The Occupation Notebooks: Entry 13: Ramallah and Nablus

On Tuesday, January 21, we were in Ramallah and Nablus.

We met with the Women’s Studies Institute at Bir Zeit University, went to Arafat’s Memorial and the Mahmoud Darwish Museum, and met with representatives of various Palestinian political groups.

The faculty of the WSI are working on diverse issues related to gender based violence, political diversity, and prisoner rights within Palestine. We also discussed the social mechanisms Israel uses in normalizing colonization, including the NGO-ization of political struggles against the occupation.

We also discussed the potential role of BDS in distorting non-violent issues and politics within the United States. Signatures on a petition or a vote for a resolution does not solve anything “on the ground” in Palestine: “my land is still being confiscated.” This was an argument I heard from many of the people we met with–the need for immediate address to the severe social conditions of occupation and frustration with the kind of long-term vision of a BDS campaign.

With representatives of various Palestinian political groups, we heard many perspectives and arguments aimed at the purpose of our delegation. They began by talking with us about the hope that the American Studies Association resolution gave them. That there is not a united voice or perspective in the U.S. on Israel, despite the advertising done by certain U.S. and Israel leaders to the contrary. That U.S. citizens can make up their own minds about what their country is doing, weighing Israeli actions in relation to their own values for democracy and justice.

We also discussed the way the “peace negotiations” have been used to defer the kind of agreement needed to end the conflict. The way the U.S. (Kerry being the most recent representative) has privileged Israeli proposals, particularly around territorial issues, but also the way the negotiations endorse by stalling and so facilitating the economic control of Palestinian resources and labor. They addressed how Israel and the U.S. have blamed Palestinians for the failure to reach an agreement, though since Oslo they are often not at the table or at the table in very provisional ways.

Each of the representatives said that they wanted people from the U.S. to “come and see” what is happening in Palestine for themselves. This invitation was repeated in almost every meeting we had–“don’t believe us, don’t believe your leaders, come and see for yourselves.”

It is an invitation that surprised me. For many indigenous communities in the United States, they would prefer that people stop “coming and seeing” them. They experience even researchers as playing tourists with their poverty and struggles. Not the case in Palestine. They want people to come, to see, to learn, and to return home and pressure the U.S. and its citizens to change its policies and perspectives. To stop enabling the occupation.

References
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