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'The West Bank Is Weeping for Gaza'
[Interview] Zayd, a blogger in Ramallah, expresses hope for a way forward in the Middle East
Amin George Forji (amingeorge)     Print Article 
Published 2009-01-11 11:58 (KST)   

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The New Year began on a very sad note in the Middle East following the recent crisis in Gaza between the state of Israel and the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, which so far has led to the death of over 800 civilians, mostly Palestinians. To many Palestinians, the current scenario is one of deja vu.

While all eyes are on Gaza, the other half of the territory -- the West Bank -- is shedding tears of sorrows, lamenting and weeping for the fate of their fellow countrymen. They have many unanswered questions in their minds. This is the feeling I got when I interviewed Zayd, a resident and blogger from Ramallah in the West Bank.

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While he wishes for a quick end to the present conflict and a meaningful ceasefire agreement, he expresses an even greater wish for Gaza and the West Bank to reunite and become a strong nation.

Zayd expressed his opinions through a series of email exchanges between Jan. 4 and Jan. 10.

OhmyNews: What are people in Ramallah saying of the ongoing crisis in Gaza? How would you personally weigh in on the conflict?

People in Ramallah, as the rest of the West Bank, are very sympathetic to the death and suffering of the innocent Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. There is an overwhelming sense of outrage at Israel's continuous aggression and the high death toll of civilians and children it has caused. Unfortunately, there is also an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. This is all too common for us. We have seen such violence before and things do not seem to be getting better yet.

I personally share this sympathy for the innocent civilians in Gaza who have been suffering for a very long time. I wish this cycle of violence would end very quickly. I also feel obligated to try to represent the Palestinian side of the story to the rest of the world as we have been severely misrepresented.

There are some who say that the current crisis may well help bring back the West Bank and Gaza together. What is your take on that?

Despite the political disagreement, I think that the nonpolitical residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have remained to feel united. Will this crisis bring political reconciliation between Gaza and the West Bank, I hope so just for the sake of the people because aid has been cut off from the Gazans for so long. However, I would hate to think that we need more than 800 people to die before the political parties reconcile.

Who in your opinion is the real aggressor: Hamas or Israel? Why?

I think there is enough blame for both sides. I do not support the rocket attacks from Hamas. I also think that what Israel is doing to the civilian population of Gaza is cruel and barbaric. I do not think that any party should inflict any harm on any civilian. However, we have to look on the ground. Regardless of who started this wave of violence, Israel has clearly caused more death and destruction, and has applied mass punishment over all the people of Gaza just to achieve its objective. I think this is very wrong.

Do ordinary citizens you talk to feel this war was uncalled for, or was unavoidable? What is their judgment of their crises?

Many view it as a mixture of both. Many Palestinians in the West Bank have seen Israel launch large attacks many times in the past. So people were not very surprised. At the same time, they think that the excessive use of violence by Israel and the high death toll they caused was very much uncalled for.

If you were to pass a strong message to Hamas and Israel right now, what exactly would you tell each of them?

To Israel and the Israelis I would remind them that the people in Gaza are human beings just like anybody else in this world. They should stop this excessive use of violence and the mass killing of Palestinians. As the more powerful side, I would ask them to stop this war completely, and lift the blockade and allow people in Gaza to get the food and medicine they need. I would remind Israel that if their true goal is to stop the rocket attacks coming out of Gaza, then killing more than 800 people will not help. I would remind them that violence does not create peace. Violence only creates more violence. Let us not forget that although Israel says it is fighting Hamas; but more than half the people killed in Gaza are civilians that did not do anything.

To Hamas I would urge them to be more diplomatic in their engagement and to stop their rocket attacks to put more diplomatic pressure on Israel to lift its blockade.

If I may, I would also send a message to the rest of the world telling them that we Palestinians are human beings as well; So why does the world governments sit idling by when more than 800 human beings are being killed without doing anything? I would ask the world governments to pressure Israel to stop its attacks and let the humanitarian aid reach the people in need in Gaza.

There is increasingly call for a cease-fire? The recent UN resolution has been rejected by both sides. In your opinion, how can the two sides reach a genuine long-lasting truce at this particular point in time?

Since the Palestinians are clearly the weaker side, I think the best way to maintain a cease-fire is through an international interference to call for a cease-fire and stop the violence. Then to maintain it, there has to be an international effort to make sure it is implemented correctly and to make sure that civilians are not getting caught in the violence. For example, one of the main reason for the violence is that Israel has been imposing a blockade on the Gaza strip for 1.5 years with very little food, medicine, and other supplies getting in. So an international effort to really lift this blockade will help sustain this cease-fire.

Additionally, an international monitoring force (maybe part of the UN) could be deployed to the region to make sure that the terms of the cease-fire are actually implemented, and that the blockade has been lifted, and that there are no more attacks from both sides.

Any last remarks?

I would like to remind people that although the media often represents the issue as a fight between Hamas and Israel, in reality, most of the Palestinian casualties are innocent civilians. If there is any hope for a sustainable peace in the Middle East, then violence, death, and mass killing of civilians are definitely not on the right way. Israel is not swaying many ordinary Palestinians towards peace by killing hundreds of them. It will also be harder for the international community to inspire confidence in the peace process if they continue to allow for this violence in Gaza and the worsening humanitarian situation.

If we want to encourage people towards peace, then we have to give them something to live for. Let us not forget that the Palestinians in Gaza are like any other human being: they have families, they have hopes and dreams, and they have basic life necessities that need to be met. If this state of blockade, violence, and isolation is continued, then people living in Gaza will be forced to act out of desperation even though it might cause more violence. So I urge the international community to pressure Israel to lift its blockade, and to pursue a more peaceful strategy in pursuing peace in the Middle East.

Should Israel implement a cease-fire in Gaza?  (2009-01-02 ~ 2009-01-26)
I don't know
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Amin George Forji

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