Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Quiet Dream of A Normal Life: Hisham JamJoum

As part of a series of interviews, we will hear from Palestinians and Israelis who speak of the current situation in Israel/Palestine, and they're hopes and dreams for a normal life beyond occupation. Today we speak with Hisham JamJoum, a Palestinian non-violent peace activist working with The International Solidarity Movement.

HISHAM JAMJOUM:The situation in general is very bad. Whether we speak of political situation, economic situation, or cultural situation. Now it's very bad now. We don't know where we are now. We have no government. No Palestinian government. And in a few days, there will be elections for the new Israeli government.

We don't know what they will do. And, until now, we are waiting for the program of our government, The Palestinian National Authority. So till now we see how we are living and we hope that we get good things in the future. But, you know, we must wait. This word we must use it a lot; Wait. We'll wait and we'll see what will happen.

I was born here in Jerusalem in 1959. I grew up, and when I start to understand what is happening around me, it was during the 1967 war. I remember when I saw for the first time a soldier in my life in front of me when he came and check us, we were living in Beit Hanina. He came to search our house and he says he is Jewish. I didn't know what Jewish was. But he says he is Jewish.

After they came, there was two days of curfew and a lot of shooting outside of our house. But after that...I think it was some sort of program, political things. They let the people, the people at that time, they gave them a lot of money, a lot of jobs, and a high salaries. I'm not sure if it was a program or what, but they did this up until the end of the 1980's. And then after this, they told us; "You can't go and work inside Israel anymore." Those from the West Bank, I mean. Before, any Palestinians could come and work in Israel and sell produce and other things. But now, they say we can't do this anymore.

You know, there are three kinds of Palestinians. The first are those whose lands were occupied in 1948, they have Israeli nationality, but they are Palestinians. They have Israeli passports and they are almost citizens, but in a third class.

They the second kind are Palestinians who live in Jerusalem and have Israeli ID, but they can't have Israeli passports. All of these Palestinians have Jordanian passports and have no rights at all. They are just living here for now.

And the third kind of Palestinian is from Gaza and The West Bank. They have Palestinian ID and Palestinian passports and they are not allowed to enter Jerusalem. Not even to pray, whether they are Christians or Muslims. They are not allowed to enter Israel.

So in this, they kept us for 20 years working and having a good income they cut it off all at once. People use to make good incomes, you know. I can see now, I know a lot of people they see on TV or on the maps they know they can't go to Israel.

One big reason for many troubles is the economic situation. The economic situation is becoming worse and worse. Constant closure, West Bank closure, even to other parts of the West Bank.

And the worse thing I can think of right now that makes the economic situation bad is they increase the taxes. They increase them for buildings and for commercial things, and there is no work to pay the taxes.

If you compare East Jerusalem with West Jerusalem. In East Jerusalem you have five percent of the people working. And compare it with West Jerusalem which has far more people employed. But in East Jerusalem, we are paying the higher taxes and we have no work. There is building tax, income tax, insurance tax, television tax, radio tax...The taxes never end.

That's why the situation becomes worse and worse. People are hoping for a richer future. But also, at the same time we say; "Wait."

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