“We need a third party that promotes one state where Palestinians and Israelis will be equal”

Thoughts of a Palestinian worker after the latest round of war

Interview and translation from Arabic: Assaf Adiv

The phone call from Musa (pseudonym), which came a few hours after announcement of the ceasefire, did not surprise me. For many years Musa and I have been exchanging views on the situation, and I am well acquainted with his unique and courageous voice. Musa spoke fluently, non-stop. It was obvious he was speaking from the heart.  

Musa wakes up every morning at 2.00 a.m., prepares his provisions and sets out for his workplace. He, Like 150,000 Palestinian workers who are employed by Israeli companies, he will go through checkpoints, humiliations and unplanned obstacles on their way, even before they start work at 7.00. These workers, whose income is a crucial component of the Palestinian economy, also play a vital role in the Israeli economy.

Musa knows Israel well. He has been working for Israeli employers for 15 years. At the conclusion of his work day, he returns to the Palestinian side and the sad reality in which he and his family live. As someone who directly experiences the Israeli occupation in the flesh, Musa’s words take on special meaning. Here are the primary things he said in our last conversation:

“The young say that Hamas did what no Arab country dared to do. Today (Friday May 21st) in the al-Aqsa Mosque, after a Friday sermon given by the Mufti of the Palestinian Authority, who did not mention the war at all, a real uprising against him began – people called him and Abu Mazen traitors!”

“I think this support for Hamas is the result of no alternative. If there was a serious body that offered to build a common state of Israelis and Palestinians, one that would allow young Palestinians to live, travel and see the world beyond the walls, they would choose it. Shortly before the coronavirus pandemic, Israel permitted Palestinians from the West Bank to reach Tel Aviv and Netanya. Many young people told me they were amazed to see Israelis treat them in a normal and humane way. Our young people do not know what life is, what a beach is, what a train is. Everyone here dreams of Europe, but in a sense Israel is Europe.”

“We need to find a solution that will allow us to live equally with Israelis. Mahmoud Abbas and the PA are corrupt. They consider the security coordination with Israel a sacred thing. They are known to speak two languages. On the one hand they talk about Palestine, and on the other, during the war, they were silent. Only now, after Egypt announced that it would give half a billion dollars for rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip, did the PA demand that the money go through them.

“What I am telling you is the opinion of many, but no one dares to say that the solution is together with Israel. If I say or write this they will call me a traitor. All the workers understand this is the right direction, but we need the intellectuals and educated class, those with influence and voice, to support it.

“The people go with Hamas because they understand the PA is doing nothing. Hamas boasts that it is challenging Israel and firing missiles. Yet it hasn’t reconstructed the homes in Gaza that were destroyed in 2014. Both sides – Ramallah and Gaza – are building themselves up by means of the never-ending conflict. A power is needed to replace the PA and Hamas.

“In Gaza, people are without jobs and without a future. They cannot leave, and the only force that can employ them is the Hamas or Islamic Jihad militias – obviously young people will join them. As our young people face a blank wall with no future, no jobs, and no chance to travel and live, support for Hamas and Jihad will increase.

“In the West Bank, the situation is different – here we have job opportunities in Israel. People see the Palestinian Authority employees earning NIS 2,000 a month and then everyone says to themselves, I prefer the difficulties of the checkpoints so as not to depend on that Authority. To this add the VIP certificates that PA officials have, which allow them to move freely. They talk about the liberation of Jaffa and Acre and Haifa, but enjoy the existing system and leave us locked up.

“I think the equation needs to be reversed. We should live in equality. Like in the US – all together, black and white. That’s how it should be here. We do not need a country like Jordan or Lebanon. Non-functioning countries. People want democracy and freedom. People ask where all this is leading. Israelis, too, need to understand that it is impossible to shut us down and expect peace. There must be a third party that presents a new alternative. I know that already today there are a lot of joint economic projects for Israelis and Palestinians who work together. Israel is a strong country, it has technology and an economy. We need to understand the situation and make contact with Israelis.”

The Voice of the Silent Majority

Comments by Yacov Ben Efrat:

Musa’s remarks, brought here in his own words, express a widespread opinion in Palestinian society, both in the West Bank and in Gaza. Yet this voice is not heard. The discourse dominating the street is unfortunately that of a particular stratum of activists and intellectuals, who celebrate the newfound unity between the West Bank Palestinians and those living in Israel, who support the “victory” of Hamas and Jihad. This discourse skips the need to deal with the situation on the ground, which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and the Israeli Right wing.

Despite his criticism of the Palestinian leadership, Musa is not dragged along with those who would erase the presence of 7 million Israelis. Musa explains that the slogan of one state from the Jordan to the sea is not enough. For this to come about, Israelis need to be involved. Musa knows both sides and tries to look at reality objectively.

A scheme that erases Israel and ignores the contradictions within it plays into the hands of both the Israeli Right and the Islamic current, which are ideologically opposed to democracy. The Palestinian people needs a new political program, based on a correct reading of reality. Such a program must also be addressed to the democratic Israeli public that opposes the Right.

The things Musa is talking about reinforce the view that the only way to end the Occupation is to build a democratic state, in which Palestinians and Israelis live equally. This position is backed by the progressive wing of the American Democratic Party, which supported the struggle of blacks for full equality, and which today supports Palestinian rights in the spirit of the slogan “Palestinian lives matter.”

About Da'am: One State - Green Economy

Daam proposes an Israeli/Palestinian Green New Deal, both as a response to the current political-economic crisis and to create a basis for true cooperation between the two peoples. It is a plan that can end the conflict, abolishing the apartheid regime that Israel has imposed since 1967. It can replace the Occupation with a partnership based on civil justice, which will grant full civil rights to Palestinians equally with Israelis in the framework of a single state.