Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Normalization and the Dividing Line between the Humanitarian and Political Factors

Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock mosque at Al-Aqsa compound is pictured at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in Jerusalem’s Old City early on April 24, 2020. Photo: Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

Note: the blog has been written before the death of Saeb Erekat.

In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the humanitarian factor gets heavily mixed up with the political one. The Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are in need of Israel to obtain many of their basic needs. This includes getting medical care in the Israeli hospitals, providing electricity and water supplies, in addition to securing their needs of commodities.

In this blog, “Majed Kayali” highlights the controversy that arose around providing medical care to the late chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat inside Israel after being infected with COVID-19.

Kayali calls out to stop mixing up the humane and the political factors with each other. He also emphasizes the necessity of providing medical care to all Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip without any restrictions; in the same way Erekat was treated.

Majed Kayali

The case of “Saeb Erekat”, who has been infected by COVID-19, stirred up a heated controversy between Palestinians inside Palestine and abroad. The controversy mixed up the humane factor with the political one. Erekat is not just an ordinary figure. He is the Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). He is also a member of the Central Committee of Fatah, the chief Palestinian negotiator and a famous academic figure.

This controversy highlighted two issues. First, it highlighted the complexity of Palestinians’ circumstances. This complexity came as a result of the Palestinian division and turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) into an authority under the Israeli occupation. Such a complexity came also as a result of the gap between the Palestinian leadership (the dominating political class) and the Palestinian people. The second issue that has been highlighted was the deep overlap between the Israeli and the Palestinian sides in everything. This overlap might be seen in water, air, border crossings, road networks, electricity, trade, infrastructure and communication networks. Even it can be seen in banking and health services.

First of all, the situation of our people in Palestine involves some complications and interventions that must be comprehended. It is not practically useful to ignore or deny them. For instance, this includes the following:

1. Workers in Israel from the West Bank and Gaza;

2. Electricity, water, energy and commodities all come from and across Israel;

3. All salaries and financial dealings are provided in shekels;

4. When it comes to medical care, there has to be some kind of dealing with Israel.

For example, the niece of Ismail Haniyeh was sent two years ago from Gaza Strip to be hospitalized in Israel. This leads us to the following questions: Do we have to consider all of these actions as normalization? How can we classify such actions and activities?

Secondly, interaction on the humanitarian level might happen even between enemies. This happened throughout history and also in this era. Such an interaction might be understood in light of the overlap between us and them. I remember, for example, that tens of fedayeen fled to Israel in 1971 after the events of Jerash and Ajloun in Jordan and the martyrdom of Abu Ali Iyad. At that time, Palestinians were fleeing from the oppression of the Jordanian regime. Another example is when Fatah activists fled from Gaza to avoid fighting against Hamas security services when Hamas took over Gaza in 2007.

Thirdly, we should not forget that the normalization narrative has been both manipulated and used as a tool. Not so long ago, the precious part of our people who stayed in Israel has been viewed as Israelis. This meant dealing with the Palestinians of 1948 as outcasts. Some people currently describe being a member of the Knesset as a type of normalization. There are even those who view the right of return as normalization, considering that it is a return to Israel!

Fourthly, I believe that normalization can neither be achieved via relationships between humans, nor via humanitarian relations. Rather, normalization might mainly be achieved via relations between countries. It can also be done through countries and individuals that accept or adopt the Israeli narrative and casting aside the Palestinian narrative from 1948 to 1967. This is the normalization that Israel wants and envisions. In other words, it means recognizing Israel and its narrative, in addition to establishing economic, political and security relationships with it. Relations between individuals is the last thing that Israel is concerned about. Rather, such kind of interaction causes worries for Israel as it considers itself a Jewish state. Such a state is built on race.

Its identity is centered around being a ghetto inside an Arab world that threatens it. Nevertheless, this idea of the closed ghetto contradicts with openness and normalization with the other on the humane level. In fact, such a propaganda feeds the Israeli fanaticism among Jewish Israelis. It is also the same that attracts the support of the western world to it.

To sum it up, the issue with Erekat – May Allah heal him – is not humane. It is not related to the place where he is being treated. Rather, it is a political problem. In addition, it is an issue that relates to providing Palestinian Authority’s officials with such privileges while casting aside other segments of our people.


The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

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