I’ve been devastated by the reports of the tragedies still unfolding in Haiti as a result of the natural disaster of the earthquake there last night.
There are natural disasters and there are human-engineered disasters. The plight of the people of Haiti is caused overwhelmingly by the forces of nature. The plight of the people of Palestine has been caused overwhelmingly by the deliberate decisions taken by Israel and those governments around the world, including the U.S. government, that give Israel generous and continued support.
If the Madrid Conference of 1991, or the Oslo Accords of 1993, had led– as the overwhelming majority of the people of the region and the world hoped at the time– to the securing of a sustainable and fair final-status peace, then all the massive amounts of international aid that since then have been shoveled into Israel, and into maintaining that endlessly “interim” entity, the Palestinian Authority (PA), would have been available instead to help the very poorest peoples of the world… including the people of Haiti.
Nearly all Palestinians hate the fact that so many of their people have to live on an international dole. Palestinians are hard-working, well educated, and (absent the fact of military occupation) would be well connected through their family ties to entrepreneurs and business institutions all around the world. But the policies of the Israeli occupation have kept the Palestinian economy in chains since 1967.
And meantime, through the aid that western aid donors have given to the PA, since 1994 they have been picking up just about the entire (non-trivial) cost of actually administering the occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories– a cost that, prior to the Oslo Accords, Israel used to bear directly, as the occupying power.
In Israel and Palestine it is ways past time to secure, and to speedily implement, a fair and sustainable final peace. In Haiti, it’s a time to save the living, mourn the dead, and rebuild a better-functioning, more robust social and physical infrastructure.
But it’s still worth remembering that all those crises that are human-engineered around the world can and should be resolved quickly… through human vision, compassion, and the dedicated, problem-solving engagement of the world’s major governments.