persons to return to their homes. She said, “People deprived of their rights will always resist.” The question is: will the resistance be violent or nonviolent?
According to Ms. Hijab, the Palestinians are resisting:

  • the wall that Israel is building that “separates people.” It seaprates “Palestinian areas from Israeli areas and Palestinian areas from (other) Palestinian areas.” She suggested that the purpose of the wall was for Israel to be able to annex land and resources, especially access to water, a scarce commodity.
  • the economic siege, which didn’t end when Israel withdrew from Gaza. Produce could not be transported, and it was left to rot. Ms. Hijab quoted one Israeli as saying, “We have pulled out of Gaza and have left it a wasteland.”
  • the wholesale detention of Palestinians in Israeli jails. Many are arrested for no reason at all and held for long periods of time without charges being filed against them. There are 10,000 prisoners in Israeli jails.

Ms. Hijab described Hamas as the main Palestinian organization that is still resisting Israeli occupation. She said that Hamas first used only military resistance. It has evolved to including political, diplomatic, and economic resistance. Hamas did this because many people were “tired of suicide bombings and of the retaliation that followed.” She said that Hamas agreed to support a two-state solution, “a big shift for Hamas, which previously wanted to liberate all of Palestine.”
Ms. Hijab said that Hamas won the most recent election because it promised a clean government, without the corruption that characterized previous Palestinian governments. But Hamas never had the chance to “prove itself and run a clean government.”
Not all resistance against Israeli occupation has been violent. Ms. Hijab said that many Palestinians have engaged in nonviolent resistance and many Israelis have joined them in this.
Then Ms. Hijab discussed the ongoing crisis in the middle east. She said that both Hamas and Hezbollah are characterized as “terrorist organizations” because they “use violence against civilians.” In this conflict, all participants (Israel, Hamas, and Hezbollah) have violated international law, Ms. Hijab pointed out.
“Where do we go from here? The region is doomed without a comprehensive solution. How many people will die before this reality is recognized?” Ms. Hijab asked.

After the talk, I took the Metro to Union Station so that I could go to the Postal Museum. There I purchased baseball player stamps, and I mailed my entry form to the Erie County Fair (which has been renamed “America’s Fair”). I saw an exhibit of artwork done by young people, aged 13 to 17, for a duck stamp competition. The media used were oil paints, acrylic paints, and colored pencils. When I left, I answered a survey and was given a free book. I returned to Union Station, where I saw a horde of kids leaving. All of the girls were clutching identical pink Victoria’s Secret bags.
Then I went to the School of the Americas Watch office for a party for Christy Pardew, who was leaving her position as communications coordinator. I was given books, videos, and other materials for my upcoming talks on SOA/WHINSEC and on my own experiences of working to close that military training school.
After dinner at a friend’s house, I returned to the Catholic Worker house, and day number three of my adventure had come to a close.

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