HER STORY #39 - Siwar
I'm originally from Arrabe village, in the Galilee in the North. I was raised there, and moved to Haifa when I started my studies about ten years ago at the age of 20. I've been there since. I was actually born in Haifa, and my parents moved back to the village when I was five years old.
My society is a very conservative society, but it wasn't like that in the 80s and in the 90s.
On a social and personal level, I prefer to be here [in Haifa], because I want my privacy, and I don’t want to live in a place where family and neighbors interfere with my personal life, and this can occur in conservative societies. Sometimes there is no appreciation, or respect, for personal space.
I see people who get married and go back to their villages (usually the women go and live in the village or the city of their husband). I’m also engaged now to someone who is from Ar’ara [Arab town in Wadi Ara in northern Israel], and we are getting married next year. According to my society, I should go and live there, and in the worst case I would go and live near or in the same building as his parents, sisters, or brothers. For me that’s impossible. When my father got married 37 or 38 years ago, he could live like this with his brother, but he chose to live somewhere else in his village, because he wanted his own privacy and his own space.
I also don’t want to be in the village, because there is nothing there. Part of the marginalization of Palestinian villages is due to the lack of budgets and resources, so if you go to Arrabe, it looks like a refugee camp, and now it’s also very crowded, because there is not enough space to build. Usually the government doesn’t allow us to build beyond the borders of the village. However, land is still taken from us. Many people have lost their land because the government took it from them as part of policies that marginalize Palestinians. So it’s crowded, and there’s a lot of chaos because of the lack of housing.
When I think about the future of my kids, there is nothing for them there. I remember as a teenager I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have any place to go, especially in terms of extra-curricular activities. When I wanted to go to swimming lessons I had to go to the neighboring [Jewish] town Misgav Am, because I didn’t have a place to swim in my own village.
There is something that they say about occupation – that it corrupts [Israelis]. I think the same thing applies to the people living under occupation, and I do think that Palestinian society has changed a lot under Israeli rule, and that it has become more violent than it was before. When you discriminate against and marginalize people, something in them becomes selfish and they just want to survive no matter what, and therefore they don’t think about the interests of the collective. There is a deterioration of morals.
As a kid, I remember how people were simpler, and they loved each other more. I experienced this in the 80s and 90s, but my parents have also told me that people were more loving and more generous before. Something has changed with time. This could also have to do with the modernization of society, but I think occupation plays a role. You need to survive, and you don’t care about anything else. And I see this in people. They are not as warm and friendly as before. I feel like I’m losing my own society. I’m not saying that I’m not connected to that society, but it becomes more difficult to live with these changes.
As I said, I’ve lived in Haifa for 10 years now. I love the geography of the place, the mountains and sea are beautiful. It’s a mixed town, so it has both Arabs and Jews, including Jews from before the Nakba [literally “Catastrophe” in Arabic, known as the Palestinian exodus in 1948]. With the Jewish immigration before 1948, about 25-30% of Haifa’s population were Jews.
What is also nice about this city is that it’s not a small city, but it’s not as crowded as Tel Aviv, for example. In Tel Aviv I feel like I can’t breathe. What I also love about Haifa is that it has a really unique atmosphere, the people that are moving to Haifa now are educated, intellectuals, artists, and academics, so there is something starting to develop – a new Palestinian community that is very special, and that organizes social and cultural events, and I know that it’s a good thing.
I also have more freedom and more space here, and maybe at some point I would decide to have my own house, and we would decide to go to Ar’ara. He [fiancé] owns lands from his father, so he has space there that he could build on. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to do that for my kids, to take them there, because I didn’t like to live there [in my village]. I want them to be in a place where they can go to different activities (swimming, basketball, etc.).
The racist policies that I talk about make some Palestinians leave their cities and villages to look for a future. Luckily we still have Haifa as an alternative because the other option would be to live in isolation in Jewish cities, where there are no Palestinian communities, no Arab schools.
I’m doing a PhD in social psychology. I’m studying conflict under the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. I got my scholarship from the IDC [Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya], so I’m based there. The main subject of my PhD is collective action and political protests—what motivates people to engage in political and social protest, and action in general.
I’ve been interested in political psychology from a young age, but back then I didn’t take the idea seriously, as I thought it wasn’t something that could secure me work, so I eventually decided to study psychology with a focus on clinical psychology perhaps or another branch, and at the same time I applied to be an assistant in research [at the IDC].
I had actually applied for a PhD in educational psychology and community psychology in the UK. I was accepted, but I didn’t get the scholarship. It’s difficult when you’re an Israeli with a Palestinian identity. Jewish funds mainly support Jewish Israelis, and those who fund Palestinians do not fund Palestinians with Israeli citizenships. It’s also limited, because some of the few available grants, like Fulbright, are not given to clinical subjects, and psychology is considered a clinical subject. So I decided that I wanted to go to the UK and fund my own studies with the help of my parents, but then my English test expired, and I only had another month to do it, meaning I couldn’t travel and I had to wait. I began looking for a job, and that’s how I applied to become a research assistant at the IDC.
When I got there, my supervisor asked if I was interested in doing a PhD in social psychology. I hesitated in the beginning for several reasons. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into that field, because even though I loved research, I needed to work. But I was mainly worried about going into an Israeli institution to study conflict. I was scared that I would be in a situation, where I wouldn’t have my freedom to do my own research. That’s why I had applied for universities abroad. I didn’t want to be in an Israeli institution.
So I took a year as a research assistant to check out the environment. I was the only Palestinian in the lab that year and also the year after. Luckily I ended up working with a very great researcher, who is also my friend now, and I have gotten much support from the person who is currently my supervisor (and also the director of the lab), and who made it possible for me to get my own space in the lab. Therefore, I decided to do my PhD there, which I began last year, but it still doesn’t mean that there haven’t been conflicts along the way.
It’s not an easy thing to work in an Israeli institute, and very rarely [as a Palestinian] you find a supportive environment, and just because I have it now, doesn’t mean that others Palestinians have it. For example, my sister is a doctor. She doesn’t talk about politics at work because it could probably make things complicated for her or cause her trouble.
I know that what I have now is because someone made sure of it. The director of the lab wants a very diverse lab, and therefore he brings in Palestinians and foreigners – and not only Israelis – and he believes that having diversity creates tolerance and acceptance of other perspectives. But you don’t have that in other places, so that’s a struggle, and I’m here now, but I don’t know where I’ll be after my PhD when I need to go into the real world and find a job. I hope that it will be okay, but it’s something that I need to be prepared for.
To boost my CV I do need to go abroad, for example to the US, to do my post-doc, in order to get a job here [in Israel] afterwards. I don’t have a choice. There are no Palestinian universities [in Israel]. We only have Palestinian academies or schools, within teaching for example, as well as some small private academies, but we don’t have a formal, or a governmental, Palestinian institution, or even a private one. There is nothing like this, so my options are limited in terms of that, and I don’t exclude the possibility that I might work in an Israeli institution. It won’t be easy to be in that place.
It worries me, but I try not to think too much about it, because I still have three years before I finish my PhD. I don’t want to be occupied with this issue, because I need all my energy to deal with my PhD, so any worry about the future would distract me from the things that I do right now.
Member of Marginalized Community
When it comes to politics and societal issues, the things that sometimes are taken for granted by the other side [the Israeli Jewish side] are things that I question. As a Palestinian, as a member of a minority, I can say that the perspective of the majority is often very different. The majority doesn’t take the minority into consideration, and in choosing the subject of my PhD I had to bring power relations into it.
These power dynamics are always there, even in your personal relationships with your co-workers. Even when explaining yourself, when you do a study or research, you sometimes have to insist on some things, and on terminology, such as, for example, ‘what is occupation?’ Are we only referring to 1967? Even in terms of terminology, nothing is obvious, at least for me.
When you get into a [research] lab, and you’re the only Palestinian, you’re different from all the people there. I’m not a leftist or a rightist on the Israeli side, so I can’t locate myself there. Even when it comes to my leftist [Israeli Jewish] friends in the lab, I can’t say that I agree with them on all issues. Sometimes we get into political debates, and sometimes I see that there are huge differences in terms of thoughts. When we debate some issues it makes me feel that some people are suffering and they are paying the price of this conflict, and we’re not really touching the reality of the people who are going through these things. There is a distance.
The majority of those in the discussions [in the lab] don’t know the other side very well. One side doesn’t understand the perspective of the other side, and I always try to bring the Palestinian perspective, not because it’s Palestinian, but because it’s the perspective of a lower class, marginalized group in this conflict – a disadvantaged one.
This is what creates conflict for me, especially in times of escalation, such as the last war in Gaza or during attacks or political tension. I can’t say that I go to the lab without these thoughts. I go there angry, also knowing that some colleagues adopt the mainstream Israeli perspective and they can justify Israeli crimes, such as justifying the execution of Kheir Hamdan from Kfar Kanna who posed no threat to the police but was shot with 6-7 bullets. Or in the case of the Palestinian from Hebron who was shot in the head after he was already lying on the ground. You know some Israelis think that he [the Palestinian] should be murdered because he tried to commit an attack; others think that the soldier was nervous. I say soldiers should not have been in Hebron at all, and when you oppress someone you need to expect a reaction.
Socially I interact with almost everyone [in the lab], but I also have my limits, so the closest relationships I have are those who more or less agree with me on crucial issues. The kind of people who I disagree with on the crucial issues such as occupation and discrimination policies, I don’t interact with them. I avoid them. I won’t collaborate with them, not only because of ideology, but emotionally I can’t.
If we agree on basic things, then we can have a discussion, but you need to have a common ground. Otherwise I wouldn’t get into a discussion. I would just hear and ignore what I heard. For example, I would not have much in common with someone who denies the catastrophe that happened to Palestinians in 1948. Or if someone justifies any military action against civilians in Gaza and in the West Bank, I can’t have a discussion with this person. How can I have a discussion with someone who justifies occupation? What kind of common ground could we possibly have?
I can understand, if people say things because they are ignorant and don’t have information about the roots of the conflict. Then I don’t mind. I remember I had a discussion with someone from the lab about my Palestinian identity. She told me: “If you have that, why don’t you go there [to the West Bank or Gaza]?” I was shocked. That is in a way what I have heard from right-wing activists countering protests I have been at: “Why don’t you go to Gaza?”, even though I have even heard it being said nicely.
I remember explaining to her [colleague from lab] why I identify as a Palestinian, and what happened in 1948, and we got into a bit of history. She had no idea, and maybe I was the first Palestinian or Arab that had told her that they identified as a Palestinian. She hadn’t meet anyone before, so these are things that I tried to capture. I need to, more or less, understand what kind of people are in front of me – if it is ignorance or racism and ideology.
We all have some biases, even me and Palestinians, so I try to understand, whether the person in front of me is just a rightist, or someone supporting racist policies because he has no clue and doesn’t understand the other side. Based on this I decide on whether to get into a discussion with that person or not.
When it’s huge issues, I just don’t have the energy to do it. I don’t remember myself going into too many political discussions in the lab. I only do it with people that I trust. If it’s a relationship with trust, then I feel like I can go into political discussions with them, but it takes a lot of energy, and it’s usually very hard to move someone from his position, so it makes political discussions pointless.
You need to have a personal relationship to make that move with another person. If you talk to someone with whom you don’t have personal contact, then the discussion will make him defensive, so it would probably make this person cling more to his political ideas. As a basis, you need some personal interactions, and then you can go on to discuss the real issues.
I have a Facebook account and so do many activists, and I see that the discussions on Facebook are sometimes pointless because you don’t have real contact between people, and going into a discussion with strangers is not very productive. You don’t have the trust and communication, and I think that’s what needs to happen for a healthy context.
In the Second Intifada in 2000, I was 14 years old. That is when Sharon visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] with 1,000 police officers, and Palestinians in Jerusalem and in the West Bank took to the streets to protest that visit. Protests were also going on here, including in my village.
On October 2nd  my brother, Asel, left the house with my cousin to go to the protest. I didn’t know that he was going there. Everything that I tell you now is something I found out about after he died. These are not things that I knew when he left.
I was home that day, alone. My parents had gone to visit my sister. My sister was living in Jerusalem, and my younger brother was with my parents in the neighborhood, I think.
When Asel went to the protest, he was witnessed sitting under an olive tree in the protest area, and three police officers approached him and hit him on his back with their weapon. He fell on the ground, and when he tried to stand up, he fell again. When he fell down, he was shot with live ammunition. This is what caused his eventual death. So basically Asel was executed. Alaa Nassar, the other guy from Arrabeh who was murdered, was shot by a sniper.
When my parents had heard that he went to the protest, they went to look for him to take him home, but they were not allowed to go in [as the road was blocked]. They recognized his green “Seeds of Peace” [the peace organization that Asel had been an active member of], 50 meters away. That is how they saw the police officers run after him. When he went into the olive grove, he [Asel] disappeared from their sight, but they saw the three police officers, who were running from the street to go after him. And they heard the gun shot, and this is when they realized that he was shot. After he was shot, witnesses say they heard one of the police officers say, “Now you can take him.”
They [police officers] put him in the ambulance, but the streets were blocked, so they didn’t get there [to the hospital] fast enough. Among 12 other martyrs who also were shot [during that period], there was also one from Sakhnin [Arab city located in the Lower Galilee in Israel], whose ambulance was not allowed to pass, and he died on the spot.
My parents came back in the evening, but I found out about everything before they came, as the house became full of people. People in the village had heard that Asel was injured, and then they started coming to the house. I didn’t know what happened. I was told that Asel had been injured, but that he was okay. It was around late evening that an official announcement was made about his death. Because of the checkpoints in the streets, my parents arrived to the hospital late, and when they got there, the doctor told them that he had passed away, and he gave them his clothes.
The first thing that I thought about was: “Who would harm Asel?” I couldn’t believe that Asel would do something that would cause someone else harm. He was a very peaceful and charming guy, and I was sure that he didn’t do anything. I think that the most shocking thing to me was: Who could do such a thing? What kind of human being could do this?
I think this is something that broke my innocence and broke my trust in humanity at a very young age. I could then sense the evilness of some human beings, in terms of how we talk about humanity and the fact that they have a dark side. Even though I study psychology, where many things can explain this, I am still amazed at what actions human beings are capable of. You actually beat an unarmed guy and execute him from a zero distance. You look at his face, and when you go to court, you say you didn’t do or see anything. So that changed my perception of humanity and society.
Even though I was raised in a family that is very politically aware [my parents have been activists since they were young, and my father was a political prisoner for five years, before he got married), this of course got me more involved in political activism.
I Wouldn’t Forgive Them for That
I think that what happened with Asel was very difficult on a personal level, because my parents were too occupied with what happened, and they wanted justice, so for many years they were not emotionally available for us. It probably influenced my younger brother the most, as he was nine years old when it happened, so the impact was strongest on him.
They [parents] had to organize protests, to talk to the media and to people, and to go to court and to follow up with things, including matters with the Family Committee of the Martyrs. They are less involved now because they are older and they don’t have the same energy and health as before.
When I say that the occupation influences each one of us, and when I say that I am marginalized as a child, youth, and that I don’t have resources and opportunities, that is discrimination, but the intensity of loss is much more intense than just experiencing discrimination in daily life. This is what the “political is personal” means for me. It influences everyone, but for me, one of the most precious things in my life died.
Even if there is justice, I wouldn’t be able to forgive them for this. I don’t think this is an individual act. This is part of systematic discriminatory and racist practices toward Palestinians in Israel, so I wouldn’t forgive the government and the officials that were involved [in the occurrence] during that time, including the police officers and the others involved in the other killings, since Asel wasn’t the only one. If we reached some kind of resolution and reconciliation, it would have to be on a collective level.
Nobody was brought to trial. The case got closed.
They brought the case to Machash [acronym for Israel’s Police Internal Investigations Department], and they did nothing except ask us to get the bodies out of the grave, which we refused to do. They tried to throw the ball in our court, and now they blame us for not cooperating with them. Some of the bodies went into surgery in the year 2000, and no conclusions were reached regarding the killing, so why would we agree to take Asel’s body for surgery, years after his death? If you didn’t reach any conclusion regarding those killings, why would you reach them now?
All cases were closed. The only thing the report came up with was that Palestinians in Israel face discrimination, which is ridiculous, because the size of the report’s conclusion is not as big as the intensity of the killing itself. We are talking about murder, and you talk about discrimination against Palestinians. We know it exists. We don’t need the whole committee to come up with this. We need you to bring every responsible police officer into trial, and they didn’t do that. They said they didn’t have enough evidence, but we knew who killed Asel in the court, and we knew who killed the other guys. There was enough evidence to bring everyone into trial, but they were not interested in justice, and this happens when the justice system is part of the whole system.
We didn’t have high expectations. Going to court was a pragmatic step that we took. We couldn’t stand aside and grieve over our sons, so we went to court as a practical step, to convey a message to the government that we won’t be silenced. Through the court we could reach the international media and maybe then to go to the international court, but for now there is nothing going on.
It went to the High Court, the highest level of justice [in Israel], and then it was transferred to Machash, which is ridiculous, since it’s the police investigating itself. Yet, from what I understand from my dad, we can take it to the international court. There are some legal processes that need to be taken care of in this regard, which I don’t really understand, so I don’t know what will happen.
The Absurdity of Life
I think that everything started in the Nakba in 1948, the displacements and the killings, and everything is related to this, and it continues until today. The system that killed people in the Nakba is the same system that killed my brother. It started there, and it continues.
I don’t know if I have closure, because until today I don’t understand death. It faces you with very difficult and existential questions. Politically there is no closure, and there will be no closure until justice is achieved, not only regarding this incident but justice in general for the Palestinian people.
Emotionally there is no closure, at least not for me. It left me feeling anxious about many things – the fear of losing people all the time, and the feeling that there was something or someone in your life, who isn’t there anymore. Today I see my parents getting older, and I’m really worried about them – this constant fear of loss. It’s something that I live with all the time, also in my personal relationships with friends. I always care and worry about them.
It also gives you a feeling of the absurdity of life, but not only because of Asel. Look at Syria. We are just a little more fortunate than those people, but if we were less fortunate, we would live in Syria or Iraq today, and we would go through the same disaster they went through. How can you rationalize that? I got through painful times and events in my life, but there are people that are even less fortunate who lost their entire families and houses. I don’t know how to rationalize that. I barely can live with the fact that I lost someone in my life, so to lose my whole family and become a refugee, makes life absurd.
Life is absurd because I can go into the street and lose my life in a car accident, just like that. This sense of absurdity is stronger, when you face death on a personal level. Because you have felt this before – how death can just come and take someone that you love or take you simply – you don’t have control over this.
On the positive side, I have learned to appreciate life and the moments I have with my family and my loved ones, and I promise myself to live life fully. I try to bring joy into my life, and I manage to do that, and I don’t like moodiness. I can’t say that I’m happy, but I try to create happy moments with my family, and I appreciate family and friends more than ever because of that experience. That is the good thing about it. Everything has a different meaning.
When you lose someone, you sense joy even more than people who haven’t lost anyone. This sense of sadness is also stronger, however. Every time I experience sadness, the trauma of what I went through comes through my unconsciousness, and everything becomes related to that.
I try to take time for myself, just to appreciate everything I have with my beloved, and I try not to be too occupied with materialistic things and to be more spiritual and to do things that do me good. Professionally, of course I want a successful career, but I know that what counts more in the end is my family and my loved ones.
My dad is religious, and sometimes religion helps you rationalize things, but I’m not religious, so I don’t rationalize like him.
I can say that my parents were still distant and still emotionally unavailable until their first grandson was born, eight years ago. There is some kind of improvement in their emotional state. They are more available now. They are somehow back to normal life, and they can socialize with people, but my mother still doesn’t go to weddings, because she feels that she can’t really share this joy with people. I don’t agree with her, but she’s a mother. I don’t want to judge her.
It feels sad, and I want her to be more joyful, and I want them [parents] to enjoy the rest of their lives. I’m not saying they are going to die tomorrow, but they’re not young. It hurts, but only a mother who lost a child knows that feeling, and not all mothers who lose their children experience the loss in the same way.
That’s why sometimes I take distance from home, because I want to be away from that state of mind. There is something in the emotional atmosphere that still exists there, something sad, not processed and that will always be present. That’s why I disconnect. There have also been some personal issues in the family, but the whole loss adds to everything, and it becomes the focal point of our family. I need some disconnection from that atmosphere. Even during my engagement [engagement party] last week, while I enjoyed it, I knew that there was some sadness in that happiness, because he [Asel] was not there anymore and couldn’t enjoy the engagement.
There was an incident, where my father was attacked by someone [from the village], and we knew that it was someone collaborating with the government. It happened during local elections in my village, so it was supposed to seem as if the incident was related to the elections, and not to Asel, but he [the attacker] confessed that he was pushed by the government or intelligence to attack my father, and that he had taken advantage of the elections to do it. It was meant to appear as a “dispute” over something else.
It was my family that managed to get the story of Asel and the other martyrs out to the international community. Before that, the Israeli media had treated us like numbers with no mention of names – nothing compared to when such incidents happened to Jews. But we had connections, so we spread it to international media. People from Seeds of Peace also helped us with that. Itay Anghel, an Israeli journalist, made the first breaking report about Asel and the events, although that only happened when it broke through to international media, and when the Israeli media came to us.
My father was head of the Family Committee. We were very active, and my family understood the mentality of the government, who had tried to make us collaborate many times. Even when Barak [Ehud Barak, Israeli politician] was running for election with Sharon [Ariel Sharon, Israeli politician], we had people coming from Barak asking us to collaborate. They tried to reach the families in many ways to wipe away everything. It's like a trap, a political trap that we could have gone into to, but my family was very smart in avoiding all traps and insisting on their cause. Until today they have refused to cooperate with any Israeli official until justice is made. We also don’t host any Israeli figures at our home.
But there has been a feeling of being targeted, because my father was a political prisoner, and the Shabak [acronym for “Shin Bet,” the Israeli Security Agency] was after him for a long time. He even feels like it was not a coincidence that Asel died. He feels that he [Asil] was targeted because of him [father]. That’s only a thought. It could be wrong or right, but that’s my dad’s feeling.
He [father] was targeted before. It’s not easy to be a political prisoner. It means you can’t study or work where you want. Even when he worked in a supermarket, he wanted to be promoted to manager (something simple), but he couldn’t make it. The owner of the supermarket told him that he received orders from above [shabak] not to promote my father, so these are real things that happened. He also wanted to be an accountant, but you can’t be that if you have a criminal record.
And the whole thing with Machash trying to blame us for not cooperating with the police, in order to clean themselves and to blame us. That’s also a way to hit us.
Some of the other families also got financial compensation for what happened, in return for closing the cases. This was a way to split the families and to make other families go against us, as my family refused to get any compensation for closing the cases. It created disagreement between the families, and some of the families attacked my father and told him that he was imposing himself on the others, and that they didn’t want him to lead them. Then he stepped down.
I have anger against the Jewish population. I’m very angry, because of this superior attitude that they have – this attitude of the chosen people. This land is theirs, and they have been chosen by God.
I know that Palestinians also have claims for this land but the difference is that they were forcibly displaced from their homes. This is why I think that the one-state solution should solve all these issues, because if I want to make a compromise as a Palestinian, I wouldn’t claim that this land is only mine. I would say that it’s for everyone. Maybe the comparison is not very good because it’s different when someone gets displaced, and someone else gets security on the account of other people, but I don’t like the sense of entitlement of getting more and occupying people just to feel safe and secure. If anything, it just brought more insecurity to Jewish people.
I don’t care about religion and religious claims, and I don’t care about Islamic claims. I don’t care, if it’s your promised land. I don’t believe in their God anyway. I have my own faith. Why should I pay the price, because you think this land is promised to you by God? To me it’s nonsense. It’s amazing how human beings as groups hang on to myths and trifle beliefs.
I don’t mind Jews coming here, even those who came in 1948. They could have come and lived here if they wanted to return to what they call Israel. If you want to live here peacefully, you’re welcome, but you don’t have to kick me out of my home and land, just for you to feel secure and safe.
The attitude of Palestinians comes from the perspective of the oppressed, of people who lost their land and want it back. Maybe Palestinians need to start thinking about this political compromise and to accept that other people are here, and that you can do nothing about them. If you want to do, what they did to you in 1948, you would need to throw five millions Jews into the sea. Would you want to be like that as a Palestinian?
I don’t want to do that, but I want to be human. I can’t kick five million people out. Justice doesn’t mean that I need to get everything back. Justice means that I need recognition of what happened, and compensation, and to be treated as an equal citizen and an equal person, and I don’t need a Jewish state. This Jewish state thing is something that I don’t understand. How can you believe that this state is yours, and basically exclude everyone who is not Jewish?? How can this be possible?
As part of my political compromise, it’s not about having a Palestinian state. It’s about having one state that could contain everyone, and it shouldn’t be based on ethnic identity. I don’t like this superiority about this being the state of the Jewish people. I live here and my family has lived here, and I don’t care about going back 5,000 years. The same could be done for Europe then. People move and come back all the time, and the whole concept of a state is modern. It didn’t exist before. So the whole argument that there was never any Palestinian is refuted.
So if you were here 5,000 years ago, fine then. Come back, but it doesn’t have to be a national state for the Jewish people, where you take away the rights of the Palestinians to live here.
It’s very difficult. I know that I live among Israelis all the time, but I do avoid them on a personal level. I only interact with them in the workplace, and I have this minor interaction in the grocery stores and on public transportation, so but it doesn’t go beyond this, and it’s difficult. Sometimes I feel that my default state is being a nice person. If I see someone that needs help, I will of course help, but this nice face just disappears when I’m in public because of an emotional barrier. It has to do with all the anger that I feel towards them [Israelis], especially when I go on the train and I see all the soldiers surrounding me. I just can’t help it.
It’s difficult, but this is why I run away to my own space, not to be in public all the time and not to have that interaction. When there are political tensions, it’s really felt. During tension I avoid speaking Arabic.
Six months ago, there was an escalation, and I reached a point, where I wouldn’t speak Arabic in public, because it was too dangerous. It’s not something that I feel all the time, because I don’t wear a headscarf, and something about the construction of my face doesn’t make me look like the stereotype that Israelis have [of Arabs], so in daily life I don’t feel too threatened, unless I speak Arabic.
Political Social Activist
I’m an active and political social activist. I’m less active now because of my work and studies, and also for personal issues.
I either go to demonstrations alone or with my parents. I have been hurt in demonstrations. They are usually violent. They use teargas, and they bring huge horses that look like dinosaurs. They also use different weapons that are not illegal to use in demonstrations, so whenever you go to a demonstration, just hope that you’ll come back safe, because you could also be shot in the street by a police officer, and nobody will do anything. People are not held accountable.
I don’t have any political affiliation. I just can’t be affiliated with anyone. I like to be independent.
During the time of the Prawer Plan [The Bill on Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev in 2011] I was active in that movement, organizing the protests and working on international campaigns.
Today it’s less. I don’t organize protests as before, also because there haven’t been many protests—for almost two years. I think people are possibly more desperate or hopeless about the situation, so they’re not as active as they were two or three years ago, but if there is a demonstration or protest, I go.
I also try to find a way to do activism via my work. I’m active in a group [in the lab] that works on the one-state solution. We try to make this vision real. We get together with Ilan Pappe and other activists to discuss the one-state solution, but not only in terms of strategy. We read and discuss material, and we try to find a way to make this vision more realistic and to integrate different academic fields and research fields and to use this knowledge to make the vision more realistic.
I’m maybe more committed to this now than to other activism, because with time I’ve realized that we, as Palestinian activists, need to do more grassroots activism and to stop reacting to events. We just can’t keep working that way. We need to work on some aspects of the cause, and we have different issues in the Palestinian cause, which we need to work on all year long. We shouldn’t just react to things that happened.
The reason why the BDS movement [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel] is successful is because it’s organized, and they work all yearlong and are focused. I think this is the way it should be. All Palestinian activism should be that focused and that organized. I think that we need to do more than just protesting.