Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Anticipating Aid for the Palestinians

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Anticipating Aid for the Palestinians

Article excerpt

IN the months since the Middle East peace agreement, those of us involved in humanitarian efforts in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza are waiting with excitement and not a little trepidation for the goodwill displayed on the White House lawn to translate into assistance for the people here. Many would maintain that once the mutual economic benefits become evident to Arabs and Israelis alike, the prospects for stability and peace in the region will be greatly enhanced.

The initial announcement that the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel had struck a secret deal was greeted with considerable suspicion and anxiety among Palestinians. At the same time, Israelis met the announcement with a mixture of joy, resignation, and a sense of conflict rooted in their religious convictions.

People with whom I came in contact were reserved, almost numb, when the news broke. The image of the PLO that was emerging after the agreement was not the PLO they had known. The secrecy surrounding the deal led many to wonder what was still unknown.

The general mood these days, although by no means euphoric, is certainly a far cry from the dark days of last December, when Israelis and Palestinians were reeling from a fresh spiral of violence that culminated in the expulsion of some 415 Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. At that point, there was little hope that the peace process could ever bear fruit.

Less than a year later, on the evening of Sept. 10, after PLO and Israel officially recognized each other, my family and I were at our home in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem. As dusk deepened, we heard the sound of drums, honking horns and cheering. From the rooftop of our apartment building we saw a large convoy of cars and trucks coming south on the main Nablus-Jerusalem road. The sight was incredible - Palestinian flags were being openly displayed, as were banners with political slogans. The participants, mostly young men and presumably Fatah supporters, were cheering loudly. …

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