|By John Savageau||
|April 24, 2011 01:38 PM EDT||
What does statehood mean to a young Palestinian student, dreaming of her future and that of her friends and family? “Of course a Palestinian State means we will have the opportunity to focus energy on building our lives, and not have to wake up in the morning with a tank parked in front of our house.” Hiba, a university student in Ramallah, goes on to say “You might say in ways we are victims, due to the occupation, but we cannot continue complaining about it. We have to continue working to develop ourselves. We really want independence and statehood.”
In April 2011, during a visit to Ramallah, I had the opportunity to interview several Palestinians, and asked their views on statehood, Palestine’s place in the world, and what they wanted Americans to know about Palestine. The interviews included members of the government, entrepreneurs, students, and even taxi drivers. The responses to questions were remarkably consistent. Nobody mentioned resistance or violence, and in all cases rejected the recent level of conflict in the Gaza territory as unproductive to the Palestinian cause.
“We are sensitive and creative people. We have poets, writers, and a deep culture.”
I ask “what do you want Americans to know about Ramallah and Palestine?”
Each person has a slightly different answer, but all answers are positive. Talk about the occupation quickly moves on to topics about future, and how everything in changing in Ramallah. In fact, just walking along the streets of Ramallah can be a challenge – not because of anything dangerous, but rather the level of construction makes it difficult to navigate streets.
Answers to the question are difficult to pin down. Once the topic is raised, you will get one or two quick ideas, including concern that Americans are not getting a clear picture of the “real” Palestine through news media. In particular, those in Ramallah want Americans to know there is a big difference between the West bank and Gaza. The impressions Americans get (as seen on their satellite television broadcasts of CNN and Fox News) of Palestine is one of rocket attacks, kidnappings, and violence. In reality, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, and other locations within the West Bank are very peaceful, with most people working hard to improve their quality of life.
Ramallah itself is a city of cafes, shopping, cultural events, construction, and even discos to round out an emerging night life and entertainment industry. However, as this is not current news, and does not sell US advertising, it is rare you would ever have an opportunity to see this side of Palestine in the US media.
Hiba was a bit disappointed on one topic – she was busy the following day and could not attend TEDx Ramallah, an independent event supported by the innovative community TED. “TEDxRamallah aims to showcase inspiring stories of Palestine. It also aims to educate and inspire by providing a space for people to share their ideas in any field, whether science, education, literature, technology, design, etc. to contribute to the positive perception of Palestine.”
She concedes the Palestine university system may not adequately introduce innovation and entrepreneurial spirit within the formal curriculum, however with groups such as TEDx Ramallah, and expatriate Palestinians returning to the country there is a new spirit driving young people. In addition, the Palestinian Authority actively encourages foreign companies to invest in Palestinian small and medium businesses (SMEs), hoping to further develop both the local economy and support innovation.
Investment in Palestine is being encouraged not merely to increase the size of the economy, but also to increase private sector employment, generate income, and improve living standards. A move towards increased per capita prosperity will additionally have the overall effect of potentially stabilizing tensions in the region, if achieved in tandem with a just political settlement. A just peace and prosperity within the West Bank and Gaza
Strip is not only good for us, but it’s good for Israel and the Middle East as a whole. (PIPA)
The 2010 Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem attracted more than 1000 potential investors from 38 countries with pledges to invest nearly $1bil in Palestinian SMEs. Of particular note was the interest in developing Palestine’s IT and software development industries, which are attractive due to the limitations in export/import of materials as controlled by Israel. This does show a very positive outlook and confidence in Palestine’s future by the international community.
“Statehood Means We Will Have an Identity”
Hiba continues that “I have never been outside of the West Bank. Not because I don’t want to travel and see other locations around the world, rather it is because I cannot get a passport, and am not allowed to travel outside of Palestine. I know how the outside world is, because we get movies and television from around the world. What makes us different from the rest of the world? Why can’t I experience life as in the movies and television just because I was born in Palestine?”
Difficult for an American to appreciate. For us freedom of movement, expression, and religion is assumed, and we feel great anger when faced with even small barriers to those freedoms.
“It hurts inside that we cannot travel to Jerusalem and pray at our Mosques and other holy sites. Those locations are very important to us (Palestinians and Muslims).”
A taxi driver goes out of his way to expose me to the difficulties all Palestinians encounter while going through checkpoints (between Ramallah and Jerusalem), and give an up close view of walls, guard towers, and Israeli military installations designed to control movement, keeping Palestinians within the West Bank territory.
“With statehood we can begin applying our energy to improving our lives, not just trying to stay alive.”
Then his conversation once again turns positive. “Do you see their settlements? Don’t you agree Ramallah is a much nicer city than Tel Aviv? Once we have freedom we’ll be a very strong little country.”
A Lasting Impression
While this is not my first visit to Palestine, Israel, or other locations within the Middle East, each experience brings new observations, emotions, and ideas. Human nature tells us we should think positive, as negative energy rarely brings progress. The Palestinians have a tremendous level of positive energy, and as an outsider it is certainly refreshing to see the enthusiasm of a country on the verge of establishing their own nation and identity.
Will the United Nations grant this status? Will Israel accept a Palestine state? Will the United States apply pressure to the region to consider Palestinian autonomy?
Time will tell. But for now, we can only hope the international community and media will apply factual reporting of all aspects of the Palestine issue. It is a wonderful place, with warm, friendly people, and we will hope their future generations will be free to develop and prosper as any other in our global community.
NOTE: For the record we need to acknowledge Israeli citizens are also prevented from entering the West Bank and Gaza. This can only contribute to the misunderstandings between citizens of each country. And in fact, during the routine “interrogation” I received departing from the Tel Aviv airport, the majority of questions directed to me were more of “tell me a bit more about Ramallah. I cannot go there and it is interesting to hear how things are within the city…”
- A Cloud Computing Wish List for 2010
- Citizen Journalism as a Catalyst for Transforming Media
- Future Visions of Global Telecoms
- Insulating Innovators with Cloud Computing
- A Swift Kick to the IPv6 Backside
- The Cloud Opportunity Window is Now Officially Open
- My Top Five Cloud Computing Predictions for 2011: John Savageau
- 3Tera and AppLogic SWAG Move to the Cloud Computing Retro Collection
- 3tera Drops IPv6 Into Their AppLogic Cloud Computing Platform
- Rights of a Sovereign Nation or Invasion of an Open Internet?