holiday in the sunA Holiday in Other People’s Misery? Not Exactly…
Jamie, the prodigal nephew of the King of the Jews was in Jerusalem. The King used to send me articles Jamie wrote when he was in Yale and the promise of a brilliant future in writing was realized when he got a gig working at the New Republic. I ran into Jamie accidentally at the shuk and after realizing our common connection, somehow we decided it would be neat to visit Ramallah while he was in town. So I called Lisa from On the Face, who hooked me up with Louai, a Ramallah-based fixer. Louai in turn hooked us up with a driver and a translator and interviews with representatives from Fatah, Hamas, and the PFLP. I know, I know, some of you are thinking “What the fuck?” but a trip to Ramallah is really not that remarkable – loads of people have done it and lived to tell the tale. In fact, getting in was super easy – from Jerusalem, the ride to the Kalandiyah checkpoint took maybe 20 minutes, and once there we got in without even having to stop and present ID.

Ramallah is a Fatah stronghold and is considered a relatively liberal place. The city is full of smart and elegant cafes where stylishly dressed women mingle easily with their more religious chador-wearing sisters. There’s new construction everywhere and large parts of the city could double for the tony Jerusalem suburb of Rechaviah. Ramallah also has the local version of arsim, indistinguishable from the Israeli variety, and you quickly get used to the AK-47 toting Palestinian “policemen” because they look exactly like their Israeli counterparts, albeit significantly less unkempt.

OK PA!

Our day began with Jamie interviewing Ayman Dragmeh (pictured 1st on the left), a member of Parliament for the Change and Reform list – basically Hamas. He was personable, reasonable and friendly, hardly a foaming at the mouth Islamic fundamentalist, intent on chopping our heads off at the first opportunity. Ayman described the situation in Gaza as stable and safe and talked about families who were now able to go to the beach for the first time in a long time. Our next interview was with Dr. Abdallah Abdallah, a member of parliament for Fatah and the former PLO ambassador to Canada. His take was that the situation in Gaza was chaotic with people afraid to leave their homes for fear of the rampant violence. I guess that means that things in Gaza are great for those aligned with Hamas and dire for those aligned with Fatah… Oh well. Our last parliamentary interview was with Khalida Jarrar of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). She was very articulate and tried to strike a balanced position noting that “The occupation does not differentiate between Hamas and Fatah.” Obviously our conversations were more detailed than that but I’ll save all the good lines for Jamie’s article which we will link to when it appears.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out in cafes and talking to locals about everything from Paris Hilton and Homosexuality to politics and the recent death of Farfour the Mouse. With respect to Farfour, it was noted that the show appeared on Al Aksa TV which is only broadcast in Gaza. While most people interviewed knew about Farfour, few were up to date on the latest details. They all mentioned that even when Al Aksa TV used to broadcast in the West Bank, they’d never watch it because “We are Fatah!” I showed some young Fatah stalwarts the video of Farfour’s death and the hysterical laughter that ensued was oddly disturbing. I think the lesson learned was that treating the Palestinians as a monolith is a mistake. Also, trying to make sense of them is often very, VERY difficult. Well, at least I am going to have a leg up on all that because they are now all my facebook friends. Go social networking!

Essential Summer Reading

Our day ended with the requisite visit to the Muqata and Yassir Arafat’s grave. It was a hot day and I sat down for a few minutes while phone calls were made to the ISM reps in Ramallah to see if they would agree to an interview. I read a bit of Heeb and a bit of Guilt & Pleasure (that’s gotta be a first!) until we got a call back from the ISM people. Apparently they were too busy to meet – big things going on all week and all that. Oh well. The drive back to Jerusalem was as uneventful as the drive into Ramallah and as I sit here writing this post, I am already planning my next trip back. For the Hummus of course. It’s all about the Hummus. If our people will ever achieve peaceful co-existence, I am certain Hummus will play a pivotal role. You can quote me on that But only really good Hummus.

P.S.: 10 points to the first person who correctly identifies the 2 3 punk rock references in this post.

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About the author

ck

Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.

22 Comments

  • Well Holiday in Cambodia by the Dead Kennedys. Umm the only other thing I thought of was California Dreaming by The Mama’s and The Papa’s and that’s not punk!!! So I guess I get 5 points….

  • Holidays In The Sun by The Sex Pistols and Holiday in Cambodia by The Dead Kennedys…

  • Good post, I’m impressed ck. Not what I would expect from ya.

    Especially “I think the lesson learned was that treating the Palestinians as a monolith is a mistake. Also, trying to make sense of them is often very, VERY difficult.”

    I don’t know why that’s something that the pro-Israel Jewish community finds hard to believe. They aren’t all terrorists and even the terrorists have diversity (not to justify, but in reacting to them via hasbara, education, or whatever, these distinctions become important). Palestinian society is diverse and most people just want to live their lives. But that minority of extremist fundamentalists ruin it for everyone.

    Hence, as I just wrote on my blog (http://amechad.blogspot.com), the Jewish community needs new paradigms

  • Actually, Amechad, I think the opposite is happening. There used to be a sense that rational discussion could be held with the Palestinians and that peace would come. In fact, the polls of Israeli society continue to point to this hope. What happens and happened, though, is that reality keeps punching those who wish to believe that it’s “just extremists” ruining it for the Palestinians, in the face.

    Fatah is corrupt and cannot govern its people effectively, but they managed to launch more attacks (if one excludes rocket attacks) against Israel than all the other Palestinian terror groups combined. These are the people who currently control the PA and the West Bank. They are not considered “extremists” and were the peace partners on which Oslo was based. They have tens of thousands indirectly on their payroll.

    Hamas, on the other hand, has shown it can control the Palestinian “street” and bring some discipline, but they have launched or winked in agreement with the launchers of thousands of rockets against Israel. They received a majority of Palestinian votes in an election and their poll numbers subsequently remained over 50%.

    That means that you have 50% of Palestinians who “just want to live their lives” supporting the option of violence and utter rejection of Israel, even if they are supporting the superior governance of Hamas (and showing that this governance was superior would be diifficult to prove, in my opinion)

    I think the question is not whether the Palestinians are a monolith but whether their views with respect to Israel as a Jewish state inhabiting land they believe should be theirs are monolithic. In that regard, I don’t see such a variety of opinion. My sense is that unless that monolithic viewpoint can be addressed and rectified, all the good wishes for peace with the Palestinians will continue to crash against this solid wall of rejection.

  • Amechad wrote: “Good post, I’m impressed ck. Not what I would expect from ya.”

    Well, I’d like to think I’m capable of nuance and rational discourse – that you ought to expect from me always.

    That having been said, the people I met in Ramallah were extremely nice. We hung out, joked around, it was nice. But when it came to politics, even the relatively liberal people I met spoke in one voice about peace prospects with Israel. They want it all. No two state solution, no 1967 borders – they want all of it. The question of how realistic such a scenario might be was deemed irrelevant. That kind of made me sad, but at least we were able to hang out and have a laugh and I figured that was a start. Yes Amechad – paradigms need to shift, but it can’t all be one sided. I definitely see progress being made in the Jewish community in that area – I can’t wait for similar progress on the Palestinian side.

  • Is Dreamin’ a Buzzcocks reference?

    Great post CK, though I think that Amechad ran with it a little bit. Yes the political leaders that you met may have been kind, personable and succicnt..yet we also have to look at the movements that they allign themselves with. There is no doubt that Stalin was well-spoken, heck even a genius on some level. That doesn’t validate his thoughts or actions.

  • Great post CK, and great photo of the boy with the charm necklace. That is just the kind of thing I hope my kids wear. Isn’t that a line from Isiah — beat their AK47s into charm necklaces?

    Of course it isn’t. What kind of crazy place has kids with charm ak47s?

    The Hamas parliamentarian is A POLITICIAN so of course he is not foaming at the mouth. Gerry Adams spoke real pretty too, and justified the deaths of innocent people for decades.

    Politicians are paid to speak that way. That is why they have their jobs. How about asking him some tough questions.

    And since HAMAS is in power of course everything is peachy keen.

    If you spoke to a Chinese diplomat as millions were being killed and starved under Mao, they would also tell you that everything was fine.

    If you speak today to the politicians from Sudan, they will tell you to take a picnic in Darfur.

    I guess I made my point. Hamas violently took control of the Gaza strip, are Islamic thugs bent on destroying Israel, and no sweet talking Politicians should ever change your mind.

  • OK, chillax guys. I know what politicians are paid to do. I have a BA in PoliSci after all (heh). But this isn’t really my story. It’s Jamie’s story and we will post it once it’s published. I just threw together some random observations and some funny pics for your entertainment. All I can say is wait a bit for the article, I’m sure it will answer all your questions and address all your concerns. OK? OK!

  • I went to Ramallah once back in the heady Oslo days. Fools were nice; the baklava was on point; some good looking local ladies. Not the most interesting city though. I was glad to be back on the other side of the Green Line that evening. (I did meet an MC who claimed to have a No Limit release in the works at the time. Wonder what happened to that dude…)

  • Yeah, food definitely has a better chance of solving this low-intensity ‘conflict’ than hot kissing from Lezbos. I wonder though if our ‘leaders’ have the Jewish common sense to bring some chulent that cooked overnight and some sweet grandma kugel to the big photo-op summits.

  • Nice to know that even the relatively liberal people want to destroy Israel and have no interest in a two-state solution.

    And, yes, I suppose that a well-dressed, well-groomed, soft-spoken person quietly and politely saying “We do not accept the existence of israel” is a lot less immediately threatening than a scruffy, smelly, keffiyah-clad, bug-eyed, foaming-at-the-mouth, Kalashnikov-weilding terrorist screaming “Death to the Jews”.

    You know, kind of like a high-priced call girl is more appealing than a $2 street corner crack whore.

    But there’s no real difference between them.

    No amount of hummus is going to fix this.

  • good job on ID’ing that gun, CK. RE: the Change and Reform guy you interviewed, note he doesnt have a beard. Not everyone Hamas on the Change and Reform slate are even Islamists — there were a couple of xtians, one of whom became a minister. Many xtians voted for the Change and Reform slate because Fatah were corrupt.

    an informative post.

  • I’m with Ephraim. If these are more liberal folks out there in the WB, than we still have a lot of work to do to get them to realize that its 2 states ore nothing.

    It is a cultural thing that nono-middle easterners are not used to. They’re sitting on a hard line without accepting any alternatives until they absolutly have to. And we haven’t forced them.

    If it were me, I’d declare Gaza and a good chunk of the WB 2 independent countries and flat out cut them off. Water for the WB, since they don’t have a choice, but they can get power from Jordan and Egypt. Let them run amok until they come back begging for us to administer their services again.

  • Great to read your experience! I worked in East-Jerusalem for a while and once took a jewish israelis friend to Ramallah. She wanted to visit but was scared at first (Police with Kalashnikovs) but had a lot of fun then (Icecream at al Manarah Square!). I was scared about the exit procedures at the checkpoints – as Israelis are not allowed to enter palestinian governed Zone A – but everything went smooth. So: go for it! Best wishes to all curious peace-willing people out there, Dan

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