Matthew Cassel returns to Ramallah to see how Palestinians try to live a ‘normal’ life under occupation.
A lot has changed since my last visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank more than seven years ago. The intensity of the intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israel’s occupation, has simmered down. The Ramallah street corners where I used to watch Palestinian youth throw stones at Israeli soldiers, have transformed into glittery cafes that charge $5 for a latte. Palestinians walk the streets with a sense of ease that I had never witnessed during previous visits. The situation feels almost normal.
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But normalcy is difficult to achieve under military occupation. Israel’s impromptu checkpoints and random raids into towns and villages that have made life close to impossible for Palestinians, have decreased, but they can and do still happen at any moment. And that means life under occupation is always unpredictable, and Palestinians are constantly reminded that freedom is something they are yet to achieve.
However, the most striking change from 2006 is the dramatic increase in Israeli settlements. Whether it is new ones being built or old ones growing in size, Jewish-only settlements are scattered all over the West Bank. And with the increasing number of settlements, along with Israeli roads, nature reserves and other sites, driving around the occupied West Bank does not feel any different from driving around Israel.
After this trip back to the West Bank and seeing the increasing pervasiveness of Israel’s occupation, it is blatantly obvious that the one-state solution in Israel and Palestine is inevitable. The ongoing theft of Palestinian land has rendered the two-state option impossible. However, the big question that remains is by the time everyone admits that one state is the only solution, what will Palestinians have left?
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