Reflection on the West Bank – Josh Morris

Joshua Morris, Peace Now Intern

Joshua Morris, Peace Now Intern

The following report was written by Joshua Morris, a student at the University of Birmingham UK, after driving through the West Bank for the first time.

After spending a rather hectic afternoon traversing areas of the West Bank, visiting both settlements, outposts and Palestinian villages I was caught in very much two minds.  On one hand it made me immensely proud of Israel, and on the other, deeply embarrassed to call myself a supporter of the state.

 Although beautiful in some parts, the West Bank is in many ways a desolate place.  It lacks natural resources and the land is very hard to cultivate.  Interestingly however, when travelling through it, my instant gut feeling was not sorrow for the clear daily hardship which faces the Palestinians who wished to work and build upon this bleak land, but pride for Israel.  This was because, for much of the journey, all I could see through my eyes, was the wondrous achievements of how the state of Israel and Jewish people had settled and built upon this land just like this. Whilst driving, I felt myself slipping back sixty, seventy, eighty years in time.  I simply could not get the idea out of my head that what I was driving through is the canvas or the foundations from which the modern state of Israel has sprung, on which its story has been painted.  Israel’s thriving metropolises, most notably Tel Aviv, have grown from land exactly the same as the dry arid conditions through which I was now driving .  Every time I looked out of the window, I was constantly reminded of the fact that even in one of the most harshest natural environments on earth, Israel’s pioneers and its subsequent generations have managed to create a richly diverse, cultural and economically successful state.

 However these rather Zionistic thoughts triggered another reaction within my brain.  If Israel has to all intents and purposes become a regional superpower using this parched land, why have the Palestinians in the West Bank failed so drastically?   To the tune of mass unemployment and a life expectancy, which is a massive 8 years less than their Israeli counterparts living in some cases a mere kilometre away. 

This question however was quickly answered when visiting the IDF checkpoint situated on the outskirts of Nablus, which processed every vehicle entering and exiting the city.  In fact up until recently the Israelis operated a strict quota system as to exactly how many vehicles could be within Nablus at any one time.  What began to dawn on me whilst observing soldiers interrogate a Palestinian builder and search through his cement mixer was that the intrinsic difference between the Palestinians living in the West Bank, and the original Jewish pioneers, who built the state which I am in so many ways proud.  It is not that the Palestinians lack the founding Zionists’ desire, motivation, or passion to create a state for their people, as many would like to think.  Rather, the difference is that despite many obstacles which Israel and its Jewish residents were forced to overcome sixty years ago, they did not, after Independence,  involve, outposts, road blocks and settlements.  There was no state, which would periodically demolish their homes or build fences, walls and roads which would cut their land, villages and towns in two.  At no point was Ben Gurion for example, humiliated at a checkpoint when travelling from his Kibbutz in the Negev up north.

 The Israeli public must be reminded of the fact that when we look at the Palestinians, we are not looking at strangers, but are in fact peering into our and Israel’s past.  We were once also stateless refugees living in an uninhabitable landscape, however through sheer will and determination the state of Israel was born.  It is with this in mind, we must also allow the Palestinians of the West Bank to, use all their resources, desire and passion, to also create a state which their children and children’s children are proud of. 


















3 Responses to “Reflection on the West Bank – Josh Morris”

  1. Andy Levy-Stevenson Says:

    Those original pioneers did, however, face a constant state of belligerency after the War of Independence:

    There were attacks from Egypt. Abba Eban addressed the UN about them, and I quote:

    “During the six years during which this belligerency has operated in violation of the Armistice Agreement there have occurred 1,843 cases of armed robbery and theft, 1,339 cases of armed clashes with Egyptian armed forces, 435 cases of incursion from Egyptian controlled territory, 172 cases of sabotage perpetrated by Egyptian military units and fedayeen in Israel. As a result of these actions of Egyptian hostility within Israel, 364 Israelis were wounded and 101 killed. In 1956 alone, as a result of this aspect of Egyptian aggression, 28 Israelis were killed and 127 wounded.”

    There were also attacks from Jordan & Syria during this time, over & above the attacks from Egypt. Israeli farmers in the Galilee lived under constant threat of sniper fire from the Golan.

    Yet despite that, Israel grew and flourished.

    During this same period, Jordan occupied Judea & Samaria, so one might expect that the Palestinian Arabs living there would have built up that society. Never happened.

    Interesting article, but Josh still has a lot to learn.

  2. Sarah Goldstein Says:

    Andy, although the conditions in which the pioneers created Israel were awful, in fact making their achievements even more impressive, this does not give Israel any sort of justification to inflict restrictions on the Palestinians. We have to see this situation as separate from the pioneers of Israel, look only at the Palestinians and you should see that they are not being treated fairly, no one should expect them to be able to be able to build their own infrastructure when it takes 45 minutes to drive down the same road it used to take 8 minutes to drive down and when settlers are burning down their fields.

    If Israel is truely the only democracy in the Middle East then it must start acting like one. Israel shouldn’t be looking back into the past and justifying its policies by using the actions committed by Israels enemies as a precident. Rather Israel must ‘be a light unto the nations’ and give the Palestinians the opportunity to build a state in an enviroment the pioneers would have dreamt of.

  3. Michal Says:

    Sarah, while there are restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, they were brought on them because of those who chose to terrorize Israelis by blowing up buses and coffee shops. When the weapon smuggling and terrorism stops, the restrictions will be lifted. Ever since the security fence/wall was built – suicide bombings have gone down by more than 90%. And by the way, less than 6% of the barrier is actually a cement wall.
    I do think that there need to be more soldiers put at the checkpoints, so the Palestinians won’t need to wait for hours to get through and settlers should be punished for burning down olive trees and harassing Palestinians. But, you have to think about what the root of the problem is – there was a two-state solution back in 1947, but the Palestinians refused. They were granted their own State by the U.N., just as Israel was. However, the Arab countries attacked Israel, so land was lost. Same thing happened in 1967. When there’s a viable option for peace, Israel is willing to make concessions – it gave back Sinai to Egypt before the peace agreement in 1978. And made peace with Jordan in 1994. In 2005, Israel gave up Gaza for peace, but received nothing in return, but rockets. Israel gave the Palestinians the opportunity to build the beginning of a state for themselves, but instead their leadership chose to continue to attack Israel. Instead of giving the Palestinians opportunity and hope, Hamas is making the situation more dire. What do you think will happen if Israel removes all of the check points from the West Bank and all of the legal settlements (illegal ones should be removed immediately)? Peace?

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