“Enough. Enough. Enough.”
Originally published on Tikkun Daily
The word was only supposed to be spoken once. Enough. In a prepared speech, upon the printed page, it was typed just once. Enough.
And yet, by the time Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had neared the conclusion of his historic speech on Friday before the United Nations General Assembly – as throngs chanted in the West Bank and his English translator choked back tears – Abbas couldn’t say it just once. For the word embodied the essence of Abbas’ speech, the essence of the Palestinians’ U.N. bid for statehood, the essence of a decades-old struggle for legitimacy and self-determination. And so he paused on the word and intoned it thrice. Enough. Enough. Enough.
The word represented both a personal and a collective yearning – the need for years of occupation to end and for independence, for a Palestinian Spring, to begin. Just after repeating this word, Abbas said:
The time has come for our men, women and children to live normal lives, for them to be able to sleep without waiting for the worst that the next day will bring; for mothers to be assured that their children will return home without fear of suffering killing, arrest or humiliation; for students to be able to go to their schools and universities without checkpoints obstructing them. The time has come for sick people to be able to reach hospitals normally, and for our farmers to be able to take care of their good land without fear of the occupation seizing the land and its water, which the wall prevents access to, or fear of the settlers, for whom settlements are being built on our land.
But the word enough didn’t simply represent a desire for years of occupation and suffering to end. For Abbas, giving a speech in defiance of U.S. pressure to abandon the Palestinians’ Security Council bid, the word also had diplomatic implications: Enough of the U.S. being the central broker in decades of failed negotiations. Enough of this cyclical status quo.
The speech, and the U.N. bid itself for full membership in the Security Council, are being viewed by some as merely symbolic, given that the Obama administration has vowed to veto the Palestinian bid in the Security Council. The symbolic nature of this diplomatic effort is being critiqued given that nothing on the ground would likely change even if the Palestinians’ were to gain legitimacy through a General Assembly resolution.
However, such critiques, while entirely valid, fail to recognize this: symbols can be powerful and, sometimes, transformational.
This was evident on Friday, as thousands of Palestinians in Ramallah, watching Abbas’ speech live in the city’s public square, applauded when he took the stage and began speaking, holding up his portrait. When Abbas raised before the camera the PA’s official request submitted to the Security Council for full U.N. membership, the crowds roared. And when he quoted the words of a cherished poet before the U.N., they cheered wildly:
My people desire to exercise their right to enjoy a normal life like the rest of humanity. They believe what the great poet Mahmoud Darwish said: Standing here, staying here, permanent here, eternal here, and we have one goal, one, one: to be.
Most Palestinians understand the symbolic nature of what is occurring, and not everyone is pleased by this process for a variety of reasons. However, those who cheered and chanted in the streets well after Abbas had finished speaking did so, in part, because their leader had finally stood before the world and demanded that the Palestinians’ national aspirations be realized. They sang because Abbas articulated to the world their experiences and aspirations. They danced because Abbas looked everyone in the eye and said:
Our people are waiting to hear the answer of the world. Will the world allow Israel to occupy us forever? Are we an unwanted people? Or are we a missing state?
Or, in other words: enough.
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Posted on September 24, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged diplomacy, general assembly speech, Israel, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinan statehood, Palestine, statehood bid, u.n. security council, u.n. speech, United Nations. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.