Ramallah and Jericho, 7-9 June 2005. A
joined a group of American professors and students on a three day visit to Ramallah and Jericho.
We were privileged to visit several Palestinian institutions, including the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN),
that was introduced to us by its general coordinator, Dr. Azmi Shuaibi. We visited
the Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation for Victims of Torture, where we
met its chief psychologist, Ms. Suad Mitwalli, and heard a report about the procedures of psychological torture developed
by the Shabak in order to leave no physical marks while causing immense suffering and long-term damage to the victims of these
inhumane and utterly illegal practices. We were also briefly introduced to some of the modern approaches to the treatment
of trauma practiced in this center, and visited a nicely equipped room used for the treatment of children who underwent trauma.
We then visited the offices of the Medical Relief Committee, where we were introduced to the immense hardships of administering
medical assistance under the conditions of brutal closure, lack of resources and widespread poverty. In this context I would
like to stress the sincere recognition expressed by our hosts to the contribution of the Israeli group Physicians for Human
Rights (headed by Dr. Ruchama Marton), which provides the only opportunity for many Palestinians to meet Israelis who are
neither soldiers enforcing a brutal occupation nor settlers enhancing the military brutality by their own (fully backed by
the occupation authorities). We also visited the village of
Bil'in, that for the last several months has been a focus of non-violent
struggle against the apartheid wall
visit was extensively documented by members of the group as well as by a documentary film-maker who accompanied us. I will
therefore be very short in this report, whose main aim is to share what I found to be the most important message of our direct
encounter with the following well known Palestinian leaders, each one of whom met us in her or his own office and generously
shared their insights with us:
Yasser Abed Rabbo, Head of the Palestinian Peace Coalition,
Saeb Erakat, Head of the Negotiation Department of the Palestinian National Authority,
Hanan Ashrawi [see http://www.miftah.org].
Mustafa Barghouti, General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative.
are well-know to the Israeli and international public, and do not need my introduction. It was very interesting to listen
to each one of them and to notice nuances in their messages. However, there was an underlying common message that went through
very strongly and convincingly. It was clear that collectively they represent the majority of the Palestinians, who wish to
establish an independent, secular and democratic Palestinian State
on the 22% of original Palestine that comprises the West Bank and the Gaza strip, a state that will establish peaceful relations and cooperation with the State
of Israel. They all view Sharon's unilateral disengagement
plan, whose nature and scope remain totally in the dark, as a path to chaos and to strengthening the non-democratic Islamic
fundamentalism. If I may add an interpretation I would wish to suggest that Sharon, following Barak's deceitful footsteps,
is seeking to manufacture international legitimacy for yet another round of perhaps worse brutality against the Palestinian
Nation. It may be very appropriate to point out that the Palestinians I met were all determined to continue their struggle
for the fulfillment of their legitimate national aspirations. I noticed no sign of despair. On the contrary, I was impressed
by the resilience of the Palestinian civil society, which stands in sharp contrast to the psychotic state of the Israeli extreme
right and to the comatose state of the Israeli mainstream and academe. I am more convinced than ever before that the Palestinian
aspiration for independence in a progressive, democratic and pluralistic State will ultimately be achieved. The choice that
Israel faces is to let that happen without
further mutual bloodshed or insist on further rounds of aggression and brutality that will dwindle the most precious resources
of its own society, that is already on the verge of falling apart.
I would like to strongly recommend the two hotels we stayed in, City Inn Palace Hotel in Al-Bireh (02 2408080) and Royal Court
Suite Hotel in Ramallah (02 2964040), as well as the pleasant and high-quality restaurants that we visited. Ramallah, we were
told, is a five star prison. While in Jericho we managed to
visit the very impressive archeological site "Hisham's Palace".
I am grateful to the people who opened their homes and hearts to us, and to the Birzeit
students who joined our dinners. I took particular interest in a (male) student of chemistry on one occasion (whom I tried
to encourage to study physical chemistry) and in a (female) student of mathematics on another occasion (with whom I talked
about my fascination with group theory). The former was impressed to learn that I knew where the place of origin of his family,
Beit Nabalah (near Lod), was located. I would also wish to record my personal resentment of the fact that the Israeli group
that intended to take part in the "Geneva Initiative" conference in Jericho on Thursday, June 9 (that included Dr. Yossi Beilin
and Mr. Ophir Pines), did not decide to defy the politically motivated and totally unwarranted "instruction" by the GSS (shabak)
to avoid visiting Jericho. I felt very welcome and secure. If my visit to "area A" was illegal (under the regulations of an
entity that has lost its last shred of moral legitimacy), so let it be.