Current song: Atmosphere, “Gotta Lotta Walls”
We got a personal tour of Ramallah’s real nightlife scene tonight from Taraq, our host’s son. But I’ll post more about the nightlife after I actually go out and experience it. Just check out this photo for now of the view from a spot Taraq showed us – post sunset, the Mediterranean in the background:
Sorta like the Atmosphere lyrics, This place has certainly got alotta walls. But only very few mean anything to you – I’m hoping I can change that somewhat. See, there are alot of things going on here. The Israeli occupation is less intense right now, and as Max (the leader of our group) said, people are just getting on with their lives – no one likes the situation, the water rations, the checkpoints, the denial of access to Jerusalem, but people have to live, right? Taraq said he doesn’t even think about Israel on a daily basis. Well, I have the privilege of living somewhere else – and when I go home, I could be completely separated from it if I wanted to. But I have a responsibility to keep thinking about it, and to spread the word.
The Israeli spin machine is the best in the world, and would have the world believe that Israel is under constant threat, that the groups working for Palestinian rights are truly working for the downfall of Israel. Yeah, right. I’m meeting with these groups, these people – and that perception couldn’t be more wrong. As an example, take the organization we met with today, Al-Haq. They are an international law advocacy group, who does alot of research and direct action in the name of Palestinian Liberation. They released a comprehensive report, accepted by the UN, on why the Israeli occupation is illegal. They have launched lawsuits against companies that help Israel build their illegal settlements. But they also have released reports on the human rights violations of the Palestinian Authority – because don’t get me wrong, no one is perfect and the PA does do pretty heinous things too. After all, this is war.
The main thing that prevents Al-Haq from being effective is the unwillingness of the international community to act to uphold international law – which even the US admits Israel is breaknig. However, decision makers do what their constituents want, right? And the publicity is far greater for the Israel cause than the Palestinian. There are advocates for the Israel case petitioning to UN officials every day, whereas Al Haq and other grassroots NGOs just can’t afford to do that.
We met with a Palestinian American two days ago named Sam Bahour, who started the Palestinian Telecommunications company. An incredible guy, who had alot to say about the issue. One of his views is that a paradigm shift is approaching, words that were mirrored by the official we met the next day named Dr. Ghassan al-Khateeb, the director of the Palestinian Authority’s Media Division – AKA the spokesperson for the PA. These two had much different views on what exactly that Paradigm shift would look like. Dr. Khateeb, being a government official, had nothing but optimism to publicly express about the petition for statehood in September, or at least the potential of that to shift the paradigm of negotiations from bi-lateral (just PA/Israel) to multi-lateral (under jurisdiction of UN). This would be nice, but it’s somewhat looking like this type of shift is less likely, as the US remains adamantly against any PA statehood (we will Veto in the Security Council). Sam had a very interesting thing to say, which was that people are beginning to accept the reality that PA is and probably will be administered by Israel. If a one state solution was the case, he explained, the movement’s paradigm would shift from a national liberation movement to a civil rights movement, which could potentially have much more power and international recognition. (disclaimer: I am just paraphrasing what the two said, I could have it all wrong. see the links at the end for more info on their actual positions.)
My opinion? I’m still learning and exploring. It is obvious to me that the occupation is wrong, and that Israel’s policy of a “pure” Jewish state is a) racist and b) contradictory to the reality – the non-Jewish population, at current growth rate, will outnumber the Jewish in Israel in 20 years. Does “racial purity” ring any bells? Sam Bahour has a really interesting article called “Genocide by Public Policy” that you can read for more about whether or not Israel’s actions are acts of genocide. They are certainly acts of war. Whether the solution is one state or two state will depend on the actions of people, both on the grassroots level of society – those who are just getting on with their lives, for now – and those on the highest decision making levels of society. This picture, a poster from the walls of Al-Haq’s building, sums up my view – it is inevitable that these walls between people will come down in the coming age. There is certainly a paradigm shift coming – we will move away from realpolitik and into more modern ways of conducting international affairs.