366 Views
1 Comments

Eight Days in Palestine: why living is the best form of resistence

‘Where did you go on your travels? And who did you meet?’

These two questions formed the thrust of the Israeli border security agent’s interrogation as we attempted to leave Israel. Being at the mercy of the state, I did not respond honestly then but I believe the truth of those answers need sharing. I hope after reading this you agree.

Eight days earlier, on Friday 8th September, I had introduced myself to a group of then-strangers in Dublin airport. We had all signed up for an educational visit to Palestine, to see and hear how the Israeli occupation of the West Bank was experienced by the people living there. I was already broadly convinced that the Palestinians were being treated unjustly but felt (a little like a doubting Thomas) that seeing is believing and jumped at the chance to join this trip. Our group of 35 people was led by Elaine Daly, who had been organising such visits for ten years.

Having her knowledge of the region, as well as her experience in leading large groups, provided reassurance as we began our journey. However, fate has a funny way of upsetting such notions. Our trip quickly became eventful after arriving at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. We had started going through passport control (and some of our party had even exited the airport) when border security pulled most of us back into in a holding room where we were to remain for the next 2-3 hours. Our passports were confiscated, those who had already visited Israel were interrogated and in the end, four members of our party (including group leader Elaine) were deported, mere hours after arriving. The rest of us eventually had our passports returned and were allowed to leave the airport. There were two official reasons provided for the deportations: the risk of illegal immigration and public safety considerations.

It was obvious to us however that the Israeli government had become aware of the true nature of these trips and did not want foreigners to come and discover how Palestinians experience the occupation. I would like to say that the deportations were an aberration, but sadly they set the tone for the rest of our trip. The following day, we were given a tour of Bethlehem and shown the land which had once belonged to local farmers. This was separated from them by the erection of ‘security walls’ and then eventually declared property of the state as a result of inactivity, despite the fact the walls made it impossible for them to access the land! That same day we visited the Lajee Culture Centre in Aida Refugee camp. Aida came into existence in 1948 following the Nakba and its residents have lived there since (so between 3-4 generations of families are waiting to return to homes taken from them almost 70 years ago).

The staff were describing the centre’s role as a space for schooling and cultural activities for young people, when they abruptly stopped talking and turned off the air conditioning. It quickly transpired that a few children from the camp had thrown some stones at the Israeli army base 500m away (unsurprisingly these stones did not reach the base) and that in response, the soldiers had started shelling CS gas. Soon we felt an unpleasant taste in our mouths and our eyes stung. If it was uncomfortable for those of us inside the centre, we then wondered, how bad was it outside? What kind of impact did this have on your health? The staff told us that this happens on a near daily basis. On a visit to Hebron we witnessed another facet of Israeli power. Hebron is a city of great importance in both Islam and Judaism, as Abraham is buried there. As such it has an aggressive settler presence. This aggression manifests itself in a concentrated effort to force Palestinians to leave their homes in the old city and thus we found ourselves in streets where Palestinians live, but on which they are not allowed to walk down.

If it happened anywhere else we would call it segregation but to the soldiers manning the checkpoints it was simply the law. At the end of the day, our Palestinian guide was prevented by two soldiers from walking the last fifty yards back to our bus because we had to go through a street which is for Israelis-only. So, he was forced to leave our group and return on his own, having to take a taxi to meet up with us later. it is bureaucratic control, rather than the use of force, through which the occupation is largely realised And it is that bureaucratic control, rather than the overt use of force, through which the occupation is largely realised. It is the roads in the West Bank which only Israelis are allowed to drive on, to keep them from having to come into contact with Palestinians.

It is the legal status of the residents of East Jerusalem, which was annexed in 1967 and formally incorporated into the Israeli state. At the same time, the Israeli government did not grant those living there Israeli citizenship, only residency rights, a legal status which is much easier to revoke. Residents described how the government uses a variety of methods (such as if they live abroad, not showing ‘allegiance’ to Israel, denying permits to build homes) to strip them of these residency rights and ultimately lower the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem. As the staff of the Badil resource centre said, it is the permit system which perhaps best symbolises this use of bureaucratic control. Palestinians need these permits for a huge range of day-to-day living. If they have to visit a hospital outside of their town, they need a permit.

If they have to work in Israel, they need a permit. If they have to cross an army checkpoint to access their land, they need a permit. If they want to bring a donkey or tools onto their land, they need permits for each item. And so on and so on. I could continue but I imagine my argument is fairly clear. You may be thinking that the Palestinians are not angels, where is the Israeli perspective?

Well, we heard plenty of discontent from Palestinians regarding the corrupt nature of the Palestinian Authority and their illiberal crackdown on any form of dissent. Equally we were told of some of the less-than-democratic methods used to control resources in the refugee camps. We also met with Israeli human rights groups and peace activists, working to support the Palestinian cause, but who described their despair over the general apathy of the Israeli population towards the occupation.

Finally, we met with a settler living in the settlement of Kiryat Arba. He spun us a story of Israeli-Palestinian relations which could have been plucked from the plot of a Disney film, a version of reality which we did not once encounter. It is obvious that this is not a balanced conflict. With one side holding all the military, financial and political power; even the word conflict is inadequate. Relations between the two parties are as one-sided as they get. As we were told by numerous Palestinians, simply living is now their best form of resistance. Then you may say, fine, I know all this but what can we do? It goes without saying that ending the conflict is up to the Israelis and the Palestinians (and is largely in the hands of the former).

However, we can support the liberation of Palestine in our own countries through not engaging with Israeli products or companies, similar to the boycott of Apartheid South Africa. Through working with movements such as BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), who have organised to successfully pressure companies such as Sodastream and G4S to end their work in Israel. Through lobbying our political representatives and governments to ban the importing of Israeli armaments and military technology. At times, witnessing the reality of the occupation made this an incredibly sad trip, especially as there seems to be so little chance of the situation improving.

Yet the Palestinians we met, whilst unhappy, refused to stop living or abandon their belief that one day they would be free. Those of us who support their cause must harness this sense of justice in our own efforts to aid their liberation.

If anyone is interested in going on this trip in 2018, please contact westbanktrip@eircom.net.

Image: Stephanie Kirwan

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

One Comment

  1. Wish you good Sir. Will read you first thing in seven to eight hours as it dark. Thanks and Regards. the

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
731 views1
Campus News
731 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
169 views
Arts
169 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
186 views
Arts
186 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
180 views
Arts
180 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
224 views
Arts
224 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
229 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
219 views
Arts
219 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
211 views
Arts
211 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
336 views
Campus News
336 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
172 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
469 views
Arts
469 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
214 views
Arts
214 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
312 views
Artist Focus
312 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
219 views
Interview
219 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
298 views
Arts
298 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
336 views
Arts
336 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
375 views
Arts
375 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
271 views
Artist Focus
271 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
283 views
Books
283 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
368 views
Science
368 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
340 views
News
340 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…