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.

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?

israeli-wall14

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

Crossing over to the “Other Side”

Ok so three days ago a friend of mine took me to Israel and we spent the day in Tel-Aviv and Jaffa. Being in Israel is literally like being in a European country. I was shocked at how modern and well developed the country is. The public transport system is like something you would see in Paris, the roads are clean and well kept, they have international retailers like Zara, H&M and Massimo Dutti, people are living happily, tourists are everywhere.

You know the blue public Barclays bikes we can rent in London? They have the equivalent in Israel!

Bicycles in israel
[Public bike rental service, Tel Aviv]

They really have done very well for themselves. To be honest, had I not been into the Palestinian areas, there is no way I would have any idea at all what goes on across the checkpoints.

The images below were taken of the boardwalk in Tel Aviv. Notice how these pictures could have been taken in a European country?

Israel boardwalk

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When I walked by the pier in Tel Aviv, you know what surprised me most?

The number of children I saw running around in their swimsuits, riding bicycles, eating ice-cream, playing with balloons, chasing one another. Why did I find that so shocking? I mean it’s pretty normal, right?

Because I do not remember the last time I saw this.

I cannot remember the last time I saw happy children. I have been in Palestine for almost a month now and I cannot remember the last time I saw carefree children, just living and running around happily. That’s the childhood most of us had and the childhood that has been denied to the Palestinians here.

Have a look at the image below I took in Ramallah, the morning before I went to Tel-Aviv.

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Do you notice the two young boys sitting on the street? They are 8 and 9 years old. Look at the run-down houses and the rubbish on the streets. Most of the children I see on a regular basis look aged and worn out.

I never realized how bad it was until I went to Israel and then came back into Palestine. It was a huge reality check for me. These Palestinian children grow up deprived from seeing the sea and playing on the beach, they grow up discriminated against and do not have the same opportunities as the children in Israel.

They have been deprived of a childhood.

Do you have any idea how hard it is for Palestinians holding West Bank ID to get permits from Israel to go to any of the cities by the sea?

This is a crime against humanity.

Israel discriminates against anyone who is not Jewish. I could not believe it when I saw Korean Jews living in Tel-Aviv. Do you know the government sponsors them to live in Israel? Do you know they have more of a right to live on the land than the Palestinians who were driven out of their own country in 1948?

How do they have more of a right to be here? Please explain to me how this is fair in any way.

I don’t feel passionately about Palestine because I am Palestinian. Heck I have never even lived in the bloody country, I can barely say two words in Arabic, I look English, I sound English, my friends are English.

This is about a peoples’ right to live free from racism, discrimination and oppression. This is about fighting against human rights abuses and this is about what is right and wrong.