Monday, March 27, 2006

The Quiet Dream of A Normal Life: Ghassan Banourah

Continuing in our theme of: A Quiet Dream of A Normal Life, we speak with Ghassan Banourah, a Palestinian activist, confined to the town of Bethlehem due to the fact that he posses only a West Bank ID and is forbidden to enter Israel.

Ghassan Banouhra: We need to get rid of the occupation thats a fact. This needs to go for sure. But to get rid of the occupation, it depends on the methods and stratagies we are using right now. basiclly the form of occupation has changed. There is no direct confrontation with the army anymore. Now it is replaced by security fences, "so called" security fences all around The West Bank. The rules of engagement have changed. Now we are experiencing a new form of occupation, a new level of occupation. Which, I beleive, is so close to the South African apartheid system. So, the methods we have to use to fight the occupation are new now.

I think we have to be creative. Advocacy work is very important at this time. We need to do more advocacy work, more media work. We should gather more information, more speaking tours, more people coming too see the situation on the ground. Also, educating people about the Palestinian cause. And also educating ourselves (Palestinians and Israelis), about gaining experience from the South African cause. To take a look at the methods they used in South Africa.

I was born in Jerusalem. My parents were West bank ID carriers. My mom and dad have no Jerusalem IDS. So, I'm denied entry into the city I was born in. So since the moment I was born I was a displaced person. Its a racist strategy, racist regeime, whatever you want to call it.

My childhood was in the first intifada. I must admit I wasn't so non-violent. I was a stone thrower in my childhood. I did the whole things; throwing stones, moltov cocktail bombs at jeeps, burning tires in the streets. I did the whole tour. Then, in 1995, Arafat came and taught us peace. So we stopped throwing stones and we stopped doing problems. But still we saw that our fathers were losing they're jobs, because the checkpoints are always closed in The West Bank and around Jerusalem. We could still see our lands being confiscated and the settlements still growing and they are not stopping, even now.

So, in 1996 the youth went back to the streets. And there were clashes in 1996, 1997, 1998, and then I grew up. I went to university. I graduated with a hotel management degree in 2001. Then ISM started and I joined ISM in 2002. I became a non-violent peace activist. Now I am doing advocacy work and reporting for the Palestinian Center for Reproachment.

Basiclly, the fact is, being oppressed all the time never having the experiences that other children around the world had, affected us. You have to fight for your playground. You have to fight for your toys. You have to fight for your education. During my time in elementary school, they closed the schools. And we had to sneak around to houses. We use to have to go to peoples houses just to have school. Because we wanted to get an education. And if the army caught us in the streets, they would dystroy our toys and shoot at us. So that affected me because I never had my freedom. I never had the things that kids I saw on tv had. We use to see them in tv and movies having fun. And I wondred why I could not do this.

Durring my youth, I always wondered; "Why I can't go to Jerusalem?" I was always told that I was born in Jerusalem. You know I was a young boy. You always want to go and explore when you are that age. You want to go out. You want to see the world. It's normal. But, our space was limited by bypass roads, by the army, checkpoints. So, we have never had the chance to move freely because the occupation has dystroyed our economy. Our parents never had extra money to give to us to travel, not even to Ramallah as a normal child can do in other places.

Right now, the only way the world will hear of us is if we market our cause. We need to do advocacy work along with other forms of non-violent action. The world needs to know the sufferring of the Palestinians.

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