Until visiting the Tent of Nations on the 14th May, my thoughts and feelings on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict felt very disjointed and jumbled up. The conflict is so multi-faceted and layered that when you experience the different moral complexities of the situation, it is very hard to know how to organise your thoughts on everything. However, Daher Nasser whose family own the educational and environmental farm perfectly articulated my fragmented feelings on the occupation and how to peacefully fight back. In 1991 the land the Tent of Nations is located on was declared to be Israeli ‘state land’, and so the family were expected to leave. However, the Nasser family have the required papers proving that they have owned the land before and throughout the Ottoman, British, Jordanian and Israeli governance of the area. However, as a result of this the family have been involved in on-going court cases since the 1990’s, costing them thousands. Furthermore, with the declaration of the land to be Israeli, there are many restrictions and issues the family now suffers from in addition to the cost of their court cases. These include frequent threats of harassment from settlers, the prospect of land confiscation by the Israeli authorities, and not having permission to build upon their land. Last year about 1,500 trees were bulldozed by the authorities, without legal permission for demolition being obtained. The Israelis prevent the farm from accessing clean water, whilst surrounding settlements have plentiful water supplies and some houses even have swimming pools. The list of violations the Nasser family suffer from goes on.
Image taken by volunteer inside renovated cave
He referred to the failure of the international community to help Palestinians in the face of Israel violating international human rights law, and said that it was down to Palestinians themselves to be innovative and creative in their protest and challenging of the Israeli state. I thought this was very positive and inspiring, but it also made me feel even more determined to lobby the British government and organisations to support Palestine when I return to the UK. Daher summarised that despite the lengthy occupation, Palestinians have to be held accountable to the things they do have control over, and by doing this they are resisting the occupation of the mind and victim mentality. Furthermore, Palestinians need the support of the international community, without being dependent on their intervention. Finally, education is of paramount importance to tackling the impacts of the Israeli occupation.
Sign at entrance of Tent of Nations farm
Daher offered proactive solutions to his unfortunate circumstances, and refuses to concede any part of his positive attitude to anger and defeat. This was the most poignant message I took away from our meeting. When hearing about Palestine in the Western media it is often in the context of some Palestinians/Hamas responding to the Israeli occupation with violence. Not only Daher, but many Palestinians I’ve met have emphasised the importance of fighting hatred with peace and education. His argument that education, peaceful protest and understanding are the most effective mechanisms to challenge the occupation reminded me of a conversation I had with one of my Palestinian friends. The scariest thing about the conflict is the breeding of hatred in children on both the Israeli and Palestinian side. This reinforces fighting hatred with hatred as both sides see the other as non-human: a faceless enemy. The future generations need to challenge this mentality through education and communication, otherwise this vicious cycle will continue.