Reposted with permission. Part 2 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.
Most resistance in the West Bank is non-violent. It’s the violence that makes media headlines, however, that violence nearly entirely ended in 2006. I strongly encourage those in support of the Palestinian struggle to offer their support to the non-violent protests in Nil’in, Massara, and other villages protesting weekly against the separation barrier that has cut off large portions of their farmland.
Protesters won in Bil’in after five years of non-violent struggle, when the Israeli courts decided to reroute the fence away from their farmland. So these protests are somewhat successful and useful. Protesters are met with military force, and 16 people have been killed. I must say that it was by far the most frightening experience I had while in Palestine.
The sound of rubber bullets, stun grenades, and teargas cannisters shooting in all directions from military weapons is extremely discomforting, especially when you cannot see because teargas and ‘skunk-spray’ have clouded up your eyes, burned your nostrils and throat, as you clumsily try to figure out the safest route out of the ‘conflict-zone’.
Furthermore, non-violent and artistic forms of resistance are sparking up all around Palestine. Nearly every city and refugee camp has a community center where children are taught traditional Palestinian dance, art, and tales to keep their heritage alive, as well as implement art as a form of expressing their difficulties as a means of non-violent resistance.
In my mind, every Palestinian home built without a permit (which is just about every home), every farmer that continues to work his land despite military orders, and every Palestinian case in the Israeli courts is a form of non-violent resistance that is often overlooked.
Internal Palestinian Dispute: Hamas VS. Fatah
Internal disputes have halted just about all political progress in Palestine. In the West Bank, where Fatah is in power, Hamas is extremely suppressed and persecuted. The opposite is true in Gaza, where Hamas is in power. A majority of people are tired of these partisan politics and wish for their political parties to come to some sort of deal.
Fatah is extremely corrupt and few people will deny that fact. They’re practically a mafia: supporting those who provide them with money and support, while wiping off those who speak out against them. I had met many people who spent years in Palestinian Authority prisons for speaking out against the Government. Quite sickening if you ask me, though it has become not only a norm in Palestine, but throughout the larger Arab and Muslim world.
On the other hand, Hamas is not seen as the great alternative. Art, music, movies, and other well-appreciated Western activities are common hobbies in the West Bank, to which Hamas tends to stand against. Usually those people who are overly strict and unfriendly are referred to, in a joking or mocking way, as “Hamas”- so it certainly does not seem to me to carry along a positive tag. Furthermore, a lot of Palestinians do feel that Hamas policy in Gaza has only encouraged further Israeli aggression.
Of course, views in matters such as these vary person to person. Also, do not forget that other parties exist. The PFLP (Communist Party) is quite popular as well.