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Hearts and Minds in Ramallah

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My first experience of the Qalandia checkpoint in Ramallah was in June 2005. By March 2006, it had undergone a transformation. The dark rocky unpaved road had been paved and there are now street lights, but the visceral sense of oppression remained.

"Israel has all the benefits but takes no responsibility as an occupier as stated in the Geneva Convention. Israel and the USA are perceived as the enemy and are starving the people. We are in desperate need of a viable peace process and need international intervention to control Israel...Unless the world enforces International Law and the Declaration of Human Rights there will be increasing violence and instability."-Dr. Hanan Ashwari, Secretary General of Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy/MITFAH in Ramallah...

Our group met with Dr. Hanan Ashwari, Secretary General of Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy/MITFAH, informed us, "We have had difficult times before but this is the worst! When people are constantly under assault and existing in a state of siege, they are too traumatized they can no longer make rational decisions. Hamas was not just elected because of Fatah's corruption, but because the people voted against USA policy! It was a vote of anger and revenge! Abbas wanted to postpone the elections because he knew Hamas would win. Technically our elections were free, but when people live under siege, pain and trauma they cannot make rational decisions.

"Israel must take responsibility as an occupier under the Geneva Convention. We are in a battle for the soul of Palestine! When people think they are doing Gods will, like with the White House we are all in danger.

"Sharon slapped 14 conditions on the Road Map which exists only on paper. The Road Map is a club to destroy Palestinian society. Israel's unilateral disengagement is against the Road Map. The disengagement was really just a reorganization of the occupation. The pats on the back for Sharon are amazing! Gaza is a massive prison because Israel retains control of air and sea borders.

"We have had democratic elections before Israel existed, we are not backwards people. We have always believed in the separation of church and state and have had a secular society. Hamas wants to be a credible political party and they are telling the people to maintain the cease fire and do not react to what happened in Jericho. It would be funny if it weren't so painful!
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"Hamas will be pragmatic and flexible, but what worries me is that they will change Palestinian society for the Muslim Brotherhood has taken over. I don't want a theocracy, I want women's rights and diversity. Hamas understands while there is INJUSTICE there cannot be the enforcing of Shiriah/Islamic Law.

"Israel must take responsibility as an occupier under the Geneva Convention. We are in a battle for the soul of Palestine! When people think they are doing Gods will, like with the White House we are all in danger.

"Israel has all the benefits but takes no responsibility as an occupier as stated in the Geneva Convention. Israel and the USA are perceived as the enemy and are starving the people. We are in desperate need of a viable peace process and need international intervention to control Israel.

"American aid never went to the PA, it went to USA NGO's and profit making companies. The USA never paid any PA salaries...Hamas will gradually enforce Islamic Law and they will define what is a crime: such as homosexuality and adultery.

"Unless the world enforces International Law and the Declaration of Human Rights there will be increasing violence and instability. What happened in Jericho was an agreement that the PA would guard the USA and British prison guards. On March 8th it was reported that the guards were in danger and that renegotiations were needed. The Americans were off that day and five minutes after the Brits left the Israelis stormed the prison."

On our way back to Jerusalem two soldiers with smiles on their faces boarded our bus and asked us if we had a good time in Ramallah. I have found most of the soldiers never look directly at us, but those few who do, will respond with a smile and return our greetings of shalom.

Back at the YMCA we met Dr. Bernard Sabella, Executive Secretary of MECC Dept. Of Services to Palestinian Refugees and PLC Christian Representative who told us the best thing we can do is reach out to the children who live in the refugee camps and the rural villages.

"I challenge you all to enter a new age of reconciliation. We must address the injustice of the occupation, the problems of abuse and denial of human rights for we are in crisis! We must expose the human rights abuses because of this occupation.

"How can you change hearts and minds when Israel does what it wants and the USA remains silent? We are in a time of crisis!"

After dinner we returned to the Qalandia checkpoint for a candlelight and prayerful vigil and sang "All we are saying is give Peace a Chance" and "We Shall Overcome."

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Eileen Fleming,is a Citizen of CONSCIENCE for US House of Representatives 2012 Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org Staff Member of Salem-news.com, A Feature Correspondent for Arabisto.com Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu" (more...)
 

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