Palestine

Published

Aimee Pratt

The Berlin Wall fell in 1989. The sound of its crumbling cement crushing against the pavement was met with cries of joy from the crowd below. As soon as possible, people watching, climbed over the decaying bricks and greeted those on the other side with hugs and kisses. While the rest of the world watched in awe, Germany was once again united; East and West merged into one colourful blur, and we were all reminded of our faith in mankind and of our respect for humanity. But as the grey Soviet slabs began to finally subside, thousands of miles away in Palestine, another concrete wall was steadily rising from the dust – a wall that continues to scar Israel’s battered record of Palestinian human rights to this day.

History always has a way of coming back around. Mark Twain once wrote, “It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man’s character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible.” When considering Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories, Twain’s account of history rings true.

I’d like to be clear that my aim in writing this article is to document what I personally witnessed during my summer in Palestine, and I hope to present this information in a way that allows the reader to make up their own mind about the conflict.

The Israeli Government’s complete disregard for hundreds of years worth of international jurisdiction is to thank for Palestinian refugees now being considered as the largest and longest suffering group of refugees in the world. This is clearly evident when walking around the dense alleyways that make up the West Bank’s refugee camps. The tents that had been initially used to house refugees of the 1948 war had now transformed into makeshift concrete buildings that stood 3 levels high, housing generations upon generations of refugees. When speaking to one man in the dark labyrinth that is Bethlehem’s Azza Camp, he told me that when his family first arrived in 1948, they were informed that after 10 days they could return home – that 10 days has now become 63 years. He told me that at the beginning of the week, in retaliation to an outbreak of protests, the Israelis had decided to cut off the water supply to the camps, leaving families with barely enough water to drink, let alone shower. As I listened, I noticed the dirt ingrained in his clothes and fingernails and thought about one of Bethlehem’s Jewish settlements that I had visited less than a mile away – their gardens blooming and their taps certainly not dry.

What was to come as more of a shock was when I was taken to see the motorway that runs through Bethlehem. This motorway was accompanied by an 8ft high wall on either side and a military checkpoint every few miles, preventing anyone with Palestinian number plates from using it. This level of segregation has not been evident anywhere in the world since the sickening display of racial separation since the days of South Africa’s Apartheid. It seems that the only difference when comparing Palestine to the South African example is that Israel has now based it’s segregation criteria not on colour, but simply on creed. When interviewing Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Parliament, he referred to Palestine as ‘Partestine’ a fitting moniker.

The 8ft high concrete wall that surrounds the Palestinian territories and prevents Palestinians from leaving the region (unless they have been successful in applying for a permit to cross) stands as a physical symbol of this contemporary apartheid. This comparison was given further wait in 1999 when Ariel Sharon, the Israeli foreign minister,suggested that modelling the Arab-Israeli conflict on the South African Apartheid paradigm is the best way to resolve the situation. Respected Israeli academics are openly in favour of the looming structure that demands so much attention against Palestine’s landscape. Professor Martin van Crevald of the Hebrew University wrote, “If I could, I would build a concrete wall so tall that even birds could not fly over it, and above all, so the people cannot look each other in the face – complete separation.”

On visiting Efrat, a Jewish settlement between Bethlehem and Hebron, I met with an American settler named Bob Lang, who was involved in local politics there. When asked why the wall was there in the first place, he replied that it was a ‘terrorism barrier’ to prevent Israel from Palestine’s religious extremists. He said that he believed that the presence of the wall was justified, in that it protects Israel from attacks from Hamas. But Mr. Lang’s comments led me to think back to the week before, when I met with Anwar Muhamed, a member of the Palestinian Parliament who had once been involved in Hamas (and was imprisoned 4 times for this affiliation). He said, “We are not terrorists. When Hamas use weapons against Israel, they are retaliating against Israel’s rockets into Gaza…It is unfair to label them as terrorists when they are trying to protect their rights.” But whilst I could sympathise with Anwar’s point of view, I was still struck by the feeling that regardless of who hit who first, terror is terror.

However, military terror was not the only consequence of this fierce war over territory. It seemed that in their almost paranoid state to prevent security threats, Israel were continually restricting the freedoms of their own people. Despite people such as Bob Lang being convinced that Israel is, “the only democracy in the sea of secret dictatorships that is the Middle East”, Jospeh Dana, a respected Israeli journalist commented on the state of what Lang believed to be Israel’s free press; “I can’t write what I want to write…It’s like having tape over my mouth…Eyes don’t lie, but it can cause problems when I write what I see.” Furthermore, when considering the amount of security checks internationals and Palestinians face when entering and exiting the country, it is hard to believe that Israel is a democracy – especially when the few Palestinians left there have no right to vote.

This month, Palestine will plead with the United Nations to allow them to create their own state, separate from Israel. If accepted, this move will end Israel’s occupation of Palestine. In order to be granted independent statehood, the country requires a two-thirds majority at the UN assembly. Currently, they are confident that they have secured 122 countries to recognize Palestine, however, 155 is needed. The USA and Britain are predicted to vote against.

On leaving Israel, it saddened me to think that a nation that had been subject to so much persecution in the past, now advocated such an extreme disregard for Palestinian human rights. But one thing is for certain; the once oppressed have become the oppressors.
ace, he replied that it was a ‘terrorism barrier’ to prevent Israel from Palestine’s religious extremists. He said that he believed that the presence of the wall was justified, in that it protects Israel from attacks from Hamas. But Mr. Lang’s comments led me to think back to the week before, when I met with Anwar Muhamed, a member of the Palestinian Parliament who had once been involved in Hamas (and was imprisoned 4 times for this affiliation). He said, “We are not terrorists. When Hamas use weapons against Israel, they are retaliating against Israel’s rockets into Gaza…It is unfair to label them as terrorists when they are trying to protect their rights.” But whilst I could sympathise with Anwar’s point of view, I was still struck by the feeling that regardless of who hit who first, terror is terror.

However, military terror was not the only consequence of this fierce war over territory. It seemed that in their almost paranoid state to prevent security threats, Israel were continually restricting the freedoms of their own people. Despite people such as Bob Lang being convinced that Israel is, “the only democracy in the sea of secret dictatorships that is the Middle East”, Jospeh Dana, a respected Israeli journalist commented on the state of what Lang believed to be Israel’s free press; “I can’t write what I want to write…It’s like having tape over my mouth…Eyes don’t lie, but it can cause problems when I write what I see.” Furthermore, when considering the amount of security checks internationals and Palestinians face when entering and exiting the country, it is hard to believe that Israel is a democracy – especially when the few Palestinians left there have no right to vote.

This month, Palestine will plead with the United Nations to allow them to create their own state, separate from Israel. If accepted, this move will end Israel’s occupation of Palestine. In order to be granted independent statehood, the country requires a two-thirds majority at the UN assembly. Currently, they are confident that they have secured 122 countries to recognize Palestine, however, 155 is needed. The USA and Britain are predicted to vote against.

On leaving Israel, it saddened me to think that a nation that had been subject to so much persecution in the past, now advocated such an extreme disregard for Palestinian human rights. But one thing is for certain; the once oppressed have become the oppressors.