On December 14, 1998, we had a day off at school. As an eight-year-old child, I couldn’t be happier.
All the shops were closed and there were roadblocks everywhere. The streets were filled with Palestinian flags, and white and red striped flags I couldn’t recognise. I asked my father and he explained that those were American flags, and that Bill Clinton, the President of the United States, was going to visit Gaza City later that day.
The late Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, had invited Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton to inaugurate the Gaza International Airport. Clinton’s helicopters landed on the airport’s runway in Rafah and then took off to Gaza City, where Clinton addressed the Palestinian National Council in what went down in history as the first visit ever by an American president to a ‘sovereign’ Palestinian entity.
The following year, my siblings and I joined 65 other students in the newly opened American International School in Gaza, a school fully staffed by American and Canadian teachers, with textbooks that had come all the way from the United States to Gaza.
In the meantime, Senator Hillary Clinton joined Elie Wiesel in addressing ‘anti-Israel’ and ‘anti-Semitic’ rhetoric in Palestinian textbooks. In 2001, she sent a letter to President George W Bush urging him to force Yasser Arafat into changing the Palestinian Authority’s ‘hateful rhetoric’ as a condition for peace. In 2007, she questioned Mahmoud Abbas’ eligibility as a ‘partner for peace’, given that textbooks issued under his administration were ‘inciting hatred’.
Despite Clinton’s passionate interest in Palestinian education, she had little praise for Gaza’s American school; on the contrary, when two American supplied Israeli F-16 jets razed the school to the ground in 2008/9, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had nothing to say. Her indifference came as no surprise, and was no different than her reaction, or lack thereof, to Israel’s destruction of Gaza’s Airport three years after she herself had inaugurated it with Arafat and her husband.
The US, like any other country on a divinely inspired global peace-promoting mission, had decided to lead an international boycott of Palestine due to the failure of both the elections and the civil war it ignited in tipping the balance of power as it wanted it. The boycott entailed vigorous US support for Israel’s complete imprisonment of the Gaza Strip’s inhabitants with occasional military assaults - three in less than six years.
As a student activist campaigning for Palestine in the American University in Cairo , my colleagues and I found ourselves engaging in endless conversations with American study-abroad students, who had a positive opinion about the Bush administration’s policies towards Palestine, to convince them of the results of the democratic elections that had just brought Hamas to power. Barack Obama was running for office and our hopes were up in the sky, to the extent that a group of Palestinians in Gaza joined his campaign over Skype , hoping that Obama’s victory was going to bring a just solution to their misery. It didn’t.
With Clinton as secretary of state, things got even worse. When the US announced a plan to provide Israel with $38bn in military aid over the next decade, sealing off Obama’s heroic and peaceful legacy, Clinton expressed her delight in a statement congratulating Obama and Netanyahu on this important ‘diplomatic achievement’. She promised that ‘as president’, she would work to implement this agreement.
As a woman, I’m deeply offended by Trump’s victory. As a Palestinian, however, particularly after watching Trump’s speech to the AIPAC, I couldn’t care less who won. Hereby, I dedicate Trump’s victory to every democracy-loving American senator, congressman/woman, and campaigner, who gambled with our lives and futures in order to win more AIPAC votes.
Will Clinton call for boycotting her own people for ‘making the wrong democratic choice’, will she impose collective punishment on them like she encouraged Israel to do with us? Will she justify the misery that American people will face under Trump like she justified the people of Gaza’s suffering under the 2014 Israeli assault by saying , ‘they’re trapped by their leadership, unfortunately’?
This article has been excerpted from: ‘In Gaza, we aren’t mourning Clinton’s loss’.