The palestinians of Israel, long accustomed to Isreali settlers coming and taking their land , are hitting back in an unprecedented way. By burying their dead, and opening up cemeteries, they hope to keep illegal Israeli settlers at bay.
2010 was quite a year for me. Apart from standing in a national election, I also took a trip to the Holy Land. I went to Jerusalem, and also crossed into the West Bank, to see Bethlehem.
As it was in the days when Christ walked the earth, bethlehem is a town under military occupation. Except now, a vast wall surrounds the little town - a wall topped with barbed wire, studded with watchtowers. the only way in or out is through a checkpoint, guarded by heavily armed soldiers.
Inside Bethlehem itself, I saw Manger Square, the Church of the Nativity, and also visited the Palestinian Peace Centre. Here, a few Palestinians explained to us what life was like for them. They could not get in or out to work in the olive groves just outside the town. a lot of Palestinians were out of work as a result. They were hemmed in, second class citizens in the land of their birth, they said.
A couple of days later, I was talking to a New Zealander, who worked as a tour guide in Israel, and mentioned my experiences in Bethlehem. "Did they tell you why the Israelis built the wall?" she asked me. I admitted that they hadn't.
"Rather remiss of them , don't you think?" she smiled wryly. She also went on to explain that , a few years earlier, the Israelis had decided to pull out of gaza and give it over to the palestinians as a good will gesture. No sooner did the elections finish and hamas, who won the political infighting , sent rocket attacks over into israeli towns and cities.
And from the West bank, suicide bombers, with explosives in rucksacks began to vist Israel on one way suicide missions. "I had to text my mum every day to let her know I was still alve" she told me. " sometimes, two or three times a week, there was another attack on a bar or cafe, or even a bus, somewhere in Israel. the only way the Israelis could protect themselves was to seal the border between israeli territory and the Palestinians."
our palestinian bus driver accepted that this was the case- but israelis had been building settlements on palestinian land ever since they had won the war in 1947, he argued. The Palestinians had no other choice but to take such desperate measures...
In all of this, though , there was the presence of foriegn powers like the Syrians, backing hamas and the Americans who backed the Israelis.
yes, it would be nice if the Palestinians could accept the fact that the State of Israel had the right to exist, and the israelis would let the Palestinians have a viable state of their own. but Israel is a very small country - it is under an hour to drive from Jerusalem , the Israeli capital into the heart of the West Bank and Palestinian territory by coach. It takes less than a minute for an artillery shell, going the other way. And the Israelis know that.
it therefore seems to be an intractable problem. this new developement is not going to kill anyone as a direct result, but I doubt that it will alter anything in this war torn country.
And I feel a deep sadness for all involved.