My first trip in Israel is coming to an end after three weeks. I am based in East Jerusalem and spend half of my days in the West Bank. My name is Filippo Bozotti, I m a socially conscious filmmaker. Thanks to my job, I have the opportunity to travel the globe and document its injustices and success stories, from Sierra Leone to Haiti, from the US to Rwanda from Northern Ireland to here, working on a documentary on reconciliation and justice.
The experience has been eye-opening. Palestinians are the most hospitable people I have ever met. When I visited a refugee camp in Tul Karem, I met Ahmed, who like most Palestinians was born a refugee and lives in extreme poverty. He welcomed me by opening bottles of Coke, offered me narghile’ to smoke, invited me into his home for chicken and rice and gave me freshly grounded coffee as a gift, but would not hear of taking any money in return.
Ahmed, like the other 4 Million Palestinian living in the West Bank and Gaza, lives under a system of apartheid similar to that in South Africa before 1994. The wall that Israel is building for “security” reasons is in fact a whole series of walls surrounding most Palestinian homes and cities, separating village from village, and causing every Palestinian to have to go through numerous check points and daily threats and humiliation in order to move from one West Bank town to another.
Bassam, one of our main characters in the documentary, a former combatant and political prisoner turned non violent activist, lives 50 feet from one of these walls. He has to cross two checkpoints in order to go to work. His cousin’s house has been destroyed to make space for the wall. His wife and kids cannot cross most checkpoints; they don’t have the right ID card. Two years ago, at one of these checkpoints, his 8-year-old daughter was killed by an Israeli sniper with a single rubber bullet to the head on her way home from school. These are the daily realities in the West Bank.
Israel is perfectly happy with the current status quo. The wall helps to secure land— land that soon more settlers will inhabit illegally. The settlers will come with huge army protection; they will use most of the Palestinian’s water and electricity, so that various locations in the West Bank receive water only two days a week in the scorching summer and electricity two days a week in the winter. Their goal is to steadily push the Palestinians out of their land, until they will be confined to reservations. In 1948, when Israel was created, they took 55% of Palestine, the fertile half, but not the religious half. Now, under pressure from extremely religious (and extremely racist) orthodox Jews, they intend to complete their operation and have already occupied over 75% of the country. Moderate Palestinians are told that soon they will suffer the same fate as Native American Indians.
The large majority of the Palestinians I speak to want peace, an end to occupation, non violent resistance; they want a two state solution based on the 1967 border prior to the Six Day War, when Jerusalem was occupied. They want the settlers out of the West Bank, and they want east Jerusalem back (which even now is still almost entirely inhabited by Palestinians). They want to be able to control their own water supplies, their own electricity. They are discouraged and hopeless. Unemployment is skyrocketing as it becomes more and more difficult for any of them to enter Israel, and they do not believe Israel will ever give up an inch without international pressure.
I met Independent Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouthi, an honest and secular doctor, founder of the Palestinian Initiative, who won 20% of the votes in the last presidential election. An American educated family man, progressive and well spoken, who recognizes Israel’s right to exist and campaigns for non violence and a two state solution, Barghouthi would b