Monday, July 13, 2009

"People say things are better this summer..."

This summer marks the third summer that I have come to Palestine to work with PMRS on a research project on mental health among women in the West Bank. A lot happened this year, including the election of Obama and the bombardment of Gaza this winter (for more on the impacts, check out older entries on this blog and,

People from Israel and the United States have told me that they are hearing that it's better now in the West Bank, especially that checkpoints have eased. So I've been asking Palestinians and looking for myself. Yes, some checkpoints are easier-for example, it was luxurious to drive into Nablus in a regular car without the usual checkpoint, where soldiers wouldn't let cars into the town. But, people in Palestine remind me about the dangers of saying "things are better than..."; the dangers of thinking that easing of abuse for one night or one week signifies real freedom, safety or sovereignty. Why should questions of basic human rights-such as ability to access health care, school, family be reduced to a question of scales of misery? Should Palestinians feel grateful that things are slightly better-knowing that the checkpoints can be reinstated at any time? Knowing, for example, that Atara checkpoint outside of Bir Zeit, which connects Ramallah with a main road, is still manned at the will of the Israelis? Or knowing that many-like the one above from a checkpoint in the West Bank this July- still exists the same as before?

The occupation of Palestine and the active de-development of infrastructure and society here continues. Like last year and the year before it, people tell me simply: This is not a life. And they say to tell people in the United States. Palestine is not in the midst of a "conflict", it is not even in the midst of a "war"; it is under occupation. The occupation is a military one, for sure. It is also a civilian one, seen in the ever-growing settlements-like the one in this photo from just outside Ramallah. And, even more this summer, I see that it is an economic one. 

Whether or not Obama will mandate real change in Israeli policy is still very unclear. Neither Palestinians nor the few Israelis I've spoken with are holding their breath.

What is it we say? Pessimism of intellect/experience, optimism of spirit? For sure, la lucha sigue. The struggle continues and I am grateful for those who lead it, here and at home. 

~in solidarity from Occupied Palestine