The Oslo generation

Nothing is normal.

Security personnel walk in front of the barrier with the West Bank near Havat Ella, 20 km. southwest of Hebron. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Security personnel walk in front of the barrier with the West Bank near Havat Ella, 20 km. southwest of Hebron.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I was born in 1986. The embarrassing thing is that a lot of people in my generation don’t know much about the Oslo Agreement.  We heard about it of course in the news. We heard it ruined our lives and our future. Specifically about economics it doesn’t give us independence. So we are totally dependent on Israel, such as their food. For instance if we wanted to boycott Israel we can’t. Factories need water that is controlled by Israel. We don’t produce milk. So the boycott concept is not realistic.
My parents told me that when I was four years old my dad held me on his shoulders when we were walking in the Old City. May parents told me that back then I even spat at the soldiers. We felt the hate when we saw the green jeeps, so symbolic of Israel. These are our enemies and we have to fight them.
My father was in Israeli prisons for fifteen years.  He told us about his experience, how they tortured him. How they took him from his home. These memories. He was also well educated and studied in prison. It affected us. All I wanted as a kid was to make Palestine free from Israelis and to get back our pride, dignity.  My mom is a refugee whose family who became refugees in 1948. I used to go to the refugee camp called Deheishah in Bethlehem to visit her family.  It was closed like going into a giant prison and we had to pass through a gate. There was always an Israel army presence.
I remember when Yasser Arafat returned in New years of 1994. There was a huge event and it was like everyone was here, all of Palestine. There were fireworks and speeches. It was the first time to see such a display. It was amazing at that time. In that time we could go from Jerusalem to Ramallah or to Bethlehem and there was no Qalandiah checkpoint. My mom received her residency in that time. In those days it was an orange identity card and before that she used to hide all the time if we were driving to Bethlehem. After 10 years of marriage she received it in 1996. Before that it was technically illegal for her to be in Jerusalem.  After Arafat returned life was amazing and free.  We could go where we wanted. There were some troubles, but not like today.
The huge the change came with Qalandiah and the Wall. Before I was 18 the only place I would go to is down by Salah-a-Din or Ramallah. I had never been to Jaffa Street. We never saw Jewish civilians. We just saw the army with guns at checkpoints.
When the Second Intifada broke out they thought Palestine will be free. It’s like everytime something happens, they think we will be free, they think that this blood won’t be shed in vain. In the beginning people supported the violence so much. Then they started to pay such a high price. There were new checkpoints, the roads were closed, we would sit on the street for 4 or 5 hours. They used to have a checkpoint in Neveh Yaakov on the way to Ramallah before Qalandiah.  It would take hours. There would be shooting. People became frustrated. They realized it was bad.
To be honest I didn’t suffer from what happened in what Israelis call “Defensive Shield”. People stopped going to ramallah. There were bombings inside Ramallah and tanks. You couldn’t move, you couldn’t go outside and there were curfews. Then we mostly stayed home. But my parents wouldn’t let me go much. We would go to Salah-a-Din street. Now it’s not as lively but then they had cafes.  They built Qalandiah and the wall. We used to go to Jaffa with the family to go to the beach where a lot of Jerusalemite Arabs used to go. But we never spoke to Israelis.
For us the Wall was a major change. It was depressing. My friends were living next to it, and one would be on one side and another on the other side and it would be hours to go from one to another. They left the country.
After there were all these checkpoints and I saw people at Bethlehem University waiting for hours. And going through Qalandiah was so hard. I was taken aside once by female soldiers to a room in qalandiah checkpoint and they pushed and shouted at me for unrealistic reason. I realized it would be too difficult to go back and forth.  So I decided to go to Hebrew University. I was the second group to go to the University.  Maybe only a few girls from my school had gone before.  It was not common before that to go.  Many people didn’t know Hebrew.  But I decided to learn Hebrew and now I can speak to Israelis and know how they think.
We need a real state. Everything that was given to Palestinians so far is fake.  We want borders and an airport. It is not a real country without having basic rights, such as an airport and port that other countries enjoy.  Palestinians also require financial freedom because Oslo made us so dependent. The best way would be to create something like they have in the United States or South Africa, with everyone being allowed to vote. It may seem like a dream but it happened with the black people in the US. In the old days they couldn’t get into a restaurant but things changed. The world is changing. We have been treated like second class citizens and living in a huge jail. In Ramallah is one jail and in Bethlehem another. The wall cuts them off. Palestinians have to drive two hours to get one to another. It affects businsses and social life.
Most of us didn’t trust John Kerry. Most people have no faith in peace. We worked for years and nothing happened. When we heard the US talking about peace, we ask what are they talking about. When there are extremists in Israel or among Palestinians, there is no peace. Palestinians are becoming more right wing in Gaza for instance and Israelis are as well. So there will be a war all the time.
I feel very lucky because I can be Palestinian when I want and have residency in Israel. I’ll never be Israeli. I am Palestinian.  But I can exist in both worlds, like a coin that can be flipped.  The only real difficulty I face is being treated less at a checkpoint or at the airport. Other Palestinians are treated worse. If I need to leave the country I have to get a visa to travel to Europe unlike Israelis because I have a Laissez Passe through my Jerusalem residency.  At the same time I have a Jordanian passport without a citizenship. Other Palestinians in West Bank have a Palestinian ID and a Palestinian passport. They receive permission from the Israelis at the DCO to travel though. So even then their lives are controlled by the Israelis. A lot of Palestinians come from Jordan and have a Jordanian passport but cannot receive a Palestinian ID to live in the West Bank.  Israel doesn’t want them. Also for the 300,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, if they leave Jerusalem for more than several months they are at risk of losing that ID. Or if they marry someone from Ramallah. If you want Israeli citizenship it is almost impossible. A friend of mine needed an Israeli citizenship for marriage reasons and they asked her why she goes to Ramallah. It’s ironic since Jewish Israelis live next to Ramallah in settlements, so why does it matter for them.
Many people don’t seem to care anymore. They care about daily life, such as cars and mortgages and loans. After Arafat passed away Mahmud Abbas made it more easy to get loans and many people have debt. People have lost their interest in struggle. During the stabbing intifada things got crazy in Jerusalem. I couldn’t wait to get to Ramallah.  I would feel safe when I saw the Palestinian flag.
When Arabs talk about politics they don’t talk about peace. It isn’t because we don’t believe in it but because it is nonsense.  Everyone says they are making peace, and people feel like the only thing that continues is that we live in a kind of jail. Many people think that the “peace” story is a game that is played on a field above them.  We didn’t choose our leaders. We have bad options between Hamas and Fatah. We don’t even vote anymore. People are no longer talking about the future. If you ask people about peace people laugh. There is no war because people want to live.
Israel has proved that only by fighting can we get our country back. That’s what happened with Hezbollah and with Gaza. Many people are more well educated than before. They have a Palestinian dream which is different than before. You see in Ramallah the beautiful buildings and workers dressed properly and talking about money. It’s like the concept of the “American Dream.”  We are more affected by America than Israel.  We want the American life. If we have to live in a kind of prison we will create villas and houses and nice restaurants and live the VIP life anyway.  They want that kind of dream more than before.
Peace is only logical when it comes from two sides that are equal. When people in Deheisheh think they will return to their villages and Israel thinks that is the worst Option. The UN gave them the right to return and why should they leave that hope. They have this concept that the Crusaders came and went, the Pharoahs came and went, the Ottomans came and went. All of these powerful groups. They imagine that also the Israeli power may decrease.
My father’s political party used to believe that Palestinians should say yes to the creation of two states. The other communists such as the PFLP sought to fight. But my father believed that it would be better to be realistic. Both fought for Palestine, but what if we had accepted what was offered in 1947 we would have more than today.
Now the dream of equality is gone. The attention has gone to Daesh and attention of the world has gone to Syria in the Middle East. We are no longer the center of attention. Our case and our cause is gone because people around us are suffering a hundred times more. So it’s a kind of game, we may support our neighbors and we care about them and maybe it means people are more quiet about our cause.
We are stuck without a clear political future. Today most Palestinians see their parties as the worst options. They tried Fatah and Hamas. It’s similar to the US elections the choice between Democrats and Republicans or in Israel between Likud and Labour, there is no good choice. 
The author is a Palestinian marketing professional, her name has been changed at her request.