Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Some reflections on the way from Istanbul to Iraq--081610--Istanbul, Turkey -Erbil, Iraq

On the way to Iraqi-Kurdistan from Istanbul, with a long trip ahead of me. I don’t know what to think, what to say, what to do, what to write……Thirty hours to go, and enough to think and reflect about the past month and a half that I have been here. Sometimes I that that it has been worthless, that all this time have passed and I don’t see or perceive anything new, but what were my expectations? My expectations were to see, to feel, to hear, to smell and to live the Arab-Israeli conflict.

To that respect, what can I say? I have lived here for 5 weeks, deep into the struggle. The first week was full of lectures, and meetings, with people and organizations that work on a daily basis with different aspects of the conflict. I met professors, students, Palestinians, Israelis, soldiers and civil society all of them experimenting the conflict from a different perspective. In addition I traveled around the country, (both of them) and was able to see how, day by day, some live the conflict while others pretend to live as it didn’t exist. But it does, how to negate it? I DID see it and nobody can say otherwise, nobody can tell me that what I saw was a product of my imagination.

• I saw how a whole village was demolished and how over 300 Bedouins from the Negev saw their homes destroyed.
• I saw how in Jerusalem, certain areas are more developed while others suffer from lack of infrastructure.
• I heard how Israeli citizens that don’t support its country’s racists policies nor the occupation are marginalized professionally and in all aspects of social life and I saw how others that had “served their country” still carry the permanent wounds on their bodies.
• I saw how movement is restricted by means of checkpoints, roadblocks and random policies, including making it hard for tourists who want to visit religious places in the Palestinian territories to prevent the economical development that comes with tourism.
• I heard how Palestinian students are prevented from studying certain careers that are critical for the development of a country and the health of its citizens. How they are detained under administrative detention to prevent their professional development and opportunities to go abroad and most of all their future contribution to their nation.
• I heard how the occupation and militarization affect the physical and mental health of pregnant women. How hard is for a pregnant woman to manage pregnancy under the occupation and the long term effect that it has on the newborn’s health.
• I saw how occupation affect psychologically the children that live in the refugee camps, how they grow with feelings of hate towards the only israelis they get to know during their lives: the Israeli soldiers.

From my part I can say that it was harder than I thought. The physical conditions, the isolation of being all the time working in the farm, far from the ‘real world” made it hard for me to adapt to the new environment. Working long hours not only physically but mentally, didn’t help. It has been tiring and to tell the truth a little frustrating. I thought I would enjoy more, but must of the times I was so tired and I didn’t have the energy of writing or analyzing what was happening around me. I didn’t even have the time to read the news. What I knew was because either I was going through it or one of my fellow interns told me about what they were working in their organizations.

I still have a lot to process, analyze and re-analyze. I have many stories, pictures and most of all experiences. I felt frustrated, first, because, there is no clear path to solve this conflict. Everyone seems to have their own interpretations of what is the conflict. Many seem to coincide in that the occupation is the only problem and that the end to the occupation will be the end of the conflict. But is it worth only to end the occupation if many of the discriminatory policies against Palestinians are coming from the pseudo-democracy called Israel which is discriminating against is 1.2 million Arab citizens? They are discriminated in terms of employment, education, property, amongst others. Even discriminated when they have to choose who to marry with and live for the rest of their lives.

Others argue that the solution lies in the creation of two-states. This is un-realistic! If the two states are going to be defined with the facts on the ground that the Israeli state has created this is not a sustainable and definite solution either. It could be by name, but it will not promote the safety of the Israeli citizens. The situation on the ground is that Israel controls the infrastructure, the borders and the access to water of Palestinians. It has placed strategically half a million of its citizens, armed, within the Palestinian territories, and it has not been for lack of space inside Israel and it utilizes for its benefit the natural resources located in Palestinian land. As Dr. Shenhav said, the two state solution is immoral and it perpetrates Jewish supremacy. In the partition plan, the Jews were granted 55% and the Arabs 45% of the land, today the ratio is 82% to 18% so what kind of a two-state solution is this? This 18% is controlled by Israeli military, there is no territorial continuity and is divided into 4 cantons which are ruled municipally but not on political sovereignty. There is no justice element in this solution.

The one-bi-national-state option with Israelis and Palestinians living in a democracy, not only a Jewish democracy but one that represents its true demography seems to be an alternative, but is not one that is widely accepted because it represents a threat to what is now the state of Israel, and what it was created for: a safe haven for the Jewish people. The fear of a bi-national state comes when we take into consideration the Palestinians of the occupied territories (4M) and the ones living in Israel (1.2M), this will represent 50% of the population. It has been demonstrated that the Palestinians growing rate is higher than the Jewish and that eventually the Palestinians will become the demographic majority which will mean that the Jews will become the minority in a short time. I think that no Jew is in a position of accepting this as a solution and they prefer to maintain the Palestinians at the other side of the wall and that way they feel safer. Then we are back to the beginning of the problem. Can somebody help me?? Someone has a better idea?

Well, I still have three months for more analysis, more conversations and more experiences; therefore I don’t want to be frustrated anymore, I want to be positive. I have come to understand a little the Israeli perspective, but that does not justify the oppression, the racism and the violence with which Palestinians are treated. No violent regime is sustainable; it is a vicious circle that creates more violence, more hate and intolerance. This is not the way to solve this or any other conflict. I’m not saying that either part is better than the other, because both parts have done horrible things. I want to be a little idealist and think that it could help if we present both actors like the human beings they represent, with no part being less human than the other. It is easy to dehumanize the other side because that way we can justify our actions. Sometimes I think that this is the root cause of this conflict that we always want to present the other part as less human. Palestinians are terrorists and we cannot have any mercy with them, either they are children or women or old people. Then horrible things happen, like the 1500 Palestinians killed during operation Cast Lead. Or when the IDF took a boat in international waters and this resulted in the killing of civilians and the eyes of the world look at Israel with an accusing eye and we generalize and make all Israelis accountable for this atrocity and the international community accuses Israel of state terrorism. None of this helps to solve the conflict, but it creates more tension. If we humanize both parts and if we looked at the things we have in common, like the desire to co-exist and to recognize and respect the right of the other to live in peace, don’t you think that things will be different?

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