Skip navigation

So this post will present some of my current understandings of the attempted peace processes in Israel and Palestine, given my experiences on the ground and with individual human beings (who are usually a better indicator of the situation than news articles written by low-quality journalists sitting in a different hemisphere).

As with my previous post, and due to my ongoing lack of a camera due to the business practices of El Al, these photographs are both taken by and given to me to post courtesy of my friend Scott O’Hara.

Image 1: Weekly Peace Protest

I have posted about this event before, but as a quick reminder, this weekly protest is held in Paris Plaza (not sure of the origin of that name) by a women’s league of mostly 80+ year old women. They are against the occupation of the Palestinian territories, and protest it by wearing all black clothes and holding signs that are black silhouettes with “END THE OCCUPATION” in Arabic, Hebrew, and English in the Plaza.

What occurred to me since then is that the majority of the elderly women organizing and attending the protest every week were actually alive when it WAS Palestine, prior to 1948. The part that concerns me the most is not necessarily their message; having been into the West Bank once already and seen the poverty therein for myself, I can understand why people would want to open the borders for Palestinians economically, not even to mention political issues (not going there, because I am not educated enough on the subject yet to present a good case either way).

What concerns me most is that there were 5 armed police officers to carefully watch the activities of several elderly women, and to prevent what… them from rioting? I understand that Israel is security minded, and reasonably so in many cases, but I am extremely suspicious and nervous when a government has strong police presence at the most harmless and peaceful of protests. This seems to be just one part of a larger problem: Israeli citizens are forbidden by law from going into the Territories, while most Palestinians are turned back from the borders with Israel. By suppressing those forces with Israel and Palestine that yearn for the re-humanization of the other side, while simultaneously preventing more than 90% of each population from ever seeing the other side in person (with all of the similarities in diet, child-rearing practices, concern with living a good life, and a slew of other essential points of agreement), how is that peace can be expected out of the situation? This is mostly rhetorical at this point, but I hope that my experiences and education into these affairs allows me to give a more refined question, and possibly even the beginnings of an answer in the future.

Image 2: “WAR IS FOREVER”

Also mentioned in a previous post, this piece of graffiti deeply concerns me as well. I read the sentiment therein as a satirical, cynical, and resigned acceptance of the situation of conflict in this nation. The vibrant coloration, plus the satirical reference to “Diamonds are forever” both provide the darkly comical element to the piece, yet at the same time for hundreds, if not thousands of years, that sentiment can be said to ring true in portions of the Middle East. I would actually love to meet the individual who painted it (because it clearly took a while to do), and simply ask what they were thinking/feeling when they created that message for many people to see every day from the Israeli shuk. Unfortunately, this sense of resignation to war as inevitable is part of what seems to make peace so elusive here. I can even recall opinions and conversations with others at home where the genuine sentiments of those involved were that “the Middle East cannot be fixed; it is always going to be at war.” I hope and pray that this can be reversed through individual people slowly but surely re-humanizing the other side through interpersonal interactions: if a Palestinian is going to make peace with an Israeli, it seems to me as though at some point they will both have to realize that the other person is just as concerned about feeding their family, raising their children well, and making the most of life.

Image 3: Tossing a bouquet

Finally, here is the remix of the young Palestinian man throwing a bouquet instead of a rock, taken by Scott during our day in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas. This actually inspires me somewhat, because of the implicit message displayed for all to see traveling towards Bethlehem. The image takes that which is iconic of violence, and twists it so that the young man is returning peaceful intentions for violent or unfair intentions. Given another name, and taking this from the Bible, the graffiti is essentially calling upon those disaffected and frustrated Palestinians to turn the other cheek in the face of harsh Israeli policies, actions, and decisions. Certainly not an easy or enjoyable path to follow, but it has proven its worth numerous times before: the Civil Rights movement in America, Gandhi’s leadership in India, and other nonviolent forms of protest have succeeded because their members restrain themselves in the face of clear adversity, and eventually prevail. Again, not an easy policy or posture to implement here, but this one piece of graffiti gave me some hope that maybe some people can start, and others can follow in their footsteps.

Other Considerations

It does seem to me like a 2-state solution can only be a temporary fix to the problem, if it is implemented at all. I will go into more detail as time goes on, but two reasons are all I will mention for now. First of all, this situation strikes me as post-WWI Germany, when a large portion of it was given to Poland, leaving a disconnected part of it within Polish borders. This was one of the given reasons for Germany going to war again, to reunite it’s people, and the Israel/Palestine situation seems like it might play out in a similar fashion. For the 2-state solution to work, it seems to rely upon actually splitting the two parties and giving them separate land to call their own/work with. For the Palestinians, though, giving them two allotments of land that aren’t connected almost seems a slap in the face, because they would have to still pass through significant Israeli security to get from Gaza to the West Bank, and wouldn’t it still be the same situation as now?

The other concern that comes to mind is the fairly large lack of infrastructure in the Territories. Although the bus system functions very well, I don’t believe that there is any Palestinian airport, nor do I think the resources exist to create one immediately post-split into 2 states. As I mentioned before, places like Bethlehem rely upon tourism to fuel their economies, and already the situation makes it difficult for people to visit there. Doesn’t it seem like the formal institution of a border would merely serve to complicate and prevent people from visiting parts of the former Territories, since they would have to fly through Israel? There are more examples here, but I still need to ponder this further.

Lastly, I wanted to mention a really interesting conversation I had with one of the Ulpan teachers yesterday after class. Since I missed several days of Ulpan last week due to being sick, I had about 45 minutes of extra instruction after class from a different teacher to make sure I understood adjectives properly in Hebrew (which I mostly did, after some explanation from her). Afterwards, we spoke about the upcoming Israeli elections (tomorrow), and I asked who she is going to vote for, and how she thinks the country might lean. I was surprised with what she told me.

First of all, she told me that the usually-voting population of the state of Israel is probably going to stay home in large numbers. Apparently, there are several odd factors at work here. First, the conservative coalition is more conservative than usual, which turns many people away from them. At the same time though, none of the 4 candidates for prime minister actually has any platform of positions or intentions… which rings familiar with many American elections in recent years.

Her last statement, though, is the one that really took me aback. There are people at home that make strong or weak claims regarding the US and its seeming tendency to let Israel shape its foreign policy and defense spending. This teacher, though, ended her exposition of her politics with “it really doesn’t matter who is elected though; if the US says ‘do X,’ that’s what Israel will end up doing.” This seems to ring somewhat true, as not only did she have no reason to lie to me, but a country reliant upon the US for aid should be inclined to follow its lead. It becomes apparent, then, that perhaps Israel doesn’t determine all that much in terms of US policy – it is like any other traditional US ally, in that it receives US support and in return has to show some respect for US expectations. This also goes to show that a US citizen’s vote is worth a whole bunch more than they might normally consider, because the decisions of the US truly affect the security and prosperity of a slew of people around the world. Something to consider when listening to any American politician’s understanding of war and peace, I feel.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: