I have always wondered what it would be like to live in Palestine, to spend a few months living and breathing under occupation. I had always heard what it was like and read about it but I am the type of person who likes to experience things myself. Having been here for a month now, I have never been more grateful and appreciative of my own life back in England.
Since being here, I have seen and experienced first-hand the techniques used to intimidate, humiliate and discriminate against us. Being in Palestine has given me a taster of what it is like to live as a third-class citizen in your own country. Here, being Palestinian means the law is not on your side. It means you are not accepted as a citizen and it means you are born with a black dot beside your name.
Just to give you a small example of what I’m talking about – two days ago, I was telling one of my work colleagues about my trip to Jaffa and Tel Aviv last week and about how beautiful the old city of Jerusalem is. I started showing him pictures on my phone and going on about the little markets in the old city and how we should all plan a trip together for work. Cheeky me was hoping this would be an excuse to take a day off work and go on a trip.
Once I’d finished my story, he smiled and asked me to see the pictures I took again. He then told me he has not been to Jerusalem for 15 years because every time he applies for a permit, the Israelis refuse his request. He has not been on a beach or seen the sea for even longer than this.
The sad thing about it is people here have lived under occupation for so long that it has become part of their everyday lives. They have learnt to cope with the struggles of every day life that comes with living under occupation as best they can. I, on the other hand have spent my whole life in England, where I have never felt being Palestinian held me back. I tasted what freedom felt like and I vow to never take my freedom for granted again.
Not only has Israel robbed people of their land and homes, it does not even acknowledge the existence of the indigenous Palestinian population before 1948.
People seem to forget the only reason Jews are becoming a majority here is because of the forced exclusion of hundreds and thousands of Palestinians from their homes. Do you know 95% of the new Jewish communities were established on expelled Palestinian land in 1948?
They say Israel is “a land without a people for a people without a land” – sounds a bit strange when thousands of Palestinians had to be expelled to create their country, no?
In the West Bank, although Palestinians are the majority and make up more than 80% of the population, Israel continues to restrict our water access and usage. We are only allowed to use 20% of the water from the main underground aquifer. We have to apply for permits to build on the land from Israel and most often these permits are denied, which means houses are built illegally and can then be demolished legally. Israel maintains the domination of its people at the expense of our people. It is apartheid at its finest.
Just look at the separation wall that continues to grow. It is more than three times the size of the Berlin wall and stretches over 400 miles. Israel has caged us in like we are animals in a zoo. Each time I come here, the wall gets longer and longer and it makes me question how the Israeli regime is able to get away with such a horrific war crime.
Every time I see the wall, I feel like crying. I feel like screaming out about the unfairness of it all. Why is nobody doing anything about? How does the wall keep growing when it is internationally recognized as illegal?
The international community calls on us to negotiate and engage in peace talks, how can this be expected from a people who have never been allowed to assert their identity legally? How is this going to be possible with the existence of the apartheid wall and illegal settlements all around the country that continue to expand?
To imagine what it is like to live under occupation is only a fraction of what it actually feels like. I pray that one day the world will wake up and hear the cries of the Palestinian people, I pray that one day we will rid the world of discrimination and injustice and I pray that one day the Palestinians will be free from the oppressive Israeli regime.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King