“La Ahlan wala Sahlan.” Such words are rarely uttered in Palestine. Ask foreign supporters of Palestinians about the kind of generosity with which Palestinians welcome them in their empty houses. Read Rachel Corrie’s messages to her parents, Richard Gere’s impressions, South African activists’ reports —to mention but a few. The consensus amongst all visitors to Palestine is that Palestinian courtesy is unlimited.
However, saying ‘La Ahlan wala Sahlan’ (You are not welcome) to the normalizing media delegation, comprising Saudi, Emirati, Egyptian and Iraqi journalists, on its visit to Al Aqsa mosque and the old city of Jerusalem should not raise eye brows since the team was never invited by an independent Palestinian state to visit one of the most important Islamic sites. The journalists did not apply at any of the Palestinian embassies in their countries to visit Palestine. Rather, the visit is organized in coordination with the Israeli authorities, i.e. occupation forces. The delegation would not have been able to pay a visit to Yad Vashem—among other sites that do not include the eastern fence of Gaza– in Jerusalem, had it not been given the permission by the occupation forces.
In the meantime, more than four million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not allowed to move within their own cities and villages, let alone visiting Jerusalem. We do know that members of the delegation do not represent their peoples, who have been paying a very heavy price for their unwavering support for the Palestinian cause. In fact, they represent unpopular governments, some of which had signed deals with the Likud party to sell out Palestine, Jerusalem, and even the sovereignty of their own countries. What the normalizing delegation represents are governments that do not respect Palestinian dignity, that arrest Palestinians at airports and deport them under inhuman conditions, governments that even arrest their own citizens for supporting Palestinian basic rights, regimes that do not say ‘Ahlan wa Sahlan’ to all Palestinians. These are regimes that enjoy the torture of Palestinian citizens, and view every Palestinian as suspect.
The normalizing delegation is not visiting Palestine to show the genuine Arab popular support for the ongoing, heroic Palestinian resistance on the ground, or to ask neighbouring countries to open the borders for other Arab supporters to send at least food and medicine. No. They are visiting Israel, shaking hands warmly with war criminals in an attempt to bring about the end of the legitimate Palestinian resistance. They are not coming as brothers intending to spend a night in Wadi El Hummus where, coincidently, Netanyahu’s thugs are committing a heinous massacre and demolishing tens of houses. They prefer the warm rooms of 5-star hotels in Tel Aviv and the protection of the Israeli military. As the late Edward Said argued profoundly, “Arab politics had never been as corrupt, nor as harmful to its own population as at the present time.”
What was the delegation expecting? For Palestinians to break curfews, risk checkpoints, overcome barriers, and scale walls to come to the occupied Jerusalem and say ‘Ahlan wa Sahlan?’ This is reserved for the legitimate representatives of the Arab nation, the BDS activists and other true comrades in arms!