SPECIAL TO THINK & ASK
It has been a little more than one year since I last described life in (and from) Palestine. Since that time, I've received questions that could all be summed up as, "Are Palestinians being governed by two opposing groups of terrorists?"
I guess such thoughts are routed in how the media in the United States spins Palestine...which is interesting from this journalist's point of view since they are not here, but I am.
Speaking as an outsider and living with the Palestinians day-in and day-out, I want to explain what I hear them say.
Palestinian "internal politics" have to be considered from the context of living under military occupation. Life-long residents of the United States can't relate to living under occupation. Military occupations are dictatorships, and despite what semblance of democracy neighboring Israel may claim to have within its own country, in the occupied Palestinian territories (the West Bank and Gaza,) such democracy is not known here.
Israeli laws are enforced arbitrarily, but with extraordinary zeal. There is a law against picking wild thyme, for example. It is not enforced in Israel, but within occupied Palestine, poverty-stricken elderly ladies find themselves under arrest, and having to pay enormous fines for picking the wild herb thyme... That is just a minor example, but there are dozens more.
Palestinians are forbidden from driving their cars outside of their own municipality without a special --and rarely granted permit-- from Israel. Only taxis can travel between Palestinian areas.
Palestinians are required to get a 'building permit' from Israel for building a home or expanding an existing home on private property, but NO PERMITS have been granted since the law was enacted in 1967.
One's lack of a permit serves as justification for Israeli troops to destroy a Palestinian home. More often than not, that destroyed home just so happens to lie within the path of a planned Israeli settlement or the 'The Wall.'
Water wells, in this arid region, require permits for Palestinians, but Israeli settlers may dig wells on their own. But even if a permit was granted to a Palestinian the depth is limited to 70 meters short of what the Israelis may drill.
Proper identification cards are required for Palestinians in areas scheduled for Israeli takeover (Israel's future side of The Wall) and this rule prohibits Palestinians from occupying their own homes in Jerusalem's east side. So, without a Jerusalem ID Palestinians end-up being stuck with family or friends in the West Bank.
In one neighborhood in east Jerusalem during 2005, 88 houses and apartment buildings with some 1,000 (Palestinian) residents were destroyed by the Israeli Jerusalem Municipality to make way for settlement expansion into that area. This region happens to overlook the coveted Temple Mount, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, third holiest site in the world for Muslims. But the mount is ravenously desired by certain factions of radical Judaism in favor of replacing the Mosque with a Jewish Temple.
Some of these factions are part of the recent movement to take over land in the Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem too, or in their own words, "Hold on to outposts in East Jerusalem and create an irreversible situation in the sacred basin around the Old City," said Adi Mintz, spokesman of 'Ehad' settler group.
"We break up Arab continuity and their claim to East Jerusalem by putting in isolated islands of Jewish presence in areas of Arab population," said Uri Bank, a leader of the pro-settlement Moledet party.
"Then we definitely try to put these together to form our own continuity. It's just like Lego [bricks,] you put the pieces out there and connect the dots...Our eventual goal is Jewish continuity in all of Jerusalem," Bank said.
As Ehud Olmert takes his leadership role as Israel's new prime minister, the Israeli leadership supports this plan. Olmert said, "We will take the Jordan Valley, the Ma'ale Adumim bloc, and of course Ariel will always remain a part of Israel." This refers to the names of large Israeli settlements built illegally (according to international law) on occupied Palestinian land.
"The choice is painful, but if Israel does not act quickly and divide themselves completely from the Palestinians," Olmert said, "The Arab population will soon outnumber the Jewish population in Israel. It would lead to the loss of Israel as a Jewish state."
In the United States, Olmert is seen as a man of peace. He'll drive building The Wall, which is two-meters higher than the fallen Berlin Wall, in order to separate Israelis from Palestinians. About 20 percent of the West Bank will fall into Israel via The Wall, isolating Palestinians into small enclaves. Israeli guard towers built every 200 meters in The Wall will watch Palestinians. Olmert states that the intention of The Wall is NOT to "stop terrorists," but to keep populations separate as to not allow Arabs to outnumber Jews. He said Palestinians tend to have more children.
So, it is up to Palestinians to offer the olive branch of peace, according to Olmert, from the confines of what I certainly see as prison land.
My pal Tom once said, "There is an inside, an outside, and lots of factions." Meaning Palestinians 'inside the prison walls,' live in Israeli-run camps. The outside, speaking regionally, where some 3.5 million Palestinian refugees live in camps are waiting in surrounding Arab countries and other regions in the world.
The 'lots of factions' applies inside and it seems to me that the most appropriate analogy is defined as prison: Within the prison, and among the prisoners, there are always various factions vying for power. Those factions favored by the prison guards tend to be better off, they get resources they can distribute at will to other prisoners, and special favors and privileges to distribute as well. This ties into the Fatah party (and President Mahmoud Abbas,) which seems to represent most Palestinians ideals.
But the Hamas party represents that other group of prisoners opposing the guard-power. They get their funding and favors from other sources, and sometimes manage to lob a projectile over the prison wall. Sometimes they manage to convince a young prisoner to escape and blow up people in Israel. That young life knows nothing past prison walls, which literally have been in place for generations at this point. But the victims turn out to be those outside prison and were not aware that it was their government that created these conditions to begin with.
There are other factions, vying for favors or power or, in some cases, vying for justice. But those factions do not gain much traction in prison, after all, it is the prison guards, or in this case the Israeli Occupying Army, who call the shots in jail.
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