Saturday, June 21, 2014

On the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict from the View of Palestinians

Before starting this blog, I would like to say that I am neutral on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. This blog will state what I have learned from the Palestinians at Al Quds University. I hope to present the Israeli side in another post.

This was a trip to meet with Professor Omar Yousef and some students at Al Quds University in Jerusalem - the only campus of this university in Israel and not the West Bank.

I had never heard the Israeli-Palestinian conflict described from Palestinians themselves before.
Think something as basic as a passport. Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are legally citizens of no country. They can travel in the West Bank - going through any number of checkpoints - but no where else. Palestinians who live in Jerusalem are considered Residents of Jerusalem. This is a weird hybrid of citizen and Palestinian. They are not Israeli citizens, but can travel freely between Israel and the West Bank. They do have passports - But from Jordan. Even though they may never have set their eyes on Jordan and can access Israeli social benefits such as health care, but they are somehow have a Jordanian passport. But they can only stay Residents of Jerusalem if they agree to keep Jerusalem as the center of their life. If they decide to move to Bethlehem less than 10 km away, they have this status taken away. If they move to another country, same thing.

Then there are complicated zoning systems that only allow Palestinian control of all matters only around their major cities - called A zones, authority over education and administration, but not security or the policy - called B areas, and C areas in the West Bank - which comprises most of it actually - that is entirely controlled by Israel.

The young women said that they dread going through checkpoints. It could take hours. They are usually harassed. One student recounted a story where she was singled out from an entire bus of people, told to come outside and take out every hairpin. She likes putting her hair up in complicated designs, so she may have had 30 hairpins in, but the soldier at the checkpoint wouldn't let the bus go until she took every single one out. This was not an unusual story. A young man said that it would be extremely difficult to go to a medical school that Israel would accredit because the closest one was in the Northern West Bank - several hours of a drive with four separate checkpoints.

Then there are green lines that divide up where Jews and Palestinians can live in the city of Jerusalem, although some Jews live in the Palestinian areas in places they call neighborhoods but Palestinians call settlements. Housing and building codes make it essentially impossible to build new homes in their designated areas, even though their population is growing - so overcrowding is an increasing difficult problem. The zoning and building codes, for whatever reason, do not exist in Israeli controlled areas so expansion is no problem there.

Palestinians - especially young men, live in fear of Jewish interpersonal violence. One Palestinian student said he doesn't go to certain neighborhoods because there is a high likelihood of him being stabbed. 

Palestinians do not have the right to protest, even peacefully. I saw a video-montogue at the Tel Aviv Art Muslim that followed some of the violent interactions between Israelis and Palestinians. During one scene Palestinians came to protest the fence peacefully - they had no weapons, they were throwing no rocks. In fact, one Palestinian's goats had wandered onto the other side of the fence and he wanted to get them back. They peacefully, though illegally, approached the fence and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) threw tear gas and (possibly) nerve gas at them. They were also shooting - though no one on the Palestinian side even had a weapon. I had heard that during protests the IDF only shot rubber bullets, so when a man was shot in the chest and fell to the ground bleeding I thought they must not be using them. I learned later that "rubber bullets" are actually metal bullets coated in rubber. They are deadly.

When asked if they wanted a peaceful solution with Israel, they said yes, absolutely. When asked what they would compromise, one student said, "What do we have to give? They have taken everything."

Palestinians consider themselves occupied by Israel. When hearing their stories, it wasn't hard to tell why.

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