Interview with Ayed Morrar

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your work.

My name is Ayed Morrar. I am from Budrus, a small village near Ramallah.1 In 2003, I co-founded the Popular Committee Against the Wall, which opposes the racist Israeli Separation Wall.2 The Popular Resistance Committee against the Wall was first established in the village of Budrus. It was created after the Wall had already stretched for nearly 170 kilometers starting in Jenin3 in the northern West Bank,4 and finally reached our village. When the work on the Wall began, the Palestinians were shocked and were uncertain about how to resist this Israeli action. In 2002, when Israel re-occupied the Palestinian cities and began building the Wall, there was no effective working model for resisting. When the route of the Wall reached us, through a private and small initiative, we decided to resist it differently. During the first meeting we didn't have a specific name in mind, we were searching for a means of resisting the Wall and tried to come up with a framework that would lead and guide our system.

The first meeting was attended by 70 representatives from nine villages of Budrus, Deir Qiddis, Kharbatha, Ni'lin, Midiya, Qibya, Shibtin, and Bil'in. I invited heads of local councils, local politicians from different parties, such as Fatah5 and Hamas,6 leaders of youth organizations and directors of local NGOs. We discussed the issue of the Wall and agreed that sooner or later it would reach us, due to our location as border villages [on the Green Line].7 We discussed the development of an effective means of resisting it and agreed to form a small committee, called the Popular Committee. It included representatives of the different local NGOs and organizations. We also agreed that every village should have a local committee in addition to an umbrella organization for every group of villages.

The Popular Committee Against the Wall involves representatives of organizations in every village who believe in the same method of nonviolent resistance against the Occupation, especially given the grave danger the Wall poses. In Budrus, as in other villages, the local council, schools, youth organizations and political organizations are all represented in the Popular Committee. All of them have the desire and ability to commit to nonviolent resistance against the Occupation and they all believe in this path.

Since then we have been involved in peaceful popular resistance against the Wall. We managed to salvage thousands of acres of our land that was slated for confiscation for building it. Near the village of Budrus alone we saved 400 acres planted with 3,000 olive trees. Budrus is a small village, its population doesn’t exceed 1,500, but with 55 popular marches we managed to save our land. These marches had a price: one man was killed and nearly 300 were injured, in addition to the 36 who were imprisoned with sentences ranging from 4 - 8 months. We should be prepared to pay the price for freedom and also maintain faith in our nonviolent way.

Through nonviolent resistance against the Wall, we have established relationships with international sympathizers, some of whom became members in our committee. We appreciate these relationships and are very proud of them and the positive role they play in supporting us and our peaceful struggle against the Occupation. We have many Israeli sympathizers who play a major and important role in the nonviolent struggle as well. Their role has different aspects, the first is cultural. The Palestinians have been accustomed to viewing Israelis as soldiers and settlers.8 As open-minded people, we have always been aware that there are certain Israelis who want and believe in peace. For the first time we were able to see the other side of the Israelis who wish to establish relations with the Palestinian people based on equality; who object to occupation and the oppression Israel practices against the Palestinian people.

In addition, Israeli and international solidarity activists are better equipped than Palestinians to face the media public opinion in their home countries. They can discuss the issue of the Wall with their own people and pressure their governments to take an influential stand against it. We are very proud of these relations with our Israeli counterparts, which are completely different from normalization,9 which we both oppose. Normalization can't be achieved under occupation.10

Normalization as we understand it relates to the Israeli Occupation. Israeli activists who come to resist the Occupation reject it, and so they are our supporters. We want to recruit all the free people of the world, including Israelis, to side with us against the Occupation. We are proud of these relationships. Because the Popular Committee included affiliates of Fatah, Hamas, and all Palestinian factions, we didn't leave room for criticism.

Why did you choose nonviolence for your struggle in Budrus against the route of the Separation Barrier?

We are talking about nonviolent resistance at a stage of violence between both sides, the second intifada.11 Palestinians are trying other methods of resistance, out of despair that peaceful resistance will achieve nothing. Throughout their history, the Palestinian people have always pursued peaceful means of resistance. In 1929 the Palestinians were engaged in nonviolent resistance against the British occupation,12 and such was the case also in the first intifada,13 which erupted in 1987. The vast majority of the activities during the first intifada were nonviolent, yet many Palestinians served several years in Israeli jails for raising the Palestinian flag, writing a slogan against the Occupation or going on strike. Almost 2,000 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces while no more than 70 Israelis lost their lives. For these acts, the Occupation exacted a heavy price from Palestinians and during the second intifada some Palestinian factions searched for other courses of action.

I believe Palestinians have the right to resist the Occupation using all means they see fit. All international treaties and agreements legitimize resistance against occupation, and we should choose the most correct form of resistance. We didn't choose nonviolent resistance out of submission or fear. Peaceful resistance requires more courage than violent resistance. I personally served nearly seven years in Israeli jails and was injured twice. I took part in many forms of resistance until I fully understood that nonviolence is the best way for the Palestinians to resist the Occupation.

You said that the first intifada was mainly nonviolent. How can the use of Molotov Cocktails, for example, be considered part of nonviolent resistance?

By nonviolent resistance I mean all activities and methods of exerting pressure on the occupier, but they shouldn't intend to cause death. Any activity which isn't meant to kill is nonviolent resistance. Meanwhile, each action meant to kill or cause death is completely rejected. Despite the fact that we believe the Palestinian people have the right to practice any kind of resistance, we preach nonviolent resistance which includes all activities that aren't meant to kill.

Some people might wonder about using violent means in a nonviolent struggle.

I am not in a position to judge resistance activists. I mentioned earlier that we have the right to resist as a people. The right judgment can be made by the activists themselves. I am in charge of popular and nonviolent activities, I don't practice any violent action meant to kill or harm civilians or non-civilians. We oppose all kinds of killing and we don't practice violence; those who do can answer this question themselves.

I seek to obtain my rights through nonviolent means; however, many Palestinians began to prefer other means to realize their dream of freedom. I believe even those who adopt violent means will stop immediately if they are granted their freedom in an independent state. If we choose nonviolence, we will be better equipped to present our case to the world and rallying international support. The Palestinians should maintain their image as victims of the Occupation. Israeli propaganda, which has great influence on the international media, tries to depict the Palestinians as criminals and the occupiers as victims. This has resulted in Israel’s success in marketing the concept of terrorism while Palestinians failed to market the concept of the Occupation.

How can nonviolent resistance help achieve your goal in practice?

The Israelis are very creative in using their destructive weapons. They have one of the most advanced weapon arsenals in the world. They have the best and most advanced warplanes and tanks and they excel in putting them to use, but we can cripple these weapons by adopting a nonviolent agenda.

{Empty title}

I think this occupation, like any other, rests on three main pillars: the economy, the media and military ability. In terms of the economy, we can resist by boycotting Israeli products. We don’t want to deny the Israelis their honorable living, but we seek to pressure the Occupation and this is a very powerful peaceful way of resisting. The Palestinians have so far been unable to implement a boycott effectively. If we could implement this strategy, it would contribute greatly to ending the Occupation.

In terms of the media, Israel has strong control over the international media outlets. During lectures at different institutions in the USA, I was surprised by some of the questions about Palestinian suicide bombings.14 I used to respond to these questions with a question of my own: I asked how many of them knew that nearly 1,000 Israelis had been killed in the last 5 years. Nearly all of them raised their hands. When I asked how many of them knew that more than 4,000 Palestinians were killed during the same time, only 5 or 6 people raised their hands. In the USA, the two major media giants, CNN and ABC have a clear policy. They side with the Occupation and ignore the Palestinian cause. ABC once covered a demonstration march near the village of Kharbatha Al-Harithiyya. The activities lasted all day long, and 50 Palestinian demonstrators were injured. ABC's conclusion of the event was to show a Palestinian youth hitting an Israeli soldier with his foot. They ignored what happened all day and all the Palestinians injured and chose to focus on that single small incident. They showed it over and over again in repeat.

{Empty title}

But, we now know that small cameras carried by international solidarity activists have been very effective in overwhelming the massive propaganda machine steered by the Occupation. This is especially true in the modern age of easy and immediate communication. We need a complete media network to be able reflect the real image of the Palestinian people without any exaggeration. We need to show that we are victims of occupation, and at the same time we need to reflect the real image of the Occupation. It is important to explain how occupation demolishes our lands and homes depriving us of our dream of statehood. Division of the West Bank, for example, kills the Palestinian dream of establishing an independent state. Settlements, the Wall, and home demolitions15 are all links of one chain, occupation. We are interested to uncover these facts through media and promote the idea that the Palestinian people have the right to resist occupation in order to achieve freedom.

{Empty title}

We can neutralize the Israeli military might by denying them the opportunity of using it. It is true we may suffer more if we choose to adopt popular and nonviolent methods of resisting the Occupation, but we can't continue claiming the whole world is against us. We should start looking for ways to gather the world's support. The Occupation doesn’t need any excuses for killing Palestinians; they would rather wake up one morning and not find a single living Palestinian soul, so the question is what role should we play?!

How did you apply nonviolent principles to your specific struggle in Budrus?

By nonviolent resistance I don’t mean raising banners and chanting in front of Israeli soldiers. By nonviolent resistance I mean avoiding killing. I will not kill or use any means that could lead to killing. I aim to stop a bulldozer, for example, by placing my body in front of it. Many in the West view Gandhi's nonviolent way as the optimal nonviolent struggle. But Palestinian culture is completely different from Indian society and the culture Gandhi led at the time. The Indians viewed Gandhi as more divine than Palestinians could view a leader. By nonviolent resistance I don’t mean writing slogans and giving soldiers lessons in ethics. During many of our marches we used our bodies to achieve our goals and stop bulldozers, and we succeeded. We never carried any objects that could cause death, despite being faced with extreme violence by Israeli forces.

How can nonviolent protest be effective when it encounters violence?

One demonstration we held required 120 - 130 Israeli soldiers, while 5 other demonstrations took place simultaneously in villages in western Ramallah. In part of one district, our demonstrations exhausted more than 500 Israeli soldiers who countered unarmed people. In such cases, the soldiers have to reconsider their beliefs that they have the right to kill people because they are protecting their people and homeland. In nonviolent resistance, none of the protestors want to kill soldiers or threaten their lives. Protestors are unarmed children, elderly people, women, and youth who come to tell soldiers that they can't oppress people and confiscate their land.

{Empty title}

In a demonstration in Nabi Salih, I saw an Israeli soldier disobeying his commander. He threw down his helmet and went back to his military jeep. With our [nonviolent] protests we can negate the Israelis’ claim that the Israeli soldier is a victim because we are proving he is the oppressor. We should prove to Israeli soldiers that they are oppressors and encourage them to refuse military service. There are about 600 Israeli soldiers who refuse to serve in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.16 This phenomenon is important to us, and we should encourage it. Popular resistance should change the traditional way of thinking, and develop a new method which deals cleverly with the world and our surroundings.

{Empty title}

I think Palestinians should choose the most effective way of resisting the Occupation. It is true that popular resistance requires greater efforts. When organizing a mass rally, we aim for the maximum number of participants who all share the same goals and believe in the same path. Military operations, on the other hand, don’t require more than one man convincing another of carrying out an operation, giving him a weapon and explaining how to do it. Convincing thousands of men, women and children to take part in a rally is much more difficult. On the other hand, I don’t think we need more than half the people who take part in an average martyr's funeral to block a road leading to a settlement or remove a military checkpoint.17

Through one action, we managed to delay the destruction of Palestinian homes despite the military order. Previously, resisting or stopping the destruction of a home was considered impossible. We even managed to peacefully infiltrate the Qalandia military compound and checkpoint in 2004. People used to think it was impossible to infiltrate a massive military complex that divided the West Bank into two separate sections. We also managed to get hundreds of people through the checkpoint without their having to experience the grueling process of being checked by the soldiers.

What is the role of nonviolence in internal Palestinian politics?

Palestinian endurance in the face of external aggression is legendary, but we fear internal conflicts. It is a common fear among Palestinians that the weapons used in the armed struggle against Israel will be used against each other. Because we are accustomed to popular and nonviolent resistance, this threat will be eliminated since there won't be any weapons to use. Civil war reared its head on numerous occasions in Gaza18 and even threatened to reach the West Bank. In my opinion, popular militarization has a very negative effect. Weapons, by nature, inevitably lead to violence.

If we were to talk about fear of civil war, the Palestinian people have recently created the greatest democratic process in the Middle East. Democracy in the Middle East should not be taken for granted. It is more like a garden in the middle of a minefield. We, as Palestinians should not undermine this democratic experience and allow the uncontrolled weapons on the streets to threaten the very endeavor we are so proud of. It is unacceptable to misuse Palestinian weapons. Even if these weapons were a beneficial means in the armed resistance, they remain a threat when it comes to internal fighting. Taking into account all factors, I am convinced nonviolent and popular resistance is the best and most efficient way to realize our goals and national ambitions.

Why do you think the nonviolent struggle against the Separation Barrier succeeded in Budrus?

Success is determined by the motivation and activities in the field. In Budrus we set a very good example for implementation of the ideas proposed at the meeting. We were surprised to see that women were by no means less motivated and driven to take part in popular activities than men. In some cases their determination even exceeded that of their male counterparts. Many children also took part in our activities. During a typical march, nearly 500 people out of some 1,200 of the total population took part. This included men, women, children and elderly people; they all took part.

How can the success in Budrus be applied to other struggles?

We try to promote this kind of resistance among Palestinians and involve as many people as we can. Using the model we set up for resisting the Wall, we try to extend our effort to other issues. For example, in addition to the Wall, we are devising a mechanism to involve university students in nonviolent resistance to other aspects of the Occupation, such as military checkpoints. We organized two student rallies that marched to the Atara checkpoint. It’s hard to coordinate an activity involving large numbers of people, especially when most of the resistance mechanism currently in Palestine involves armed resistance. We need more international supporters and media attention. Bloody events usually attract the media and we need to encourage the media to cover this kind of resistance.

We didn’t anticipate or expect our doctrine to become so widespread when we first established it, but I am proud of the outcome. It will require a lot of difficult work to further develop the model we have created, but we are still hopeful and have strong faith in nonviolence and peace. In Budrus we managed to set an example. All the Palestinian villages affected by the Wall later followed this example; they knew what means and mechanisms to use. In 2003 and the beginning of 2004, there almost was a peaceful popular intifada against the Wall. At the time, 20-25 peaceful demonstrations against the Wall took place each day in villages such as Bil'in, Deir Qaddis, Kharbatha, Bidu, and Beit Sourik. All the villages that were affected by the Wall protested in the same way, using the same means, forming their own local committees, and broader committees coordinated the work between villages. A general committee was created in order to coordinate work on a national level.

{Empty title}

Like I mentioned earlier, this form of resistance requires great courage and effort. A Palestinian leader can't lead the masses from behind a desk. It is a lot easier for military leaders to sustain armed resistance. They don’t have to get out of their seats, but rather just send three or four people in every area on a military operation. Popular resistance requires mobilization of all available energies, and if you want to lead people, you need to be on the frontlines.

Earlier you mentioned that Israeli and international solidarity activists were in a better position to deliver your message to the international community. Why?

Criticism of the Occupation by its own people is more powerful than criticism by someone who lives under it, whose opinion is pre-determined. It is very important to find someone amongst your opponents who is willing to side with you.

We have created an opportunity for the world to be our eyewitnesses. We are not interested in propaganda or advertising, all we want is for our message to be conveyed accurately and realistically to the world. When a person witnesses a series of events firsthand, in this case the effects of the Wall on the Palestinian society and the destructive forces unleashed upon us, the message he conveys to his people will be very effective. An American may think the Palestinians reject Jews and Israelis no matter the circumstances, but when he hears from a fellow American talking about the situation, his views may change. When he hears eyewitness accounts from an Israeli, it has an even greater effect. When I was lecturing about the Occupation in the US, an Israeli friend accompanied me. He talked about the Occupation in the same way I did, because common sense dictates that no free man should accept being part of an occupying force if he rejects being occupied himself.

How can you convince Palestinians who live under occupation to adopt nonviolent resistance?

I can convince Palestinians to adopt this policy if there is an international environment that will guarantee results. Today Palestinians are accused of terrorism. If we abandon violence, will the US exert pressure on Israel to end the Occupation and grant us our rights? If the answer is positive, that will help us greatly. It is like a cogwheel; in order to get anywhere, the slots should be aligned. The Palestinian people can be easily convinced if there is some kind of guarantee for success. It may be a more difficult and tiring way, but in return, the Palestinians will feel they are not alone in their struggle.

Where do your convictions about nonviolence come from?

I never injured or killed an Israeli. During the first intifada, Palestinians were imprisoned for three years for simply raising the Palestinian flag, striking or writing a slogan on a wall. I was in charge of Fatah activities in the western Ramallah district and was jailed for 7 years on those charges. Palestinian prisoners are distinguished for their education and organization. They can, while in custody, read and educate themselves. The period I served in jail played a major role in formulating and developing my way of thinking. It also helped me promote the idea of nonviolent resistance; had I not been a former prisoner, some might claim I preach nonviolence because I lack the courage to do something else. Because people know I suffered and sacrificed in jail, and paid a heavy toll, nobody dares accuse me of cowardice.

What are the main difficulties you faced during your activities?

Oppression practiced by the Occupation in the first place. The Occupation forces didn’t hesitate to suppress our demonstrations. 70 protestors were injured out of a total of 500 by "rubber bullets," which in reality are metal balls coated with rubber. These bullets can kill. During one peaceful demonstration near the village of Bidu, 5 people were martyred. These people did not carry missiles, guns or explosive belts; they used only their bodies to stop a bulldozer from destroying their crops and land. Israeli oppression is one of the main obstacles we faced.

Another hurdle is the Palestinian daily routine. Personally, I always try to present the picture as it truly is, both in regard to Israelis and Palestinians. At one time, we held a rally in front of the Palestinian parliament. We requested the ministers' help and support. We demanded they take a clear and uncompromising political stand against the Occupation and the Wall. We asked for solidarity with the average people who suffered as a result of the Wall. When Palestinians see their MPs standing beside them in their struggles, it’s a major boost to their sense of motivation. But when they feel they are dying to defend their land while being ignored by their own MPs, many people start thinking there is some sort of agreement behind the scenes between the two governments. This causes great despair among our people.

Also, the presence of funding can have a negative effect on popular activities. If you receive funding from a certain side, it affects the trust of the people whose trust and cooperation you need. Nevertheless, we have experienced financial exhaustion and this causes some despair and loss of motivation. I am in charge of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in the Ramallah area. As an employee with the Palestinian Authority,19 I haven't been paid my salary for seven months. I often can’t afford to pay my travel fare to go to Bil'in to take part in a demonstration organized by my own group. I ought to be there and it is quite shameful that demonstrations go on while I am sitting in my office, but I simply don’t have the financial backing.

What can people do to support your work?

Popular resistance suffers from lack of financial support. When a protestor is injured during a demonstration, he needs financial assistance. Activities themselves need financial coverage, and our budget is zero.

I want to appeal to all the free people of the world who believe in nonviolent resistance to find a way to support the Palestinian cause and take part in peaceful or unarmed resistance against the Occupation. Even our Arab allies are bound by international pressures and treaties which restrict their participation in Palestinian resistance. Violent resistance can’t be practiced abroad, but economic, social, and political pressure can by boycotting Israeli goods. Even a 4-year-old in US, France or South Africa can refrain from purchasing candies produced in Israeli settlements, and this is resistance against the Occupation. Using nonviolent methods, we can force the Occupation to abandon this counterproductive project and grant us our inalienable rights.

What is your view of the solution to the conflict?

Middle Eastern policies have a tendency to be set by emotions, not by calculated and consistent strategies. The result is a situation in which any person can commit an act of madness or violence and force a reaction from the different powers in the region, thus dragging the whole to rejoin into an abyss. On the other hand we can form a national unity government and demand the cessation of Israeli attacks on Gaza, sit around the negotiation table and reach an agreement, and it just might happen. All the options are open.

The Palestinian people and the free people around the world haven't lost hope in God. We are convinced this injustice will not continue and all people will receive their rights. It is the Israelis' right to live in peace and security, and the same is true for the Palestinians. But first Palestinians should gain their freedom. I believe the Palestinians need the Israelis and the Israelis need the Palestinians. Both people share a piece of land of great regional and international political and geographical importance. It is in both sides' best interest to preserve and improve their relationship, but I reiterate: this relationship should be balanced and fair.

As Palestinians we can never forget that Haifa20 and Jaffa 21 are Palestinian cities, but we should be politically realistic. All international treaties and UN resolutions support this political realism. The whole world recognizes the minimal Palestinian right to create a state on the lands occupied by Israel in 1967. We request the minimum of our rights, but are not able to receive our freedom unless the whole world supports us. We have not been able build our state and future on the remainder of our land. The Palestinian people can never, under any circumstances, give up the basic right of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with Jerusalem 22 as its capital. Our method is the best way to achieve this goal.

Enough wasting human lives. Sooner or later we will reach a solution on our own, or others will force it on us. There is no need for thousands of martyrs and dead on both sides. If we are honest with each other and with ourselves, we will surely realize that the many thousands of victims on both sides were lost in vain and will only impede the efforts to build respectable future relations.

When Shimon Peres 23 was the Israeli Prime Minister, he was asked why he wanted peace with the Arabs. He answered that he wanted Israel to take part in Arab soccer tournaments. One may think he was being naive, but what I think he really meant was that he wanted Israel to become a natural part of the Arab world and accepted in the region. He wanted Israel to be viewed as a natural part of the Arab world when it came to democratic and economic issues, and even soccer. But joining the Middle East is conditioned by the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel needs the Palestinian people as its link to the rest of the region. After achieving independence, the Palestinians will need to improve their economy and benefit from the Israelis’ democratic and technological achievements. Each side needs the other side. We should understand that the Israelis need security, and they should understand we need freedom.

What are the roots of the conflict?

The main cause is land. Historically, Jews and Arabs, or Jews and Muslims never had any problems. Have you ever heard of a Jewish-Arab conflict before the Israeli Occupation? There may have been some friction between them in Al Medina at the time of the prophet Mohammad,24 but that was settled 1,400 years ago. There is no religious conflict between Jews and Muslims. There has never been any ideological or ethnic conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the true, real and only conflict between the two sides began with the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. When we talk about the Occupation, we encounter words such as Jews, Israelis, Zionists25, and occupation. As popular resistance, we have no problem whatsoever with Judaism as a religion or with the Israelis as a people. Our problem is the Occupation only.

What does the word peace mean to you?

Peace means security and peace of mind; it means my child. While we live in these circumstances and have somewhat accepted them as our fate, we still dream of realizing for our children what we couldn’t achieve for ourselves. We all have dreams that we want our children to realize. Israelis are just the same; some surely dream of providing security for their children, security they couldn’t provide for themselves. Peace for me means to be able to bring up and educate my children.

How is the situation in Budrus now in January 2010, after two years have passed since we first interviewed you?

Today is Tuesday, January 5th 2010. I didn't go to my work at the Palestinian Interior Ministry because of a sudden demonstration which erupted at 3:00am. Harassment by Israeli army made us sleepless. They started hurling stun grenades at Palestinian homes in Budrus at 2:30am, and shouting through loudspeakers: "You have to stop children from going to the Wall, otherwise you will be disturbed at night this way." Soldiers marched ahead of military vehicles firing stun grenades inside homes terrifying children, women, and elderly people. As a result, the residents gathered and headed to the Wall to demonstrate. Stun grenades and tear gas canisters were fired at them as if it was midday.

Budrus premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival. What is your impression of the audience’s reaction to the film? Could media focus give the struggle a major push?

I was very happy with the audience' reaction, they were influenced by the film. I was very happy that famous Arab and international journalists and dignitaries attended the premiere and the warm applause was very promising. I believe popular resistance will become different after the film.

I would say the film complements our goal of creating a model for popular resistance. We already believed that talking and lecturing about popular resistance was not enough. A real model was needed for the people to follow. Budrus explains about the beginnings, the strategies, the leadership, the goals, and the results. I am sure this film will play a major role in circulating popular resistance across Palestine because it is the model we see as the easiest way to realize our national goals of freedom and statehood.

I also think it isn't an issue of popular resistance, but of freedom. Popular resistance isn't a goal for the Palestinian people, but it is rather a means to reach a goal. We feel popular resistance is the easiest and best way to realize our national goal - freedom. Promoting popular resistance worldwide isn't a goal by itself. Our goal is to convince the world of the Palestinian message behind popular resistance. This message is that the Palestinian people live on their land and have the right to independence and freedom like any other people in the world. We practice nonviolent resistance to realize our goals of freedom and statehood. We have the right to give our children hope to enjoy peace, safety, and freedom as any other people on this planet.


We have done our best to provide accurate, fair yet succinct footnotes to help you navigate the interviews. Our research team comprises more than 6 individuals, including Palestinians, Israelis and North Americans. Still, we recognize that these notes cannot capture the full complexity of this contested conflict. Therefore, we encourage you to seek additional sources of information, we welcome your feedback and appreciate your openness.

1. Ramallah. Palestinian city in the West Bank, about 16 kilometers north of Jerusalem. Est. population 40,000. The population of the Ramallah District, including its surrounding 88 towns and villages is 220,000. It is headquarters to the Palestinian Authority. ^

2. Separation Barrier. A long structure of connected concrete walls and fences that separates Israel from parts of the West Bank. It runs both along the Green Line and within the West Bank. Critics and proponents disagree over the intent behind the structure, its route, and its name. References to it include the "wall, separation wall, security fence, Apartheid Wall, separation barrier, annexation wall." Begun in 2002, its construction is still in progress. For a map of the existing structure and proposed route, please visit the B'Tselem website. Israel claims security needs necessitate its construction. Israel has modified some of the routes in response to a High Court of Justice ruling as well as in response to international pressure. Palestinians point out that the wall was built unilaterally, seizing lands recognized as illegally occupied by Israel according to international law. They also maintain that the wall steals privately-owned land, and chokes off some cities almost completely. For a thorough report: "A safety measure or a land grab?", visit the Economist, October 9, 2003 A debate about its appropriateness sprung up after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion declaring it a breach of international law. ^

3. Jenin. Palestinian city in the northern West Bank in the Occupied Territories. Est. population 35,000. ^

4. West Bank. Geographical territory located to the west of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. It has been under Israeli military control since 1967, although certain powers and responsibilities were transferred to the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo process (see Oslo process and Areas A, B and C). The Palestinian population of the West Bank is approximately 2.4 million. In addition, there are approximately 230,000-240,000 Jewish settlers living in the West Bank. ^

5. Fatah ("Al-Fatah"). Arabic for "conquest", Fatah is a reverse acronym for the "Palestine Liberation Movement" (Harakat al-Tahrir al-Watani al-Filistani). Fatah is the largest Palestinian political party in the Occupied Territories, and the dominant faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Founded in Kuwait in the late 1950s by YasserArafat to fight for the establishment of a secular democratic Palestinian national state on all of the territory of British Mandatory Palestine. It began paramilitary and political operations in 1964, and assumed the leadership of the PLO in 1968. The organization's tactics of "armed struggle" especially in the 1970s and 80s, included bombings, assassinations and hijackings in the Middle East, including Israel, and international locations. After Yasser Arafat's signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles in 1993, many Fatah leaders moved from Tunisia to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to serve in the political establishment and security forces of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). During the years of the "Oslo peace process" (1993-2000), the party shifted away from militancy and became identified as the chief proponent of a negotiated, two-state solution. From the launching of the second intifada through the death of Yasser Arafat (2000-2004), Fatah experienced a split between factions supporting a return to negotiations, and factions such as the "Tanzim" and "Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades" which resumed armed struggle against Israel and claimed responsibility for widespread attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. This division persists today. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), assumed leadership of Fatah and the PLO after the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004, and was elected President of the PNA in January 2005. See: "Fatah, al-" A Dictionary of Contemporary World History. Jan Palmowski. Oxford University Press, 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. CDL UC Berkeley. 18 December 2004. ^

6. HAMAS. (Arabic for "zeal" and an acronym for "Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya" or "Islamic Resistance Movement"). Inspired ideologically and organizationally by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and founded in 1987, HAMAS' long-term and declared aim is the destruction of the State of Israel in order to establish an Islamic state in all of the land of British mandatory Palestine. It uses political, social and militant means to further its goals, and claims responsibility for militant operations, including the use of suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israeli soldiers and civilians. The European Union and Israeli and American governments consider HAMAS to be a terrorist organization. HAMAS also provides charitable social and educational services, primarily in Gaza. It runs candidates in municipal elections and closed elections for university councils, trade union groups and nongovernmental organizations. The Israeli military has assassinated many of its political and military leaders in the last few years, including their spiritual leader and founder Sheikh Ahmad Isma'il Yassin and political/military leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi. HAMAS' success in recent Palestinian local elections (January 2005) has led some to speculate that the group is transforming from a primarily militant organization seeking an Islamic state over all of the land of British mandated Palestine to a political party focused on political control in the Palestinian Territories. For example, see Ben Lynfield. "Hamas Gains Political Clout," The Christian Science Monitor, 9 May 2005, For detailed analysis of the organization see ^

7. Green Line. Refers to the 1949 Armistice Line following the war of 1948. Demarcated unofficial boundaries for the cessation of hostilities between Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Following the 1967 war, it denotes, in most international opinion and UN resolutions, the boundary between territory recognized as part of the legitimate, sovereign State of Israel and the Occupied Territories. ^

8. Settler. Refers to a Jewish Israeli living in settlements - Jewish communities in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. The settlements, established following Israel's capture of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the war of 1967, are widely recognized as illegal under international law. By and large, they receive government funding as well as military and infrastructural support, although the Likud has initiated the withdrawal of settlers from Gaza in August 2005 and from a handful of settlements in the West Bank. Population statistics of the Jewish settler population vary according to different sources. There are approximately 240,00-250,000 settlers in the Palestinian Territories with approximately 7,000-8,000 living in the Gaza Strip and the rest residing in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem). According to B'Tselem, at the end of 2002 about 58% (or 394,000) of Jerusalem's 680,400 residents lived on land annexed in 1967. Of those 394,000, 45% were Jewish and 55% Palestinians (see There are approximately 17,000 settlers living in the Golan Heights. For information on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, see the B'Tselem report at For information on the settlement population in the Golan Heights see: David Rudge. "Campaign Uses Jobs to Entice Newcomers to Golan," The Jerusalem Post, 22 June 2005, pg. 5. ^

9. Normalization. In this context it refers to the process of creating 'normal' relations between the State of Israel and its Arab neighbors. Egypt was the first to normalize relations in 1979, with Jordan following in 1994. Normalization prior to the creation of a Palestinian state is viewed by many Palestinians and their supporters as a betrayal of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. Normalization during the era of pan-Arabism was also regarded as a betrayal of a broader anti-colonial stance. The Saudi initiative was the most comprehensive offer of normalization by the Arab world, under the condition of Palestinian statehood. ^

10. Occupation. The "Occupation" is used to refer to Israel's military control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. Some members of the Israeli government have referred to these territories as "disputed" rather than "occupied." See, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site; Also, "West Bank." Britannica Student Encyclopedia. 2004. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. 17 Dec. 2004; For a dictionary that uses the term "occupied" rather than "disputed": "West Bank" A Dictionary of Contemporary World History. Jan Palmowski. Oxford University Press, 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. CDL UC Berkeley. ^

11. Second Intifada. Intifada is Arabic for "shaking off." This refers to the recent Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation. The second intifada began in September 2000 following the breakdown of diplomatic efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is sometimes called the Al-Aqsa (Aksa or 'Aqsa) Intifada or the Armed Intifada. See also: Intifada. ^

12. British Mandate. The administrative, diplomatic and military mandate by Britain over Palestine between 1923 and 1947. Following World War I and the defeat of Germany and the Ottoman Empire, France and Britain set out to delineate spheres of influence in the Middle East. Pursuant to the informal Sykes-Picot Agreement, the Allied powers laid out details at the April 1920 San Remo Conference for formal mandated divisions. The mandate for Palestine was one of a number of mandates in the Middle East designed to formalize British and French administration in the newly formed countries of Syria and Lebanon and Iraq, Transjordan, and Palestine. The British mandate over Palestine was approved by the League of Nations Council on July 24, 1922, and declared official as of September 29, 1923. The mandate continued until 1947, when Britain sought the aid of the United Nations in determining the fate of the territory, which was at this time hotly disputed by both Zionist and Arab nationalist aspirations. British de facto rule in Palestine lasted from December 1917 to June 1948. See Library of Congress Country Studies at ^

13. First Intifada. Arabic for "shaking off." It is used also to refer to uprisings, especially during times of widespread Palestinian revolts against Israel. While some scholars consider the 1936-39 Palestinian uprising as the first intifada, the first intifada (1987-1993) usually refers to the popular uprising whereby Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza rose up against Israeli military rule through a coordinated movement involving multiple sectors of Palestinian society. Actions included mass rallies, general strikes, unarmed and stone-throwing confrontations, the use of Molotov cocktails and limited arms against the Israeli army, combined with self-administration of daily life and attempts at nonviolent civil disobedience. The Israeli military was unable to quash the rebellion, although they implemented a harsh "Force, Might and Beatings" policy under Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, involving widespread arrests, detention and torture. This intifada came to an end when Israel entered into negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization and co-launched the Oslo Peace Process. ^

14. Suicide Attack/Bombing.

Also referred to in the Arabic language and by Islamist groups as "martyrdom operations" (the act of suicide is forbidden in Islam), and by certain academics and Jewish groups as "homicide bombings." In most cases, the term is used to refer to militant operations during which the assailant detonates a bomb nearby targeted victims, sacrificing him or herself during the attack. While Palestinian suicide bombers do target Israeli military installations, they most often strike Israeli civilian areas. These attacks became especially popular in 1994 and during the tense years of the Oslo Process, employed most often by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. A second more frequent slew of attacks began after the start of the Second Intifada, including attacks by the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade in addition to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. See also Martyrdom Operations. For a list of attacks since 1994, see "Suicide and Other Bombing Attacks in Israel Since the Declaration of Principles (Sept 1993)." Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 8 August 2011.


15. House Demolitions. According to ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) website, "Since 1967, 12,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem." Nearly half of those demolitions have taken place since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000. The Israeli army practice of demolishing Palestinians' houses is illegal under article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Israeli army and government claim that houses are demolished for two main reasons: military/security, and lack of building permits. The majority of houses (also factories and shops) destroyed in the West Bank the Israeli army claims are destroyed for military and security reasons, including structures the army deems could be used in attacks against Israelis, or as a punitive measure against families from which a member is suspected of planning or carrying out attacks. Most of the Palestinian homes destroyed in East Jerusalem, certain parts of the West Bank, and in Palestinian cities and towns within Israel are destroyed because they lack a building permit from the Israeli authorities. Building permits are extremely difficult and at times impossible for Palestinians to obtain. See Amnesty International) and ^

16. Refusenik/Conscientious Objectors. Soldiers or reservists in the Israeli army who refuse to serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip or in the Israeli army altogether are commonly known as (and often refer to themselves as) "Refuseniks," a term that was first applied to Jews who were not allowed to leave the Soviet Union to come to Israel by the Soviet government. For an Israeli to legally avoid military service based on the grounds of conscience or refusal, one must be granted Conscientious Objector (CO) status. Hundreds of Israelis have refused service in the Occupied Palestinian Territories on moral grounds since the outbreak of the second intifada. Up to 280 have been court martialed for the decision, and many serve up to 35 days in jail. The Refusenik movement gained popularity after a group of Israeli reserve officers and combat soldiers drafted the Combatant's Letter in January 2002, outlining their justification for conscientious objection. See Courage to Refuse. 19 October 2007   ^

17. Checkpoints. Roadblock or military installation used by security forces to control and restrict pedestrian movement and vehicle traffic. The Israeli army makes widespread use of checkpoints in the Occupied Territories in order to control the movement of Palestinians between Palestinian cities and villages and between the Occupied Territories and Israel. They have been used on a few occasions to control some movement of Israeli settlers and Israeli citizens trying to enter Gaza and several West Bank settlements to protest Israeli disengagement from those territories. Checkpoints can be large and semi-permanent structures resembling simple basic border crossings (such as the Kalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem or the Hawara checkpoint between Nablus and Ramallah) or small, temporary impositions on roadways or outside towns or villages. The security forces at a checkpoint exercise total control over movement through the checkpoint. Depending upon the location of the checkpoint, soldiers may and often do check the identity papers of every vehicle passenger and/or pedestrian who wishes to pass through, and refuse passage to all who have not obtained permits from the Israeli military's Civil Administration in the Occupied Territories. Palestinians and Israeli observers cite frequent, if not routine, incidences of delay and harassment of Palestinian civilians at checkpoints, regardless of the status of their papers. There are currently checkpoints at the entry and exit points of every large Palestinian populated area in the West Bank, on every major road within the West Bank, and at every crossing point on the Green Line between Israel and the Occupied Territories, in addition to many smaller checkpoints within the West Bank. According to the IDF, a checkpoint is a "security mechanism to prevent the passage of terrorists from PA territory into Israel while maintaining both Israeli and Palestinian daily routine," used to "facilitate rapid passage of Palestinians while providing maximal security to Israeli citizens." For facts, figures, and maps on the web, see BBC , the Israeli NGO Machsom (checkpoint) Watch or The Palestinian Red Crescent ^

18. Gaza Strip. Geographical territory located on the Mediterranean Coast and bordering the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and Israel, with a total land mass of 360 sq km. Population: 1,376,289. The Palestinian populated territory was under Israeli administrative and military control from 1967 to 1994, when an agreement pursuant to the Declaration of Principles (DOP) gave the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) limited self-government for an interim five-year period, although Israel retained responsibility for external and internal security and for public order of settlements. Until August 2005, approximately 7000 Israeli settlers lived in the Strip. Negotiations aimed at determining final status of the West Bank and Gaza commenced in 1999, but were derailed by the second intifada in September 2000. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw all troops and dismantle all settlements in the Gaza Strip and return the territory to PNA control was completed in August 2005, although Israel maintains control over air space and borders. ^

19. Palestinian Authority. Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Also known as the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA was created to serve as the governing body in charge of Palestinian self-rule in the Occupied Territories as part of the Oslo process. As leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which negotiated the Oslo accords as the recognized sole legitimate representative body of the Palestinian people, Yasser Arafat became the PA Chairman. Upon Arafat's death, Mahmoud Abbas was elected President of the PA. The PA has observer status in the United Nations. ^

20. Haifa. An Israeli city on the Mediterranean Sea in the north of the country, comprising Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel, Haifa is Israel's third largest city and largest port. Est. population 266,000. ^

21. Jaffa. A city adjacent to Tel Aviv. One of the most important port cities in Israel. Est. population, combined with the city of Tel Aviv, 370,000. ^

22. Jerusalem. Known as Al Quds ("The Holy") in Arabic and Yerushalayim or Zion in Hebrew. A city located in the center of both Israel and the West Bank portion of the Occupied Territories. Home to approximately 700,000 people from all three monotheistic religions, as well as sacred sites from these faiths within close proximity, including the Western Wall, the al Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Green Line, or the 1949 cease-fire line between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, demarcates the unofficial boundary between Israel and the West Bank, and divides Jerusalem. Israel immediately declared Jerusalem as its capital in 1948, and enshrined this in its Basic Laws in 1980. Palestinians aspire to declare Jerusalem as the capital of a nascent Palestine. Following the War of 1967, Israel extended its sovereignty to the Eastern half of the city, including the Old City and the holy shrines, which were controlled by Jordan from 1948. Most countries do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over all of the city. Rather, they regard Jerusalem's status as undetermined, pending final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. See: "Jerusalem" World Encyclopedia. Philip's, 2004. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. CDL UC Berkeley. ^

23. Peres, Shimon.

(1923- ) A Jewish Israeli political figure of Polish origin. Peres immigrated to Palestine in 1932. He was a member of the Jewish paramilitary group Haganah (the precursor to the Israeli army) and, after the establishment of Israel in 1948, held several positions in the Ministry of Defense. Throughout his political career, he has been a member of four political parties: Rafi, Alignment, Labor and Kadima. He was first elected to the Israeli parliament in 1959 and has almost continually held various governmental positions, including Prime Minister from 1984-1986 and 1995-1996 and Foreign Minister from 1986-1988, 1992-1995 and 2001-2002. Along with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Peres received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role in the signing of the Oslo Accords. In 1996, he established the Peres Center for Peace to further the peace process through economic and social cooperation with the Palestinians. In 2005, Peres left the Labor party in support of Kadima, the new political party formed by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In June 2007, Peres was elected the ninth President of the State of Israel. See "President Shimon Peres" The President of the State of Israel. 3 October 2011.


24. Prophet Mohammad. Mohammad was the founder of Islam, and is revered by Muslims as the final prophet of God. See also "Islam" in glossary. ^

25. Zionism. The belief that the Jewish people should have a national homeland, and refuge from persecution, in Israel. Supporters of this idea are called Zionists. The Zionist Movement gained momentum in Europe in the late 1800s with the First Zionist Conference in Basel, Switzerland in 1897. The movement advocated the ideology of Zionism, a national liberation ideology of the Jewish people with several strands, foremost being the establishment of a Jewish state within the biblical Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael or Zion). See ^