Samira P.*, 28 years old, was born and raised in Jenin. She recently finished her studies and now lives in another city, far away from her family. In the summer of 2019, she participated in the Allgenders seminar for Israelis and Palestinians. Over a year later, she spoke with Khalil Toama about her experience of the seminar.
K.T.: In 2019, you participated in the Dialogue Seminar. What was it like for you to discuss about the conflict far away from the conflict zone?
S.P.: I was very happy to be able to leave the West Bank. We live like in a prison or house arrest: there is the daily harassment from the occupation forces and from the settlers who constantly disturb us, attack us, insult us, steal our crops from the fields or olive groves, with the aim of making our lives unbearable so that we leave. That is one aspect. Apart from that, the discussions outside the conflict area had a positive impact on me. The seminar had a profound effect on me.
K.T.: So enthusiastic? In what sense?
S.P.: Looking at the problems from the outside helped me to think more clearly and to organize my thoughts. I met interesting people with whom I had long conversations outside the daily workshops, which broadened my horizons. At home, I would have been forced to talk, fret, grumble and despair about daily problems.
K.T.: Do you still have contacts with other participants oft he seminar?
S.P.: Most of the participants have become my friends on social media. I see their messages and opinions from time to time. I say „from time to time“ because I’m busy with my studies and my job, and because we don’t always have access to the Internet and electricity. Face-to-face meetings are not always an option because we cannot move freely even within the West Bank. You have to pass through a lot of checkpoints where the soldiers harass us and often make us wait outside for hours, whether it is raining or 40 degrees Celsius.
K.T.: Would you participate in similar seminars again?
S.P.: I would like to see more events, activities and other discussions. I don’t mind participating in activities that are purposeful, effective, send a message to the other side, and represent the Palestinian voice to strive for a just and genuine peace. The whole world talks about peace, but the word justice is never mentioned. Everywhere, including in Germany, there is talk of „courage for peace.“ Peace does not need courage. What we need is courage for truth and courage for justice.
K.T.: Were you satisfied with the topics that were discussed in the seminar?
S.P.: There was not enough time to discuss all aspects of the conflict. Possible options for conflict resolution were not discussed in detail because of lack of time. The Israeli side showed no interest in hearing about the inhumane behavior of their army, i.e. their soldiers. Some of the army’s practices would be called criminal elsewhere and punished as war crimes. Even in private conversations, the events were described either as the behavior of individual soldiers or as the execution of orders. If you don’t want to or can’t hear the truth, you can’t stand up for justice.
K.T.: Are you referring to concrete, personal experiences here?
S.P.: Fortunately, I was not a victim in this sense. But how often are young Palestinians shot out of mere suspicion? And when they are lying on the ground bleeding and screaming, friends, relatives, parents and even rescue teams are prevented from giving first aid. It often takes 20, 30 minutes for the wounded to bleed out and eventually die. Often 7 to 12 heavily armed soldiers are present to ensure the death and prevent any assistance under threat of the weapon. Nobody punishes this. Such examples are very common. Israeli human rights organizations have documented such events several times and have strongly criticized them.
K.T.: What did you like most about the seminar? Was there anything you missed?
S.P.: I missed two or three things: seeing more of the breathtaking nature, as well as the cultural side of Germany, and gaining closer knowledge about the life of people in Germany, especially the youth. I was fascinated by how seriously the German team took us and our problems and that they made no distinction between us Palestinians and the Jewish Israelis.