It’s UN vote day and, as I leave Ramallah to go to stay with my friends Boshra and Nargi in Nabi Saleh, the atmosphere is already festive in Ramallah. Pal flags waving, a stage going up in Arafat Square, a woman leading a small chanting crowd, boys wanting their photo taken. After the sombre grief that accompanied Rushdi’s funeral procession, when even the traffic was halted, and the demonstrations for Gaza, the Ramallah mood has changed just in the space of two weeks.
Later in Nabi Saleh, there is elation too as some shabbab* and family watch the news as the UN vote is announced. Ba’ha, the village’s best singer and a stand up comedian to boot, is practising new lyrics for the next day’s demo.
But the vote makes no difference to the Israeli Occupation Force’s behaviour at the Friday Demonstration, where the new lyrics celebrating the UN success are jubilantly sung to traditional tunes. Skunk water is in more abundance, there is no wind to carry it away, and we all run up the road as usual, while the shabbab take up their positions. The tear gas firing is relatively brief so everyone repairs to the hill (or mountain as they call it) overlooking the highway, Halamish settlement, and the village spring, to wait for the solders to disperse the crowd, which they eventually do. (Apparently they are going to train US troops with urban tactics…..I could do it at half the price – just make stinky clouds by shooting tear gas and add some rubber bullets for good measure. Then of course show them how to demolish houses, raze fields, and beat people up!)
But, no live ammo today. We watch as one car below with an Palestinian flag waving from its window is stopped by the army below…..is this really the true picture? Statehood in name only?
The ‘demo’ ends, and the shabbab play football in front of Boshra’s house, she cooks a brilliant meal and we all sit on the floor to enjoy, spilling out in to the next room – no one is ever left out. It is the Palestinian way.
So what are the Palestinians thinking about the UN vote? I hear different opinions all round : from positive reactions or cautious approval to: ‘it’s a joke’. The last was from a taxi driver and probably reflects the cynicism of taxi drivers world wide!
Back in Ramallah, my heart lifts every time I see a Pal flag streaming from a shop, car, or servees, but the reality could be that it’s just a hollow victory. More importantly did it take another Gaza atrocity to give the Pals a limited entry to the international political circus?
Sorry, it’s the taxi driver coming out in me.
I leave Palestine with a heavy heart, but knowing I have learnt some amazing lessons in how to be human from the Palestinians; I am in awe of how they cope with the occupation of their land and their suffering brought about by denial of their human rights.
*’shabab’ is what Palestinians call the boys who harrass the occupation army by throwing stones at them. Shabab mean ‘youth’ in Arabic.