I have been giving the great opportunity to tour Israel and Palestine through the Inter-Faith Peace Bulders Deligation. This program routinely brings a diverse intergerational group of people to the region to learn about the conflict and visit many different organizations and individuals who are rarely seen in the normal media. This campaign is being sponsored by US Campaign to End the Occupation.
After being here for a few days and touring a few settlements, I already have too much to say that can condense in a digestible form. What comes immediately to mind is the degree to which the Israeli government is explicitly dealing with the Palestinian question. Settlements are a hot topic now, but when you see the tunnels and roads that bypass Palestinian communities and see the maps of how they engulf all of the contiguous ethnically homogeneous communities, you begin to see a through plan.
Nof Zion is a settlement that strategically sits looking out at prime real estate as it encroaches on East Jerusalem, an important portion of the city that the Palestinian effort deeply wishes to claim as their future capital. A woman named Sarah from the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions showed us in clear terms the extent this portion of the city is being challenged by Israeli law. From the random demolitions, to the insurmountable fees for construction, you begin to forget what side of the green line this area is in. The legal structures permits relative dissolution of Palestinian neighborhoods and land. The narrative in the West about this region is that there are two different lands in conflict but the reality is that one is in the belly of the other. Only after visiting the separation wall in Abu Dis –a recent 30 foot concrete barrier that penetrates straight through a community thought as a possible secondary capital–does it begin to set in that the settlement locations and the wall are short term plans that are successful in hindering the development of a cohesive Palestinian community near and within Jerusalem. Silwan, a small Palestinian community located near the Western wall and faces constant problems with ideological settlers (a small minority to the large number of heavily subsidized settlers from all over the world claiming Israeli citizenship) is only another example of real estate interests of several different powers that jeopardize any hope of a Palestinian state.
It is very common to hear in the media about the two-state solution as a possible answer but as I see it, there is no "Palestine" outside of this growing Israel. This places a hard question to consider when the expanding Palestinian and non-Jewish population within the Israeli border outnumbers the Jewish inhabitants. This could happen within two decades. Will Israel be prepared to become less and less democratic for the sake of a Jewish Identity? I do not see a long term plan coming from the Israelis. I only see a short term remedy that involves the dehumanization of one people, and borderline racism within the nation of Israel.
Dheisheh Refugee Camp Al-Phoenix Community Center