Dear Mr Carl Bildt,
My name is Majed Abusalama. I am 23 years old and I live in the Jabalya Refugee Camp, Gaza. I was born during the first Intifada, raised during the second and “found my voice” during the brutal Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008/January 2009. So many of my friends and family members are dead as a result. However, I have chosen the sentence “never look back” as a motto and I have decided to dedicate my life to a just peace in Palestine.
I have been asked to write this letter on behalf of the new generations in Palestine because my bewilderment and disappointment reflects theirs.
You don’t know me, but I know you. I know that you were one of the first high-ranking political figures to visit Gaza after the Israeli assault at the end of 2008. I know that in the aftermath of another Israeli attack, this time on the Free Gaza flotilla in 2010 (which left nine peace activists dead), you took the time to meet with the Swedish citizens who had been on board and publicly demanded that Israel end its siege on Gaza. I also know that you hosted Sweden’s first official welcoming ceremony for a Palestinian representative just two months ago, after upgrading his office’s status in your country from “general delegation” to “mission.” You have a long track record of fighting for the protection of human rights in the Middle East and in the world, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
That is one reason why, after I finished a speaking tour in about 20 European countries talking about the dreams of Palestinian youth, daily life in Gaza and the peace process, I spent much time in Stockholm. It mostly felt like home, and we successfully managed to collect donations, such as musical instruments, from the Swedish people for the people of Gaza.
But now, I — we — feel betrayed. I cannot describe the depth of our shock and feeling of abandonment when we heard that you had voted against Palestinian membership in UNESCO. It was like a slap in the face to me and to my generation. We are aware that your reluctance to recognize Palestine as a state now is based on your acknowledgement that there can be no independent state while the occupation continues. However, negotiations have gone nowhere for more than 40 years, and the siege of Gaza is in its sixth year. Just how long are we supposed to wait? Until the right-wing government of Israel decides to finally give us a truly viable, independent state, or at least rights that are equal to those of Jewish Israelis? Do you truly think that will happen without international action that makes it clear that there is no choice? If so, the lesson of history has not been learned.
As we watch our countrymen in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria take their fate into their own hands, we feel it is time for us to do the same. By voting against one of our first independent steps as a people who want to be part of the international community, you signaled that Sweden is now siding with the paternalistic imperialism of the Western countries, led by the United States. Is this truly the message you want to send to the youth of the Middle East, who for the first time are taking the campaign for democracy into their own hands? Sweden has the opportunity to play a new and important role in the Middle East, as the U.S. loses more and more credibility. But if you follow the lead of the “bully minority,” Sweden will squander the reputation of a brave standard-bearer for the underdog.
The new generation in Palestine wants to live in peace, to have the opportunity to engage and trade with the world. We have the same dreams, really, as the youth of Sweden. And now, “Arab Spring” has given us the courage to do what we can to achieve those dreams, despite the ongoing occupation. Please don’t join with those who would crush those dreams!
I am looking forward to your response.