From Haifa to Ramallah: A Firsthand Account of the Zionist and Palestinian Narrative (Part 1)
As I walked into a small bar in Ramallah, I was greeted by a young, tall, bald man, wearing a light blue, quarter-sleeve shirt, littered with bright green palm trees. He greeted my friends and I, with a large smile and cheerfully said, “Welcome to the Apartheid State, my friends!”
He led us to a cramped table nearby, and brought us a round of Ramallah’s finest local find.
“You see, I can’t let you sit outside because we’re supposed to all be on a hunger strike , and well, it just doesn’t look good if we’re all partying it up outside. So that’s why I need you guys inside. Got it?”
In the West Bank, Palestinians stand in solidarity- at least on the outside.
I had been living in the northern, port city of Haifa, Israel for a few months, and decided that I needed to take a trip to the other side, and see what it was all about.
Ramallah, West Bank
I stayed in a hostel overlooking Jamal Abdel Nasser Mosque, maintained by a local Palestinian man with his own family at home.
Although the hostel was founded by a European to safely house travelers in the area, there was an evident political agenda that coursed through the halls of the hostel. I wasn’t surprised, on the contrary, I was absolutely intrigued.
The wall art proudly displayed a large image of Aymad, the Palestinian cartoon boy who serves as a symbol of oppression and desire to restore their perceived territorial rights to the land.
The hostel lobby was littered with literature that discussed “The Wonders of Palestine” and described the history and scenery of the land from the Golan Heights to Eilat (Northernmost and southernmost parts of the State of Israel).
The man working at the hostel did not relent in sharing his personal views.
“I’m glad you came over here to see what really goes on in Palestine.”
He walked over to a small white board to update “Today’s News.” He added a day to the Hunger Strike count, as well as the headline of a story about a Palestinian shot and killed by the IDF.
Excuse me- the IOF- Israeli Occupational Forces- as Palestinians are fond of saying.
The man quickly jumped from anti-Israel rhetoric to anti-American. It was as if he had a CNN script in his hand.
“Trump is bad for everyone. He’s ruining America. He’s a racist, bigot, misogynistic, sexist, evil man! And the Israelis only commit war crimes. And he backs them!”
Merely playing the devil’s advocate, I asked, “What do you think of the fact that he decided to come to the West Bank and speak alongside Abbas?”
He replied, “Well that would make him Anti-Semitic if he’s willing to work with him instead of the PM on the other side.” (He refused to say the name, Benjamin Netanyahu.)
“What makes you say that Trump is ant-Semitic? Didn’t he promote Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, to one of the highest positions in his administration?”
He was silent, and continued to ramble on about the Trump administration.
I paid for a hostel bed, as well as two tours. One would take me around Ramallah and to the municipality, and the other to the Yassir Arafat Museum and the Al-Amari Refugee Camp.
Yassir Arafat Museum
The Yassir Arafat Museum was surprisingly nice; well-organized, very modern, and aesthetically appealing.
The museum had an interactive hall that proudly displayed the land’s history through a Palestinian lens, including the history of Hamas, Fatah, and other political parties affiliated with the region.
The museum bluntly described the period of time during which Hamas “carrie[d] out many bombing attacks, a new form of violence that the rest of the world considers “terrorist attacks.”
Quotations were included in the display.
They display also toted Hamas’ evident leadership in the feminist movement, as the same display read, “Then, in January 2014, Hamas sends the first female to carry out a bombing attack at the Beit Hanoun “Erez” crossing border.”
Following the museum visit, he showed me the city centers, the best place for hummus, top cafes, and local art displays.
There was a large outdoor market taking up a few of the streets, and he appeared to know everyone there. He introduced me as a visiting friend from the U.S, and I exchanged greetings and small talk with the locals in Arabic. Locals prided themselves in being “different from what I imagined a Palestinian to be,” and “not all terrorists.”
Ironically enough, many locals did not commit terrorists acts themselves, but supported those who did.
As we made our way to the city square, we came across a mourner’s tent, a space for the parents of those in prison to mourn, and gather support for their cause of “unjust imprisonment.”
“They’re hoping to help people understand the true atrocities that are taking place here,” the hostel keeper said.
“What are those people in prison for?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“Different things… civil disobedience against the military, mostly things like that,” he answered nonchalantly.
“Are any of them convicted of serious crimes? Like theft, or murder?” I asked.
“Oh, well some of them are probably members of Hamas and killed a soldier or two,” he answered casually.
The tour of the refugee camp carried a similar tone.
“See what’s around you? These people have nothing. They live in these wretched conditions and they get zero help from the international community.”
“What about the U.N?” I asked.
“Well, they try sometimes, but all of their funding is intercepted by the political parties here, and none of them ever see any of it!” the man outraged.
In other words, the Palestinian Authority (P.A) will approach the U.N with project proposals to better the conditions of refugees, only to receive all of the official government signatures in corrupt collusion with them, and then proceed to pocket the money.
“So what do you want me to do?” I asked, ultimately referring to America as a whole.
He responded, “Help us! Make sure that the money get to where it needs to go instead of into the hands of our corrupt leaders. Facilitate the monetary transfer, I don’t know, do something!”
“But you don’t want Western influence or intervention of any kind, correct?” I asked rather sarcastically.
“Oh of course not,” he immediately replied.
Lessons learned in the West Bank: There is no Israel, only Palestine.