The crisis in Gaza

Since the beginning of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge that started on July 8, Israeli airstrikes have more than killed 1800 Palestinian civilians and injured over 7000, despite having some of the most sophisticated and advanced military equipment. A number of UN humanitarian shelters and schools have been targeted, mosques and cathedrals destroyed, schools and hospitals bombed, doctors and medical staff injured. If this isn’t a public massacre, I don’t know what is.                         

While many of Israel’s allies condone Hamas for firing rockets into Israel, I do not. Condemning Hamas would be like condemning the residents of the Warsaw ghetto for resisting their Nazi oppressors. The Palestinians will resist any way they can, as is their prerogative.

Israel has imposed a near-total embargo on Gaza and has illegally occupied Palestinian land for over 65 years. The people of Gaza live in an open-air prison with limited access to food, water, humanitarian aid, gas and electricity for over half a decade. What you see happening now is only one of many ruthless massacres committed by the Zionist regime since the beginning of the illegal occupation in 1947. Israel spreads terror among Palestinian civilians and uses the notion of “self-defence” to justify its actions. No Israel, you do not have the right to defend yourself when you are illegally occupying another country.

So what can we do to help as supporters of the Palestinian cause?

Firstly we should all be supporting the BDS campaign. Boycotting Israeli products is the simplest and most effective means of resistance against aggression. The Israeli industry is perennial to its survival as a state and it is vital a clear message is sent to Israeli businessmen and exporters that their own government is responsible for their losses and the adverse consequences to their businesses.

Since Israel began their onslaught on Gaza three weeks ago, findings show that 1 in 5 Israeli exporters are finding it difficult to sell abroad because of anti-Israel boycotting and a lot of these boycotts are coming from the UK and Scandinavian countries. The Israel Export Institute has reported 66% of Israeli businesses have cut prices desperately trying to get people to buy their products. They have received more and more order cancellations and are now calling for government intervention to protect Israeli businesses from boycotts.

It may not seem like a lot but on a large scale, with a mass movement of international boycotts, Israel will feel the pressure. And it will hurt.

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There is a new app called ‘Buycott’ which allows you to join different campaigns. I am part of ‘Long Live Palestine Boycott Israel’ and ‘Avoid Israeli Settlement Products’. The app allows you to scan barcodes from your Smartphone and it will tell you where the product has come from. It couldn’t be simpler to use and I would definitely recommend it.

We should also continue to report on social media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great tools to enlighten others and reach the conscience of the world as to what is happening without the filtering and bias of news reporters. It is also a really good way of pressuring news outlets to meet objective standards and report the truth.

This is a real test of the strength of the international community and the power of non-violent resistance against Israeli aggression. Never underestimate your role in this. Each and every one of us has a moral obligation to speak up. We cannot tolerate Israel’s utter disregard for international humanitarian law and the ongoing slaughter of men, women and children.

Let us continue to educate, boycott and resist.

In the face of injustice, there is only side to choose.

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Thinking of visiting Palestine and Israel?

Are you thinking of going away? Here are just a few reasons why your next trip should be to Palestine/Israel. Although far from an exhaustive list, these ideas will get you started.

1. Discover the beauty of the land

Though it remains a secret, The Middle East is spectacular. You get a little bit of everything, from desert lands to olive farms. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, it truly is a breathtaking landscape.

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2. Visit the holy land for Christians, Jews, Muslims and Bahais

These religious sites are a part of human history and the lands are a mosaic of them all. Take a tour of Jericho, Hebron, Jerusalem and Bethlehem just to name a few.

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3. Discover quite possibly the richest culture known to man

The Arabic culture is one that dates back thousands of years. It is distinct in all its facets from traditional foods like Musakhan to folklore dances like the Debkah! Immerse yourself in the culture and discover its beauty.

4. Get invited to drink tea 3 times a day by 3 different people

Arabs are known for their hospitality so naturally you will find yourself being invited for tea several times a day! This is just something you will have to get used to.

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5. Swim in the Dead Sea (or more like float)

Due to the high concentration of sodium chloride in the water, you will find yourself floating in the Dead Sea rather than swimming.  It is the lowest point on Earth and a site famous for its unique geological landform.

Make sure you rub the mud from the seabed on your body as the minerals heal wounds, wash away impurities, moisturise and cleanse the skin. Just be wary of any open cuts and don’t shave the same day!

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6. Visit the birth place of Jesus

The village of Bethlehem is over 2000 years old and is the sacred city where Jesus was born. In the heart of the city sits the beautiful Church of Nativity where you can see the actual spot where the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus.

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7. Discover a souq

Experience the bliss of simple living and walk through a souq where you will see village style entrepreneurship. Local vendors selling beautifully embroidered items from hand painted pottery to woven baskets. You can also find a wide variety of spices, fruits, sweets and other cooking essentials!

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8. Try the best shawarma

We would recommend Abu el Abed in Ramallah. The shawarma sandwich is to die for, but be sure to eat with pickled chili for the full experience!

9. Discover Herodyon Palace 

King Herod built his fortress inside the tallest hill in the land. He used the site for hiding and protection during the expansion of the Roman empire. Its remains are still animate.

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10. Visit the Cave of Patriarchs

Also known as the “Cave of the Double Tombs” or the “Sanctuary of Abraham.” The famous mosque in Hebron is the burial site of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah; the renowned Patriarchs and Matriarchs of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

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11. Ride a camel

Riding a camel is extremely fun and will most definitely be memorable if you’ve never done it before. Just wait until the camel decides to stand up!

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12. Try the first Palestinian beer

Just outside Ramallah you can visit the Taybeh brewery and take a tour of the factory. They brew both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer and they really give the Germans a run for their money!

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13. Walk on ancient ruins 

Some of the most prominent ruins of the Roman Empire are in the lands of Israel and Palestine. A walk through the cities of Sebastia and Jericho take you back to almost 25 BCE. The 500-year-old Roman structures are an exquisite painting of the past.

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14. Visit the old ports of Akka 

Akka is a coastal city and its ancient port was once used for defence by the British Empire. The fortress, tunnels and cannons remain in excellent condition and are still standing today. Akka is also famous for it’s mouth-watering seafood straight from the Mediterranean Sea.

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Start booking and prepare yourself for the trip of your life.

How much help should we accept?

Should we be accepting support from Israelis who live in illegal settlements in the West Bank?

Believe it or not but many Israeli Jews living in settlements in the West Bank and in Israel condemn the actions of their government and put their lives at risk to support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, equality and justice. I have met on more than one occasion Israelis who work for organisations like B’Tselem, which document human rights abuses.

For the longest time though, I felt this to be a massive contradiction. So you want to help our struggle but yet you are also living in a settlement? You are living in the homes of our parents and grandparents but yet somehow advocate for the rights of the Palestinian people? How can that be right? So I began to question things. Was I just being unfair on people who are choosing to extend their hands to us and want to help?

This took me back to 1947-48 when everything really went wrong for the Palestinians. In 1948 when the state of Israel was established and following the aftermath of the Holocaust, many Jewish families were paid to come and live in Israel. The reason behind this was to encourage mass immigration to the region – a very smart strategy if you ask me. Jewish families from all over the world began to immigrate to Israel being lured in by the prospect of a better life, financial support and benefits.

This was combined with a lot of hostility towards Jews from the MENA region as a reaction to the establishment of the state of Israel. (Whether this was a fair or reasonable reaction is a debate we will leave for another time.) Nevertheless there was uncertainty about their fate in the Middle East. Don’t forget it had also only been a few years since the end of the Holocaust and so most Jews still felt insecure about their future.

Now putting yourself in their shoes in the context of what had just happened and the reaction of the Arab countries, would you have said no to an offer of a better and more secure life in Israel? Really the question comes down to this: should we be standing against the Jews who chose to immigrate to Israel and become Israeli citizens or should we be accepting help from them as Palestinians because ultimately we all would have made the same decision?

I decided to investigate this question a little further as I wasn’t sure what to think. One part of me understood how simple the decision must have been for them but then the other part of me thought how cruel these people must have been to be able to live in homes that did not belong to them. These were our homes, our land, our trees. How could a person make such a selfish decision and live in the home of another family, knowing full well it was not their own and yet not say anything?

One man in particular really made an impact on me and helped me come to terms with the reality of what happened in 1948 and I want to tell you his story. Let us call him X.

X is an Israeli, originally a Moroccan Jew whose family has lived in Israel since the 1950s. I was curious as to how he could live with himself knowing he took over another family’s home (of course I didn’t say this to him but that’s exactly what I was thinking) so I began to question him about things and I was completely taken aback by his response.

X was a young boy – no more than about 8 or 9 years old – when his family emigrated to Israel. They were previously living a comfortable life in Morocco until the late 1940s when riots broke out against Jews all over the Middle East in response to the establishment of Israel. More than 18,000 Jews fled their homes in Morocco in 1948 and 1949 alone seeking a better life.

X’s family were offered money by the Israeli government to come and live in Israel – a life they could not even have dreamt of in Morocco or anywhere else in the Middle East at the time. Of course, his parents did not hesitate and they packed up their things ready for a new life in Israel.

On arrival, he described to me how he walked into the new house given to him by the military and he could feel the presence of another family. The house almost felt ghostly with the carpets, antiques and belongings of another family. They had obviously belonged to the Palestinian family that had lived there before them.

I then asked him whether his parents had said something, asked who the family were, demanded to be moved to another house and his response was this:

“No one spoke about it. We just didn’t ask. We knew, but we didn’t ask.”

For them it was very straightforward, they were told this was their new home and that was that. They made it their own. Until this day, they still do not know the Palestinian family who used to live there.

After hearing his story, it made me question how I would have reacted in the same situation. When I put myself in their shoes – would I really have said no if someone had offered me a life in Israel in the context of 1948, only several years after Hitler’s killing spree of the Jews? Would I have made that choice, as most Jewish families did, of a better quality life for my family and just turned a blind eye to everything else?

They didn’t physically remove us, heck most of them didn’t even see us thrown out at the time. They were invited into empty homes and many of them chose to simply not ask questions. Would you have asked had you been in their position?

Of course, hundreds of years of suffering is not an excuse to justify what happened and what continues to happen to the Palestinian people. Palestine was not an empty land when the Jews began to immigrate in and as each year passes, we watch as the land we once called Palestine is slowly engulfed by Israeli settlements and the 400 mile long wall.

I do however accept that at the time the state of Israel was established, the Jewish people needed to identify themselves with a land and they needed a place to call home. This is a point of fact not an opinion. And unfortunately for us, this was at our expense. Being Palestinians though, we must understand their struggle and their need for a homeland. After all, we are now a people without a land.

I remember reading a book about Judaism and something really stuck in my head: “What is hateful to yourself do not do to your fellow-man.”

Religion advocates justice, peace, righteousness, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. I believe in both our rights to live in the land and I believe we have the potential to live together; if we could do it before we can do it again. Don’t kid yourself into thinking it isn’t possible. Wounds can heal, painful memories fade and hate can be overcome.

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[The wall in Bethlehem, West Bank]

Let’s create a community where we accept each other’s existence and focus on what both people have in common rather than dwelling on our differences. Let’s bring together the new generation of Palestinians and Israelis and recognise both peoples’ struggle and right to self-determination.

The power of change is in our hands. It is us – the new, young generation of educated Palestinians and Israelis – who can prevent more suffering. Let’s make sure we all have a good future and our children and grandchildren do not suffer as our ancestors did.

We need as much help as we can get from inside and outside, from Palestinians and Israelis, from Arabs and non-Arabs, from Jews and non-Jews. Do not shut out people who extend their hand to you.

Let’s create a democratic state and home for us all.

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?

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[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 taste of a homecoming

“Are you up? Good, pack your bags we’re going to Palestine.”

Before my dad had even finished his sentence, I was already feeling the excitement. No more watching the news and reading articles on the Electronic Intifada, in just a few hours I will actually be in Palestine. It wasn’t my first visit. I was there almost 13 years ago but I can’t remember much of it, just some random memories here and there.

We got to the Jordanian checkpoint and it was no different than I expected; no order, no lines and no respect for time or space. After more than an hour of paper work and reaching over each others’ shoulders to see who gets their papers stamped first, we boarded the blue striped bus heading to Palestine.

Ten minutes into the bus ride, we stop at the first Israeli checkpoint where we are asked (or more like given an arm signal) by a solider to get off the bus. That same young Israeli soldier roams the bus with a weapon stuck to his chest, looking for what precisely? I wasn’t sure.

Hop on the bus again, another ten minute drive and we stop at the second and main Israeli checkpoint, where we are ordered to stay in the bus for almost an hour and twenty minutes before given the approval to pass. Along the way, gazing outside the window, I began taking pictures, determined to document every bit of the journey.

We get off the bus and find our luggage thrown on the street. With not much light to find our bag, I find myself clambering over other peoples’ suitcases just to find my own. Is this what Palestinians have to go through every time they want to get home?

All around me were young Israeli girls and guys, not much older than 20 years of age, all dressed in their uniform holding their guns and serving their nation. While waiting for my father and brother to get the bags through, I stood on the side and began observing everything around me.

It was a real tragedy.

I could see the Arab men and women chaotically struggling to hand in the luggage and stamp their papers, with no tolerance or patience for one another, and then how the Israeli soldiers were looking down upon them and sniggering. It made me really angry.

We finally get inside and I pass through the security detector with no beep or buzz. As I reach for my passport in my pocket, an Israeli soldier stops me. “Arabic or English?” he asked. My heart stopped. “Please come with me.”

I followed him into a separate room where he asked me to sit down and started speaking to me in Arabic. I realized that the surveillance cameras had caught me taking pictures of our scattered luggage. The soldier grabbed my camera and started grilling me with questions.

“Why did you take these pictures?”

“Who sent you to take them? Nasrallah?”

“Why did you study in England and not in Jordan and who paid for your expenses there?”

“Where does your father work?”

“Why are you here?”

“There is really no need for you to be here, it’s a headache to go through all of this just to separate your ID from your father’s, don’t you think?

“Is it really worth the hassle?”

His questions were intimidating and made me sick to my stomach. His job was to get answers and make me uncomfortable and he was damn good at it. Once I had answered all his questions, he deleted the pictures off my camera and asked me never to take pictures at Israeli checkpoints ever again.

After seven hours of checkpoints, questions and searches, we finally got through and I found myself physically and mentally exhausted. That night in bed I found myself already missing home, missing my mom and wanting to go back to Jordan.

The early morning hours the next day changed everything. I stepped outside the balcony overlooking the beautiful city of Nablus, took a deep breath and I could smell the sea (only some 40 kms away). All around me were mountains, so beautifully planted with olive trees and right across was Al-Nasser Mosque with its green dome. I could hear the buzz and noise from people down town chattering, shops opening and a new day starting. I knew it was going to be a worthwhile trip.

Walking through the streets of the old town at night gave me goose bumps. I felt like everything talked back to me; the walls, the trees, the shops which all had stories to tell. Not to mention the 100 year old clock in Nablus which still functions perfectly.

What moved me the most were the posters stuck all over the city, with the names and pictures of the martyrs who fought and died for Palestine; their faces also had stories to tell and I started wondering what their lives were like.

Over the next four days, we went back and forth between Nablus and Ramallah. We spent those car drives listening to the only two CDs we had, Fairuz and Ilham Al Madfa’i, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

I could see the signs pointing towards Jerusalem, which was so close but unreachable. We were not allowed inside because we held Palestinian IDs. Not only was it illegal for us to go into Jerusalem, it was also physically impossible to see it thanks to the 8 meter high concrete wall cutting through the West Bank.

I’ve seen the apartheid wall in pictures and read about it, but seeing it in reality, touching it and looking at the graffiti drawn on it was something else. Thanks to the wall, Jerusalem was right in front of me but I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see Qubet Al-Sakhra, I couldn’t visit Kaniset Al Qiyama or pray in Masjed Al-Aqsa. I felt like a heavy weight was placed over my heart and I felt a great sense of restriction and deprivation.

I still consider myself lucky to have visited Palestine, to experience this roller coaster of emotions, to see where my great grandfather once lived and to witness firsthand what life in the West Bank is like. It surely doesn’t compare to the millions of Palestinians who suffered, who grieved and who had their homes and dignity stripped away from them. But I certainly somewhat understood what it was like to live under occupation and not have freedom of movement, speech or expression.

That feeling is beyond words…

It is certainly true that this trip made me think… where and what is home? Does it have to be black or white or is it ok to have some grey answers? As much as I felt I was at home in Palestine, I still missed Amman. This confusion also brought about feelings of guilt. Is it ok for me to feel nostalgic towards two countries? I certainly still don’t have a clear answer to that question.

We’re living at a time where racism is at its peak, whether it’s between the West and the non-West, Muslims and non-Muslims or even worse between us Arabs; Palestinian-Jordanian; Muslim-Christian; Sunni-Shi’a. We live at a time where individuals are placed under pressure to prove loyalty to an ethnic group or religion.

I wonder how things would have turned out if there had been no colonialism, no establishment of borders…maybe better, maybe worse, God only knows.. I just hope I live to see the day, when we can actually get past our differences and start treating each other with the respect that we deserve as human beings.

As for you Palestine, I will be back… I promise.

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[The city of Ramallah]

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[View overlooking the city of Nablus]

(Contributor 232)

Eid in Jerusalem

As part of the wonderful Eid celebrations, my friend and I were invited to my relatives’ house in Jerusalem for lunch. I really love being in the Middle East during Eid. There is nothing like stuffing your face with incredible food without feeling guilty and connecting with the family.

Just before lunch, my uncle took us on a lovely drive around Jerusalem and I took this beautiful photo of the landscape from the Mount of Olives.

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[The city of Jerusalem]

I want to dedicate today’s post to an incredible Dutch lady that I met. She is married to one of my relatives and has lived in Palestine since the 1970s. She works as a pediatrician in a hospital in Jerusalem but lives in Beit Jalah (a village near Bethlehem).

Of course being very interested in Palestinian life, I spent two hours interrogating the poor woman. Considering she is not of Palestinian origin and has no emotional attachment to Palestine, I thought she could give me a real perspective of how life was like in the 1970s and how it has changed ever since.

Just to give you a bit of background on her, she grew up in a Japanese prison camp in Indonesia and lived through the independence struggle. Her parents were kicked out of their home three times and so she understands and feels with the Palestinian cause. I found her very interesting and I made sure to document some of the conversation. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed listening to her.

What was it like living in Palestine in the 70s?

Well in the 70s, there were no restrictions on us. We could drive anywhere with our own cars, it was easy to travel to and from Jerusalem from Beit Jalah. We were allowed to leave through Ben Gurion airport, we were just like the Jerusalem Palestinians are. We really had no problems whatsoever. I mean maybe you were stopped once in a while if you had Arab number plates, but it was never really a problem. There were no checkpoints, no roadblocks, no wall. Everything was free.

We interacted daily with Israelis. We even bought our vegetables from them because they were fresh and organic. There were Israeli doctors coming to serve as specialists in the clinic I worked in.

There have been huge changes since my time.

What was the biggest change you felt since the 1970s?

For me it was definitely the loss of freedom. Had I come to Palestine as the situation is now, I might have said I would not have been able to stay here. It is because the changes were so gradual that I almost didn’t feel them happening at the time.

When did you feel things started to change?

Well when the intifada started in 1987, that’s when everything changed. I think it surprised the Israelis and at first they didn’t know how to handle it. They began closing Palestinian schools, because of course schools have big groups of young students and they were the ones who usually demonstrated. It was in a certain way racial.

Having no schools open meant these boys and girls were out on the streets, which of course made everything worse. This lasted around 1 year and in the West Bank about a year and a half.

It was so bad that teachers were even forbidden from giving private tuition. The committed teachers were gathering children and teaching them under olive trees and in their houses. But the Israelis were continuously checking. Whenever they saw a boy on the street carrying a backpack with school books in it, the child was punished and their parents were arrested. It was absolutely crazy.

So a whole generation lost on their education in the 80s?

Yes and this is what we are still suffering from. When Israel decided to open schools up again, there was a whole generation waiting and suddenly double the number of students. The ones who had missed a year were not allowed to repeat and just had to continue on. It was a huge mess.

Not just that, in the 1980s most of the men were in prison; they were political prisoners and were arrested for the most insignificant and childish things. At that time, Israeli officers would also stop people on the street to check their watches. If your watch was set to Palestinian timing (there is a time difference between Israel and Palestine), the officers would smash your watch. They wanted to show that they were in power, you know?

Do you consider yourself a Palestinian?

In reality, I will never be a Palestinian. I love my children and my family, but I will always remain an outsider. I look at things differently. For my husband, he obviously feels things much deeper than I do. I was born in Indonesia and grew up in a Japanese prison camp.

When I talk to the young children here who are so traumatized by everything that has happened, I tell them that it is their perception they have to change. If they keep perceiving themselves as victims and live with this feeling of revenge, then we will never get anywhere with hope.

Anyway there is no difference between Palestinians and Israelis. They wear the same types of clothes, watch the same movies, listen to the same songs and this is what I am trying to tell people here. You sometimes have to look at things from a different angle and then maybe you can find that there is a possibility of a solution.

Do you think language stands in the way of people coming together?

Definitely and I think it is a terrible shame the schools in Palestine don’t teach Hebrew and those in Israel don’t teach Arabic. If you speak each other’s language, you can solve so many issues.

The Palestinian labour workers in Israel pick up Hebrew so quickly because it comes from the same root as Arabic. The grammar and the words are more or less the same. Language is certainly a huge barrier.

The Palestinian people – they know the land, they know the agriculture and they know how to deal with everything. Israelis are bringing people from Europe, Sri Lanka and Africa and these people know nothing.

What do you see is the worst part of this whole situation?

Israel is trying to destroy everything. The real danger is they are destroying the Palestinian culture and they are doing it intentionally. If you take away the culture of a people, they don’t exist anymore. 

Just recently they plastered over really old ceramic tiles in David’s tomb. I am talking centuries old with beautiful Islamic descriptions. Israel broke them, they just broke and destroyed them. They did it at night without anyone knowing so there was nothing we could do.

And they are excavating everywhere, near the wall, Mount Zion, even under the al Aqsa Mosque that is sacred to Muslims all over the world. 

Do you think the wall will ever come down?

I definitely think the wall will come down. Nothing stays up forever, its impossible. You should see the ecologists in Israel who are screaming bloody murder about this whole thing. The wall diverts the flow of water and crosses through aqua-logical boundaries.

They have polluted our superficial aquifer in Bethlehem with all their pesticides, fertilizers and their waste. Waste from the Israeli settlements streams into our water and then they blame the Arabs, when it is from their own people. 

What do you think about the Jews claim to the land?

Let me tell you a story. Israelis found a golden coin underground while they were excavating and of course Netanyahu was jubilant. He started proclaiming how it proved the Jewish link to the land and kept saying how this is their land. “We have a right to the land,” he would say. (She rolled her eyes as she said this).

If this really is the case, then the Green Orthodox can also say they have these kinds of monuments that prove it is their land. And then the Byzantines can come and say ‘look we were here, look at these excavations.’ Heck, even Italy can make claims to the land!

In this situation, there is no justice, there is no fairness and there is no willingness to compromise on the part of Israel. This is not about who came here first anymore.

— This lady is not a Palestinian and has absolutely no religious, cultural or historical reason to have these opinions. She has lived in Palestine for 40 years now and has felt the daily struggles of the Palestinians that are only getting worse with time. This is not an issue of history anymore or who came here first. This is about standing against the Occupier and recognizing the Palestinian struggle for space and recognition. —

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