The Ramallah bubble just popped.
Just a few days ago I reassured a colleague living in Jerusalem not to worry, because Ramallah is safe. “Is that what you tell yourselves?” she asked. I knew, of course, that anything could happen here, but had wrongly assumed that Ramallah was to some extent off-limits, even amidst all that’s been happening around us.
How easily I’ve become accustomed to these safe spaces. And it’s not just Ramallah. Beit Sahour, where I used to live, was raided. My workplace for more than two years, Birzeit University, was invaded a few nights ago. Then there are the regular spots: Jalazone camp, where one of my best friends lives, lost someone a few days ago; Nablus, where I often go to visit friends and relax at the Turkish baths, lost someone who was shot on his way to Morning Prayer; Hebron. My friend’s village of Jayyous was invaded a few nights ago; its main road connecting it with the city of Qalqilya blocked by a giant mound of rocks and earth put there by the Israelis. The army has raided practically every village, town and city in the West Bank over the past week. Five young people have been killed in the last week in the West Bank, plus one elderly man who had a heart attack when the Israeli army invaded his home. Gaza was also bombed a few times – killing a seven-year old child – but who was paying attention?
This is all not to mention the 80 political prisoners that had not eaten but for water and salt for the past 63 days (!) to protest being detained without charged. It’s scary just how unmoved the world is by such things when they involve Palestinians. What’s even scarier is how desensitized so many Palestinians have become. Or maybe disillusioned is a better way to describe it. But who can blame them? They are up against one of the most powerful militaries in the world, which for more than 60 years has been able to colonize, kill, displace and steal with impunity. To make matters so much worse, they have to deal with the PA, whose primary uses for the occupation have become suppressing any type of resistance and sharing intelligence.
Sunday’s raid on Ramallah was just the latest example of the grotesque charade that is the Israeli occupation. After the army left the downtown area of Ramallah, protestors re-focused their discontent at the Palestinian Authority (PA) police station in light of the PA’s ongoing security coordination with Israel. The PA responded by shooting live bullets at the crowd, but had difficulty holding back the enraged protestors. Like true teammates, the Israeli army then returned to chase the protestors away from the police station and save the PA from the people! If this isn’t a wake-up call for Palestinians to resist the PA I don’t know what is.
The Israelis say they are searching for three kidnapped Israeli settlers, and that it is Hamas who is responsible. Yet if it were Hamas, wouldn’t they have admitted it and wouldn’t they have been making demands like releasing the hunger striking prisoners? What is much clearer is that Israel is using this incident to undo the unity pact between Fatah and Hamas. They say they are trying to weaken Hamas, and to destabilize the unity government. But it is just as likely that Palestinians will instead turn to Hamas and other Islamist parties since they are the only ones seen to be resisting in any way.
Or who knows? Maybe they will turn on Hamas for bringing the wrath of Israel on their communities. A lot of Palestinians I talk to these days—maybe even the majority—just want to live their lives. They don’t want to get involved in the resistance movements because they don’t want to get arrested and don’t see what it will accomplish. As a young Palestinian guy and former political detainee I met a few nights ago told me, he and his friends just want to make a bit of money and live their lives in Ramallah, or if possible, leave Palestine altogether. “Cus-ukht al-ihtilaal,” (fuck the occupation), bas shoo bidna nsawe (what can we do)?” As much as I wanted to break into my shpeil about BDS etc, I realized there is nothing I could really say that would re-ignite his motivation.
I wish I could say that the popping of the Ramallah bubble is what was needed to mobilize people to take to the streets on mass here and demand change—a sort of third Intifada, first Intifada style. But unfortunately, without any real faith among Palestinians that anything will truly change for the better as a result, such a scenario remains highly unlikely.