By: Mahmoud Al-Adawi

In the current upheaval, Palestinian refugees ponder their political situation and notice that democracy in the Occupied Territories has yet bring the stability and prosperity that was promised them.

Daily life in the camp goes on like everywhere else on earth: work, unemployment, people argue with each other, or talk about travellers, newcomers and migration, about who gave birth and who died. People don’t talk much about politics; it seems that most things in this region are unsure at this point anyhow, especially in terms of our status, our current state of being as Palestinian refugees. I mean, in the past, people in the camp used to at least recognise something called a ‘political reference’ or a ‘leader’. And this leadership used to allow people to feel that they were present on the world stage and this used to then inform and give meaning to their own lives, even if this leadership was inadequate or incorrect about our status and our future, about the outcome and results of political processes, and even though this leadership often manipulated and used the people for its own limited political objectives. You can ask nowadays: “What is the situation in the camp? How are people perceiving and living through this chaotic moment in history?” Last night we were discussing and chatting in the alleyway, you know just about the news here and there. And then someone asked a question about the situation in the camp and whom we recognise as our ‘leader’ or point of reference is. This was in reference to the recent clashes in Gaza and their effect on the camp. The conclusion was that we now have Fatah and Hamas, but that both are incapable of being a leader or even just half of a leader, and that no one recognises a sole authority anymore. One of my friends gave his opinion of this current situation. He looked at me and said: “We are like those people who don’t know what’s going on, we have lost our minds and recognise no leader. Do you know the fable that states, ‘When my people lose their sanity, my sanity becomes meaningless?'” I told him that I’d never heard of any such fable. “Well,” he said, “Once upon a time, there was a king whose subjects lived in prosperity and peace. The kingdom depended upon rainwater for drinking, and one day one of the king’s fortune-tellers predicted that a great evil would befall the kingdom the following year. This evil would take the form of poisonous rainwater that when drunk would make the drinker insane. The fortune-teller advised the king to save as much rainwater in pools and barrels for his own consumption, and leave the people to their destiny. When the poisonous rain did come, the king and those closest to him consumed the fresh rainwater they had saved, while the people drank of the poisonous water and inevitably went mad. The people no longer recognised rules, laws or order and neither did they acknowledge the legitimacy of the king himself. After a few days of chaos, the king summoned to his side all his aides and deputies and said: ‘I have been watching and pondering what has happened to my kingdom, how my subjects have gone mad and how they no longer recognise my authority. So I ask you – what is the use of having all this power? When my people lose their sanity, my sanity becomes meaningless. Bring me the poisonous rainwater – we shall all drink of it.'”

Then my friend continued, “By G-d man, look at us! Don’t we seem as though we drank this poisonous water? Look at our people in the West Bank and Gaza; everybody in this world wanted us to eat and drink democracy, to have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even in between. Did you believe for one moment when you saw people going out to vote to elect their representatives back there in the West Bank and Gaza that they wanted it to result in the clashes we have been witnessing recently? No! I can’t believe this. People must have thought that relief was coming in terms of all aspects of life. They were expecting a better living – that’s what I would have thought had I been in their place. Now look! That same world that ‘brought’ democracy now seems to be saying ‘Sorry’, that it was mistaken – and that it’s not democracy that they really meant! They should have explained it better and should have told us that there are different types of democracies! I mean, what did they expect from people when they told them first that they would have a free choice to elect whomever they wished, to get whatever they wanted, and then turned around and told them that they had made the wrong choice. Anyhow, doesn’t it seem that our people have drunk from that poisonous water? The only difference is that the effect was manifest first in our leaders, who went mad and jumped at each others thoughts. The first [Abbas] was unable to comprehend how he had lost, while the second [Haniyeh] was unable to see why he had won. And the catastrophe is that both of them feel that destroying the other is the only solution and they want the people to join them in their lunacy!

You know what I tell you? Thank God that they didn’t include us here in those election.”

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