Reposted with permission. Part 1 of a 5 part series.
We often forget that the faces on the other side of the television screen have thoughts and feelings just like our own. We forget to think about the common threads of humanity between all living beings. I’m obviously no expert on the subject, having only spent several months in the Middle East and studying the situation now for four years. But the following contains different sorts of observations, analysis and conclusions I had reached, having traveled throughout the entirety of the West Bank, meeting hundreds of families along the way, and engaging in countless enlightening and telling conversations about the conflict, culture, and lifestyle.
“How Do Palestinians View…?”
I cannot help but cringe at this question. People constantly ask me,
“How do Palestinians view Hamas?”
“Do Palestinians want the destruction of Israel?”
“Do Palestinians believe in a two-state solution?”
There is no answer to any question implying that an entire society thinks a homogeneous way. All societies contain a diverse set of views. I found families in the West Bank so sympathetic towards Israel that literally tears dripped down their cheeks at the site of a funeral on television for two Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza. Then, to the contrary, there are graffiti images of swastikas and suicide bombers bearing AK-47’s in their martyrdom poses along just about every wall.
Major Problems in the West Bank:
Just about every area confronts different issues. Israeli soldiers patrolling the streets are a rare sight now-a-days in the West Bank since the Palestinian Authority has been handed power of policing all major cities. But almost all cities still face night raids and rather frequent arrests. Most Palestinians seem to have family and friends in prison. From my observation within the refugee camps, a majority of men over the age of 18 had been imprisoned at some point throughout their life.
The separation barrier (be it the wall of the fence) have cut off a significant portion of farmland from Palestinians and have shot a bullet into the heart of any previously existing economic growth. It has left a lot of farmers unemployed, cut off several Palestinian villages from the West Bank, has destroyed the tourist industry that once flourished, and has put a lot of Palestinians that once worked in Jerusalem out of work. Palestinians are also no longer able to reach the beautiful city of Jerusalem and pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque without a permit. Permits are hard to gain, and therefore, the Dome of the Rock has become the symbol of liberation and I personally witnessed Palestinians tear at the thought of visiting Jerusalem once again.
Settlements are a major issue. For those who do not know, they are basically Jewish plots of land built within the Palestinian territories. The settlers are in fact, “Imperialists,” or maybe more-so, pawns of those wishing to annex the West Bank. Some families move to the West Bank for practical and economic reasons, while other move for ideological and religiously-motivated reasons. Settler violence runs rampant and the Israeli Army tends to close their eyes to it, and maybe command them with a light slap on the wrist, “stop please.” Yeah, I’m not joking about the, “Please.” I actually saw them politely ask a settler in Hebron to stop throwing rocks at Palestinians. Of course, rocks thrown in the other direction are met by teargas, rubber bullets, battons, and stun grenades.