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On the International Day of Happiness: We are not fine

In March, as we sent messages of greeting to one another on International Women’s Day, and revived the memory of the Battle of Karameh and Land Day, the International Day of Happiness appeared, on the 20th, to whisper in our ears: Palestine is ranked number 103, among all the countries of the world, in the 2017 World Happiness Report: you are not fine.

And in April, when the imperialist countries, led by the United States and supported by a number of Arab states, launched their rockets in a brutal attack on Syria, flaunting all principles of international law and international conventions, a resounding message was sent to the world: human rights are not fine.

The other Arab countries that are ahead or behind us in the World Happiness Report are: Somalia (92), Tunisia (102), Egypt (104), Iraq (107), Mauritania (123), Sudan (130), Yemen (146), and Syria (152). We don’t know whether to pity ourselves or them!

As for all the countries of the world—who were silent in response to the killing of Palestinians in cold blood on Land Day, 30 March 2018, and failed to reach an agreement in the security council about issuing a statement condemning Israel for its systematic crimes against an unarmed people who went out in peaceful marches, Marches of Return, in besieged, undaunted Jerusalem, since 2006, whose hands are stained with the blood of scores of martyrs—their conscience is definitely not fine.

The World Happiness Report 2017, produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, an initiative launched by the United Nations in 2012, comprises over 150 countries, and is put together according to a number of criteria. Norway is the happiest country in the world, taking over the top spot from Denmark. After Norway comes Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden: European countries thus occupying 7 out of the top 10 spots.

The rankings are based on 6 criteria: the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, life expectancy, freedom, the state’s generosity with its citizens, social support, and the absence of corruption in government and business.

It’s clear that this report is intended for citizens who live and work in independent sovereign states. What about the state of Palestine, which is not independent, which is suffering under the weight of occupation?

What kind of happiness or wellbeing can Palestinians enjoy, when their socio-economic circumstances are in severe deterioration, when they have no control over their resources, land, homes, environment, physical safety, or even their lives and the lives of their family?

And if work really is a fundamental human right, guaranteed by international law, which means the right to economic production, and the right to live a humane and dignified life, what is the per capita GDP of Palestine?

According to the 2017 report of the Palestine Statistics Center: “The GDP per capita rose 0.1% to USD 2,924.6, but the unemployment rate rose from 27.3% in 2016 to 28.5% in 2017, and the unemployment rate in Gaza reached 46.6% in the third quarter of the year. The unemployment rate in Gaza is the highest in the world, reaching 50% among young people and graduates. The number of unemployed people surpassed 243,800, and more than half of the population of Gaza suffered from food insecurity in 2017.”

As for freedom, it is as far away from Palestinians as the earth is from the sky. There is no freedom in an Israeli occupation that clamps down on all air, violating the Palestinian human’s right to movement, peaceful assembly, protest, and resistance.

And on an internal level, there is no freedom amidst laws that shackle freedoms, preventing free access to information, like the Cybercrime Law #16 of 2017, which threatens the freedom and safety of Palestinian citizens.

There is also no freedom in the midst of arrests that violate the freedom of opinion and speech; restrictions to the freedom of publication and press freedom; the blocking of websites and the deliberate blocking and disruptions to internet services; the confiscation of photography equipment; restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom to protest, and the freedom of journalists, including arrests of some journalists and forced interrogation without due process of law, and maltreatment while in detention.

As for the social support provided by the state to its citizens, to give them a sense of safety and safeguard their dignity, Palestinians are still waiting for the Social Security Act to be enforced, which has not yet been activated in Gaza or the West Bank. This is despite the fact that the law was passed in 2016, and despite the urgency of activating it in light of rising poverty rates, particularly in Gaza, where they have risen to 65%; as well as an increase in the number of people who receive aid, with over 1 million people now receiving assistance from UNRWA and other aid organizations, as the rate of food insecurity reaches 50%.

One final criterion remains: the absence of corruption in government and business. This ambition is still far away from the reach of Palestinians, with the absence of a state of law, the weakness of the judiciary, and the breakdown of the Palestinian Legislative Council, which means the absence of legislative oversight, and the spread of tribalism, which feeds corruption.

Our path to freedom is the resistance of the Palestinian people in all aspects, along two parallel lines: redefining the Palestinian National Project as a progressive project that aims to achieve the goals of Palestinian nationalism, that is: the ending of occupation, self-determination, the return, achieving social justice, the establishment of a state of law and state institutions built on democratic principles, that commit to transparency and accountability and contribute to achieving social security, economic prosperity, and the fight against all forms of corruption.

Then, and only then, we will be fine.