The Arab Threat to Israel

Have you ever heard people talk about Israel being under threat from the Arabs? (Thinking about it, maybe I should have titled this the non-existent Arab threat as it’s a bit misleading).

My usual response to these conversations is, “sorry, what threat exactly?”

From what I can see, there is no military threat from the Arab world (at least what we would normally think of as the conventional, military threat). With the Iraqi army gone and the falling apart of both the Egyptian and Syrian army, I wonder why people are still hung up about the Arab military threat posed to Israel.

The Arab world is so caught up in internal conflict that any sort of coordinated revolution against Israel has become virtually impossible. There is just no way it is going to happen. With the disenfranchised, political elites and the growth of religious sectarianism in the Arab world, it comes as little surprise that we lack a common purpose or belief to collectively guide us.

We are no longer Arabs. We are Muslim, Christian or Jewish. We are Palestinian, Lebanese or Jordanian; Iraqi, Syrian or Saudi Arabian; Egyptian, Kuwaiti or Libyan. Is anyone identified purely as an Arab anymore?

The conventional military threat against Israel is gone.

Really take a moment to let that sink in.

The conventional military threat against Israel is gone.

The Arabs are busy killing each other while Israel is winning. What does this really mean?

Simply put, the potential of the new Israeli generation is vast. Israel has room to progress and develop economically, to foster innovation and creativity, to build infrastructure and improve education. There are more opportunities than ever before. But with all these new opportunities in mind, Israel could still be doing better.

What are they missing, you ask?

Compromise.

In order to realise the regions’ real potential, Israel is going to have to compromise.

Ever thought about the potential benefits if Israel were to free up its labour market and immigration policies? What would happen to the quality of life of the Palestinians and Israelis? How about free trade with its Arab neighbours – Jordan and Palestine?

Jordan valley
[View of Palestine and Israel from the Jordan Valley, 2014]

Only when Israel has chosen to compromise will they really be able to maximise their economic growth potential and this will only happen through partnership and trade with neighbouring countries, compromise and replacing its government officials with realists and technocrats. If Israel refuses to compromise, it will eventually be forced to by international pressure.

An Israeli journalist recently made the following statement in Haaretz:

“The signs of a boycott against Israel are worrisome. This is a civic boycott that originates from the grass roots and is harming the standard of living of all of us. Consumer organisations are imposing a boycott on the purchase of Israeli consumer goods, port workers are refusing to unload Israeli ships, academic organisations are imposing boycotts and European firms don’t want to do business with Israeli firms, because the occupation contradicts their ethics.

The direction is clear: Israel is slowly but surely becoming illegitimate. The international isolation surrounding it is intensifying, and this situation will deteriorate if the negotiations with the Palestinians reach a dead end. See what United States Secretary of State John Kerry said in Davos. This is a slow and creeping process, but it is liable to erupt all at once, when a large international bank or a multinational corporation announces a severance of business ties with Israel. Much of Europe already considers us an apartheid state, and when that becomes the prevailing public opinion, the boycotts and sanctions will go from sporadic and civil to official government policy — just as happened with white rule in South Africa.”

Sorry Israel but your ethnocratic government really doesn’t know how to realise your true potential.

A Long Walk to Freedom

So last night I watched the new film Mandela: A long walk to freedom and what a brilliant film it was. (Don’t worry, I won’t give too much away for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet!)

All throughout the film I could not help but relate it to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and notice the mutual struggle of the native South Africans under apartheid rule and Palestinians under the Israeli occupation. Watching this film really was an emotional rollercoaster for me. (And I have to admit I did cry a good three times…Thank God for my pocket tissues!)

As the film takes you through Mandela’s fight for freedom, there were times where I felt perhaps the best thing for the Palestinians would be for us to be revolutionaries and fight for our country, for our land, for our Palestine. To be more like Mandela’s wife as portrayed in the film who channels her anger and frustration at the apartheid system to encourage people to use violent means to bring it down (although this never actually worked). At one point in the film, she gives a speech and declares, “although we may not have AK47s, we have stones and we have our hands.” Sounds a little like the Palestinian struggle, no?

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[Palestinians’ daily struggle through Israeli checkpoints]

Just as it happened in South Africa, maybe we need more bloodshed, more martyrs and more people resisting Israel for us to gain international support and awareness. Palestinians deserve the right to self-determination and the right to determine their own future in the very land that they come from, no?

Then as the film went on, I noticed how Mandela spent more than 25 years locked up in prison, sacrificed his family and his life for his country and then turned around at the end of it all and publicly declared his forgiveness to those in power, I could not help but admire him for his grace, humility and devotion to peace.

Mandela represented hope for the black people in South Africa. He was an advocate of peace and non-violent resistance as a means of achieving freedom and was lucky enough to live the downfall of apartheid and see his people liberated.

So the film made me think, are the Palestinians fighting the right battles?

I have long heard people (Palestinians and Arabs especially) refusing to accept the existence of Israel (some even refuse to say the word by the way). People talk about how Palestine belongs to the Palestinians and will always belong to them (including the cities that are now in Israel), referring to Tel Aviv as Tel al-Rabi (the name it used to be called when it was a Palestinian village) and publicly declaring their denial of Israel’s existence.

But does this actually lead anywhere?

Realistically, are we ever going to get Palestine back?

Are we ever really going to be able to rightfully return the homes back to the millions of Palestinian refugees living in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon?

Or is this just the less painful way, to stay in denial and pretend like Israel doesn’t exist? Is that what they mean when they say ignorance is bliss?

The Palestinian people have certainly paid a heavy price for Israel’s existence and continue to suffer a great tragedy at the hands of the occupation. But from what I can see, it takes a great deal of courage to accept the painful reality that Israel isn’t going anywhere, especially when it has gained the support and backing of the most powerful nation in the world, the United States of America.

Ever since my trip to Palestine three years ago, I have felt a strong connection to my homeland, a feeling that has been ingrained in me ever since and it has been a constant Ping-Pong game in my head.

Am I turning my back on my country if I accept Israel exists? Or am I just avoiding accepting the reality of the situation and obfuscating any possible solutions for the Palestinians through wishful thinking?

My family has directly suffered at the expense of creating a homeland for the Jews. My grandmother used to share tales with us of how they fled their home in Jaffa in 1948 with only a few possessions and the key to their home. My grandfather told her not to take any more because they would be coming back as soon as things had settled down. Years later, my grandparents both passed away having never returned back to their home.

So I understand the frustration. I understand the struggle and I understand the unfairness of it all. I am after all a second generation exiled Palestinian. I just question whether we are fighting the right battles and what help it will really do for us if we continue to live in the past.

Inspired by a man of wisdom, should we reconsider what we are fighting for?

The great Israeli project; the $2 billion wall

You wanna know what really frustrates me?

When people refer to the apartheid wall as a ‘security fence’.

Israel says the wall is being built to protect and safeguard Israeli citizens from Palestinians, right? Today I would like to explore this theory. I would like to understand how the wall is intended to protect Israeli citizens and I would like to understand the justification behind spending $2 billion on such a project.

2 billion bloody dollars.

Lets start by taking a look at the village of Baqa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA[Apartheid wall in Baqa village, Tulkarem]

Baqa is a Palestinian village. Can you see the long grey wall running through the middle of the village? That’s an 8-metre high concrete wall topped with barbed wire. This is Israel’s security fence that supposedly stops terrorism.

The houses on the left and right side of the wall are all Palestinian houses by the way. The wall separates Palestinian from Palestinian, neighbour from neighbour, brother from brother. The wall divides the community right in half, between West and East depending on which side of the wall you are on.

This used to all be one village. Baqa has become a large ghetto, enclosed by this so-called ‘security fence’. Please could someone help me understand how this part of the wall has protected and secured the safety of Israeli citizens? I can’t seem to get it.

The next two pictures are of the apartheid wall in East Jerusalem.

separation wall[Wall between Sawahreh Sharqiyya and Abu Dis]

separation wall 1[Wall between Sawahreh Sharqiyya and Abu Dis]

Notice how the wall zigzags through the villages cutting people off from one another? Again, could somebody please explain to me how it makes Israel any safer to cut Palestinians off from their own land and family?

85% of this ‘security wall’ is actually built inside the West Bank. The wall has imprisoned people and created ghettos within Palestine itself. Often to move from one village to the other, people have to pass through checkpoints guarded by Israeli occupation forces. We need to ask their permission to move within our own country. How does this make Israel any safer??

To make matters worse, the wall has been built on some of the most fertile land in Palestine. Thousands of homes had to be demolished and continue to be demolished until today to make room for the wall, water wells have been confiscated and hundreds and thousands of olive trees have been uprooted. These olive trees by the way are supposed to be protected under international cultural heritage laws. They are of historical importance to us because they have been part of our landscape for thousands of years.

The production of olive oil is also important for our economy and for some farmers, it is their only source of income. Israel is making it impossible for people to live. This ‘security’ fence is destroying any hope we have of ever sustaining ourselves. With no way of earning an income, no way of obtaining building permits and no way of moving around villages to find work, younger generation Palestinians are being forced to move elsewhere.

9 whole years have passed since the International Court of Justice deemed the wall illegal and yet it is still there and continues to grow. I can’t help but feel disgusted when I look at the wall and its even worse when you see it in real life. The pictures don’t do it justice.

The Berlin Wall was 96 miles long and the average height was between 3-4 metres. Do you know Israel’s Wall is more than 4 times the length of the Berlin Wall, standing at almost 400 miles and in some areas it is twice the height?

berlin wall[Berlin Wall – 3.5m]

qalqilya_wall_scale
[Apartheid Wall around Qalqilya, Palestine – 8m]

If the wall is intended to protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian ‘terrorists’ and ‘militants,’ then please answer me this:

– Why does it not run on the internationally recognized borders?

– Why does 85% of the wall cut through the West Bank?

– Why are Palestinian communities being divided from one another?

Did you know the circumference of the wall is longer than the circumference of the whole of the West Bank?

The racist, colonialist Israeli state is using the apartheid wall to forcibly expel Palestinians from the land, to imprison innocent people in “ghettos” so they do not expand their villages and segregating Palestinian and Israeli communities. The devastating reality is this ‘security’ wall is destroying every aspect of Palestinian life.

Palestinians are thirsty for life and thirsty for freedom and just like any other, we deserve to live free.

Please stand with us and help us fight for our rights as human beings.

wall 11

wall 1111

The harsh realities of living under occupation

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.

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[One of the pictures I took in Jaffa]

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?

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Wall

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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