Talking About Peace in Nablus
The sun is setting and the city prepares for the nightly invasion of the Israeli army. Lately, Israeli soldiers refrain from entering the city’s refugee camps, instead sending the Palestinian Security Forces. The collaboration between the two is an open secret, and for the teenagers on the ground it doesn’t make much different who wears the uniform, “they all get showered with stones,” K. laughs as he tells me about a recent shoot out between a Palestinian militant faction and the PA.
The night before, also awaiting the army’s incursion in the middle of the night, I sat with a Palestinian journalist in Ramallah. He doesn’t take this collaboration so lightly. "It's worse than the Israelis," he says with rage sharpening the corners of his eyes. “Why?” I play devil’s advocate, “What do you expect the PA to do with all their American and Canadian training and European funding? Do you expect them to fight the occupation? Turn the guns on those who feed their families?"
"But the Israeli soldiers," he answers, "They are doing their job. They come here, invade us… they believe they're doing it for whatever reason they believe they're doing it for... But the Palestinian police, they are our brothers. When the Israelis arrested me, I was a hero in my people's eyes. When the PA arrests you, they put you in the same jail cell where they put the drug dealers and the rapists. Even the Israelis don't do this. They separate the political prisoners from the criminals. When your brother interrogates you, it is the closest person to you, he knows everything about you, and he doesn't need to do this job, he chooses to do it. He chooses to serve the occupation."
I’ve always found something about this nocturnal chitchat comforting. Knowing at best we are but witnesses I feel hopeful knowing the despair is communal. By morning it becomes clear they decided to leave Ramallah alone, so I went to Nablus. K. invited me to meet a restaurant owner. He is a fashionable man in his early forties with a face that looks a decade older. He runs a NGO in one of the camps. We talk about peace.
Finding out I’m an Israeli, he wants to assure me that I am welcome. He talks about how it was before the Second Intifadah, how it was when the borders were open, and he could go and visit friends on the other side of the wall. He stops his speech for a moment, seeing my skeptical eye. I have reported this story before. Over and over again. But this time I had a different question.
"You believe?" I found myself asking him.
"We believe," he answered. Without hesitation. And he’s old enough to know better.
“The sun has now finished its descent,” he interrupted my silence. “It's time to get some rest and prepare for the invasion.”