A Bike Race
Living under conflict, you tend to search for every opportunity to create a change from your routine life, which is usually forced into a rigid pattern by the constraints of this conflict. This is usually possible in most conflicts, the generation older than ours used to tell us how the Lebanese, during the height of the civil war, were still able to find the time and place to enjoy their lives even with a background of gunfire.
This, however, might not be possible in a conflict situation where one side of the conflict holds the other inferior by virtue of their belief in being G-d's chosen people (and the superior military strength). Our attempts, as Palestinians, to find ways to get around this bitter reality is usually faced with the facts on the ground. Actually, it is only one fact: the Israelis don't want us to have a life!
I was excited this morning about creating a change from the boring routine, by participating in Palestine's International Bike Race which was organised by the YMCA-East Jerusalem. I woke up early, and did my routine maintenance for the bike, oil-sprayed the chain and fastened the breaks to face the down slope to Jericho (Traveling from Ramallah [800 m above sea level] to Jericho [350 m below sea level], imagine the kind of road you would have to go).
So we went to the starting point, listened to all the speeches, and took off. It was not yet 8 kilometers, of the 50 Km track, and our hopes of a change crashed at the side of military jeeps. The Bikers (Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals) were forbidden to go through. The Israelis claimed that the Palestinian organisers have planned the route through Israeli areas and so They could not let the bikers go because of that. The claim is actually a load of lies as the route was entirely in the West Bank, but as common wisdom has it in Palestine, you can't find logic in the irrational, and you can't find logic in Israeli practices.
So the Israelis destroyed our race, and I could not get my well deserved first place trophy (yeah right! I proudly stayed in the last batch throughout the short ride). However, to me I can say that the event was somewhat a success! The YMCA planned the event in opposition to the Checkpoints and Wall system, in order to raise awareness among non-Palestinians as to what it is like to be a Palestinian living in Palestine. I think the participants had a taste of that today.
It is these events that encourage me, and others, to stress our everlasting argument: In order to induce a change in the Israeli mentality, the international community should act to enforce a boycott on Israel. If our goods can't be exported, then Israeli goods should not be important. If our soccer team can't play in a match, then the Israeli team should not be allowed to play. If our university professors cannot buy books (this is a fact-Israel does not allow Academic institutions to access any kinds of print resources) then Israelis should not be allowed to partner or participate in international research projects. And all the other ifs... and thens.... in the world so that Israel is isolated "until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned... until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation... until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race... until the ignoble and unhappy [regime] that hold[s] [Palestinians] in subhuman bondage [has] been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will... we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil. " [emperor Haile Silassie I, also a Bob Marley Song]
[picture credits: Marwan Tarazi]