“But we remain optimistic because we are human beings who believe in coexistence, equality, peace, and freedom. Pessimists are those who believe in tribalism, racism, conflict, and the need for military might. In the long run, we are more numerous than they are and we need to help them see the truth and join us. We remain optimistic because our children and grandchildren are optimistic and we should not try to dissuade them from optimism or from acting to improve their lives.
As we free our minds of dark thoughts, we can see the light.”
– Mazin Qumsiyeh, “Optimism”
In many ways, it would seem hard to be optimistic in the Palestinian situation. This past week on Saturday, I saw the movie “Roadmap to Apartheid” at a local anti-occupation solidarity center called the Alternative Information Center (AIC). The movie is quite intense in examining the similarities and contrasts between Apartheid South African and the Israeli Occupation. I did not know that one of the South African government’s last supporters was Israel, which flagrantly defied the international arms embargo during the ’80s and even offered advice to the South Africans. One difference that the South African activists and scholars interviewed agreed upon was that the situation in Occupied Palestine is worse, for various reasons, including the extent of the military force (helicopter gunships, white phosphorous) used against Palestinians. They also note that Israel has succeeded where South Africa did not in creating “totally unviable fantasy states” (Bantustans) out of Palestine.
Today people are protesting around the city by burning tires because they are out of water. I have noted in a previous blog that although Bethlehem sits on some of the richest aquifers in the area, a majority of it goes to surrounding settlements, while the residents here are faced with a water crisis each summer. We have not yet run out of water, because Zoughbi has enough tanks for at least two families on his roof, so our neighbors come to us for water. Last weekend we picked apricots (mish-mish in Arabic) at Zoughbi’s brother’s home in Beit Jala, who was already out of water. Meanwhile, the settlements in the area have swimming pools and full, green gardens, and most settlers have no knowledge of the situation here. See this article from Ma’an news for more about the water crisis.
Water is a perfect example of the hopelessness that can be seen in the current situation. Under the Oslo Accords, Israel has the right to veto any Palestinian water project. What kind of government do they think the Palestinian Authority can be if it can’t even start a project to guarantee it’s citizens the most basic human right? The answer is that they don’t want the PA to be a real government, they want it to be a Bantustan, where they can safely house their demographic overflow, ensuring their identity as a Jewish state and creating a security shield around their borders.
Living under this situation is enough to drain the hope and energy out of a person. And I’ve only been here for one month. The Palestinians, however, refuse to give up hope. The most important act of resistance to the occupation is one that every person here does daily: simply to live, and refuse to give up living. Seeing this everyday act of resistance inspires me not to give in to the frustration and despair of this situation, but to continue to do the best I can in my current situation, to share the stories with all of you who read this, and to give my energy to the work against injustice. The fact that people are still here resisting gives me optimism, and I know that injustice cannot last forever.