Community, History, Militarism and Policing
Waiting: Life under Israel-Occupied Palestine
March 15, 2018
In 2004, when I was eight years old, my family moved back to Palestine from the United States. My mother decided she wanted us to live there for four years to see the rest of our extended family, and to experience the life she lived. My parents enrolled me in an American school in the city of Ramallah because I could not understand Arabic at the time. On the day that I arrived in Palestine, the Israeli Army issued a roadblock between my village and Ramallah. The only people who could have access to that road, which connects numerous villages and towns to Ramallah, were Jewish settlers or Israelis. All others who attempted to cross were either sent back or arrested. At the first checkpoint that I encountered, I saw a Palestinian man getting pulled out of the car by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers. He was blindfolded, and his hands were tied behind his back. He was pushed to the floor; his face pressed against the dusty sand. I quickly learned the difficulty of living under occupation. Because of the roadblock, my school bus had to take a much longer route to Ramallah, which added hours to my school day. I felt hopeless waiting on the bus for hours each day, knowing that I still had homework to do when I got home. The hours that Palestinians lost waiting at checkpoints could have been allocated to better fulfill their lives.
I started to hate living in Palestine after the first year. To show their presence, the IDF soldiers would raid my village and cause electricity outages at random times, leaving us without access to hot water for hours. It was not until much later when I realized that the ploys the Israeli army used to inconvenience Palestinians were meant to push Palestinians to seek a better life somewhere else. For the first four years I lived there, I kept praying that we would move back to the U.S. to escape the occupation. I did not realize at the time that I was in fact wishing to return to a country that sends my tax dollars to fund the Israeli army, persecuting the Palestinian people. I learned that Israel is the largest annual recipient of American aid from 1976 to 2004 and the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. aid since World War II. Like many other diasporic Palestinians, I suffered a cognitive dissonance of longing for Palestine, but wanting desperately to live in the U.S.—for an easier life. I gradually realized that the Israeli army erected the unnecessary checkpoints to push Palestinians to flee their own home, and to deplete the life of Palestinians who chose to stay.
Israeli travel policies also penalize Palestinians who carry Palestinian citizenship, requiring them to first fly to Jordan and then drive into Palestine where they encounter an endless, stressful, and chaotic checkpoint. In contrast, Palestinians who have U.S. citizenship are treated less inhumanely; they are able to take commercial flights directly to Tel Aviv, and to travel freely upon arrival; however, they are still interrogated for hours at the airport, and must leave within three months at a time. The chaos and burden of the Jordan-Palestine checkpoint alone pushes many Palestinians in the U.S. to give up their Palestinian citizenship in order to fly directly to Tel Aviv, and to travel with ease thereafter throughout Israel and Palestine. The decision to give up Palestinian citizenship should not be blamed on the Palestinians, but on the successful Israeli tactics to burden the everyday life of Palestinians. I came to realize that the Israeli scheme to encourage Palestinians to relinquish Palestinian citizenship is key to removing power and gaining control from the Palestinians.
Because of U.S. economic and political support of Israel, Israel is able to conceal the human rights violations and everyday injustices inflicted on Palestinians. I wanted to share these stories because they represent my understanding of the direct consequences that the U.S. support of Israel had had on me, my family, and the Palestinian people. It is important to me and my family to hold on to our citizenship so we see our extended family and have the opportunity to permanently reside there. In the same way, I think it is important for other Palestinian people to hold on to their citizenship in order to defy Israeli tactics.
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