Just under a couple of weeks ago, I set off to Israel and Palestine on a university fieldtrip with a group of fellow students. Indeed, much of our fieldtrip would be spent in the West Bank, which would mean immersing ourselves in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. It would be my first time in the Middle East and as such, I wasn’t too sure about what to expect from Palestine. Of course, it is separated from Israel by the separation barrier and military checkpoints. The barrier restricts movement both from and within the West Bank, separates farmers from their land, and has also been known to block medical supplies from entering Palestine. Therefore, with this in mind, I was half expecting the West Bank to be a sort of place of despair.
This is reinforced when you enter Palestine as well. When driving around the West Bank, there are big red signs that say ‘This Road leads to Area ‘A’ Under The Palestinian Authority. The Entrance For Israeli Citizens Is Forbidden, Dangerous To Your Lives, And Is Against The Israeli Law’*. Indeed, as an Israeli citizen told me, this sign has been made for security reasons, as Israelis have previously been killed by terrorist attacks in Zone A. Needless to say, these attacks can not be condoned, and it is impossible to understand how it must feel for the families of the those who were killed. However, this sweeping generalisation, suggesting that the Palestinian people are out to kill Israelis, is an insult to the Palestinian themselves. As you can imagine, they find it very offensive.
Having visited Palestine and having spoken to some of the people that live there, I now know that the big red sign couldn’t be further from the truth. Without diving into the politics of the region, I can tell you that Palestine is one of the most amazing places that I have ever been to. The people are friendly and welcoming, and are always keen on telling you their stories and on selling you their wares. Furthermore, I do not believe that to enter Zone A would be a danger to the lives of the Israeli people. Of course the Palestinian people are angry, as you can imagine, but mostly at the Israeli government, not the people. They wish to settle the conflict through peaceful means, not by taking to arms. It is also a beautiful place that will amaze you with its scenery.
Nevertheless, in relation to the barrier, it has certainly affected the lives of those that live there. Indeed, while it has aided Israeli security since it was built, some Israelis that we spoke to admitted that the wall was not a good thing. The wall circles houses, splits what were once bustling main roads in half, and makes it very difficult for Palestinian people to go to work on the other side. However, it definitely hasn’t diminished Palestinian hopes of a prosperous future, for there is an air of defiance and determination within the Palestinian people.
Over the coming weeks, I will be posting stories about my ten days in Israel and Palestine. I intend to write about my experiences in a balanced way. Indeed, the Israeli-Palestinian Question is full of strong opinions and controversial topics, but I will try to write about them impartially. We all have our opinions, but there are always two sides to a story.
* Zone A, or Area A, is one of three zones devised under the Oslo II Accords of 1995. These zones of the West Bank are divided according to the different levels of self-governance that the Palestinians would have over it. These zones were meant to be temporary, until a permanent arrangement could be found. The zones function as follows:
Zone A: Full control of the Palestinian Authority
Zone B: Joint Israeli-Palestinian security control; Palestinian civil control
Zone C: Full Israeli control
For more info, visit: http://www.refworld.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/rwmain?docid=3de5ebbc0