A PERSONAL DIARY OF THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT is a regularly updated view of the conflict from "on-the-ground" in Palestine, focusing particularly on the period after the Oslo 2 agreement and the experiences of the university community of Birzeit, and the Palestinian town of Ramallah, where I lived from 1994 until 1998.
"A Personal Diary", does not in any way reflect the views or beliefs of Birzeit University as an institution. The author - Nigel Parry - bears full responsibility for the accuracy of information put into the Diary. The author reaffirms his right to freedom of expression and opinion, within accepted international standards, as guaranteed by the international covenants on human, civil and political rights signed or otherwise ratified by all parties in the conflict.
The Diary is nothing more than my personal record of what life here is like for the Palestinian people. Do not hold me accountable for statements or writing in the same way as you would a purportedly independent news agency. Do not expect a balanced approach on every issue. The Diary exists to offer snapshots from the ground. Not so much the stuff you see in the news, although some of that will find its way on, but the day-to-day things that shape the lives of Palestinians.
I first visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories (the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jeruaslem) in 1989, before beginning a sabbatical term as a student union president in London. I knew nothing about the region. I remember asking just before I came, "Why isn't Palestine on any maps?" It didn't make sense. I visited again in 1992 (mostly to see Israel) and in 1993, before moving to live and work in Ramallah, a West Bank Palestinian town about 20 km north of Jerusalem in September 1994. In June 1998, following the partial demolition of my home by Palestinians including members of the security forces, I left the country on an extended vacation to the US.
In August 1989, I first set foot on the soil of "the Holy Land", "Israel" or "Palestine" depending on your point of view. It was right in the middle of the Intifada, the popular Palestinian uprising which began in December 1987. It was like walking into a war, except that only one army had guns. The other army, comprised of men, women and children, had stones. An army was in conflict with a civilian population, and the casualties reflected this.
In reality, the "Intifada" was less of a "war" and more of a "shaking off" of the shackles of a twenty-year Israeli military occupation by the civillian population, largely through the boycotting of the Israeli administrative infrastructure that maintained it and the setting up of community organisations. This was not the action of a few "terrorists", a word we use in a gratuitous and racist manner in the Western media whenever Arabs or Muslims are mentioned. This was Palestinian children walking up to Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip and saying, "Shoot me!". Sometimes the soldiers did.
In fact, between December 1987 and mid-1993, the United Nations noted that 22,000 children were wounded by Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip alone. If that level of state violence took place against children in Paris, London or Washington, we would be shocked into action. When it happened here, we made a few noises and a little bit later, allowed the perpetrators to dominate a series of peace conferences.
During that visit in 1989, which included tours of hospitals filled with Palestinian children, empty educational institutions closed by military order, refugee camps living in fear of curfew, and human rights centers buzzing with constant activity, I got a pretty good idea what was going on. It was no different from any other repressive colonial situation, and you only had to look at the Israeli newspapers to see the same tired colonial statements justifying repression in the name of security.
Most of all I was shocked that I knew nothing about the situation.
A number of reasons. They have never prioritised it. They don't understand its importance. A quarter of a century ago, their leadership alienated Western public opinion and made it easy for Western governments to manipulate the media when they chose terrorism as a route to liberation. Western nations created the Palestine problem and led the Palestinian leadership in exile - the PLO - to settle in desperation for a flawed peace deal in 1993 that was never going to satisfy the different interest groups of the Palestinian people and which has made life more difficult for your average Palestinian on the street. The fruit of this is the random violence of a small number of Palestinian extremists against Israeli civilians that we have seen on TV in recent years.
I hate violence. In the four years I lived in the West Bank, I witnessed a lot of it at first hand. Yet, the more I see violence and see our reactions to it, it is clear that there needs to be a discussion of why it takes place rather than a fearful silence punctuated only by the condemnations of world leaders.
Things do not happen in a vacuum. I do not accept that acts of terror only stem from an ideological componant. Politically correct condemnation of terrorist acts does nothing to address the issues of the environment which gives birth to them, and in fact ensures their continuance.
As the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood once wrote, "context is all". Where injustice, oppression and humiliation rule, insecurity, impotence, anger and violence will hit back at it. This is an unavoidable dynamic of human life.
The preceeding paragraphs briefly explain my reactions to witnessing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a visitor and later a resident of the West Bank. I was shocked at what Israel was doing and getting away with thanks to the commercial interests that have bought the complicity of the mainstream Western media. Since the arrival of the Palestinian Authority on the scene, it has become obvious that there are serious problems with its methods of governance including major corruption, widespread human rights violations, nepotism, and a pervading lack of vision to get beyond these issues. And ultimately it is the "normal people", people like yourself and myself, whose only difference from us is that they are Palestinian, who are paying the price for this.
The Palestinian people are tired of seeing the sheer amount of useless and damaging words and misinformation that are published about them each day. Everyone I have ever met, who have come from outside the conflict with an open mind to see for themselves what the people and life is like in the West Bank, have left with their attitudes dramatically changed. Often by seeing the repression for themselves but usually - and most profoundly - simply by seeing the normality of the Palestinian people and the dignity with which the majority of them pursue their quest for justice. My hope is that this website will achieve a little of the same.
As each new entry has been added, the result I hope has been a gradual unfolding of the different facets of the situation in the West Bank. When I was working on the Palestinian issue in Britain, the overwhelming feeling that stayed with me was the sense of being cut off from information about what it was actually like to be here and see it for myself. Hopefully, the Diary goes some way towards solving that problem for those of you who feel the same way. Judging by the many hundreds of e-mails I have received, I believe it has achieved that aim.
It all began with the Israeli redeployment from Ramallah in December 1995. After seeing it and reading endless glowing media reports about the redeployment that contradicted the feelings of many of my Palestinian friends, I decided to put the photographs and commentary - by someone who actually lived in Ramallah before and after redeployment - onto the Web in order to share a different perspective with those people who could only watch the events on TV.
As this decision was essentially in reaction to bad media coverage, I therefore vowed to avoid offering the same diet that the media does. In other words, I have tried to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This has led me to criticise all of the different players in the conflict: European governments that set up the playing field for the conflict, successive Israeli governments that maintain and extend the occupation, the American administrations that have sadly supported the Israeli governments while they do this, and a Palestinian Authority that is virtually powerless to determine the fate of its people and can't seem to stop abusing the small amount of power it does have.
The willingness to speak out against injustices against a people, no matter who is perpetrating them, has resulted in both criticism and kudos. Scrolling down the homepage of the Diary, you can see some of the awards and reviews that the Diary has received including from the London Independent Newspaper, the Jewish Communications Network, and W.W. Norton & Company, the latter of whom recommended the Diary as a resource in a series of educational textbooks about the conflict.
The only awards that have not been added are those awarded by companies as a way of promoting their own website. Criticism has tended to be unfocused and often unprintable. In answer to the question "Has anyone tried to convince you not to publish material on the Diary website?" the answer is yes, people have occasionally tried. Fortunately Birzeit University as an institution, was founded on the principles of academic freedom and tolerance of diverse viewpoints and therefore had no problem with giving me webserver space for this uncensored and unedited material.
The Diary entries index gives a list of entries in reverse chronological order - that is to say - the most recent entries are found at the top of the page.
A Diary section index also exists. This is to facilitate visits from people who wish to find information about the construction of the Har Homa settlement project on Jebel Abu Ghnaim, the Intifada, the September 1996 clashes, the ups and downs of the Palestinian Authority, Israeli closures of the West Bank, and others. As with all indexing attempts, this one is flawed in that both its choice of subject headings and entry cross referencing are still incomplete.
Sections offer related links on their index pages, as do entries, and there is a general links page for those who want to read about the conflict in greater depth, for those who have an interest in photojournalism, and more
If something does not appear on the Diary, the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin being one example of this I was asked about, it does not mean that this even was not significant. In the case of Rabin, I was arranging a visit of a delegation of British MPs and trades unionists for the weeks on either side of the event. Since, then, due to work and other pressures, I have not had time to add anything about this. It is as simple as that.
As the Diary was always a work in progress, the structure evolved out of need. This meant that older entries did not follow the pattern of navigation that was developed later. In this redesigned and edited version of the Diary, relaunched in October 1998, I have fixed most of these problems.
Early scanning attempts lacked the quality of later entries and older photographs will be fixed as time allows. There is also a lot of other material that time never allowed to add. A project for the future, perhaps if the Diary ever becomes a book.
Comments about the website and specific Diary entries are welcomed. Please do not tell me to change things as this is, after all, a personal diary. There is a discussion board available for this purpose. Comments on specific diary entries are particularly welcomed here. Unfortunately, the discussion board was only implemented in October 1998, after entries from Palestine had already ceased. Judging by the many, many, e-mails I received while writing the diary in Palestine, this is a shame, as for sure this would have contained some very interesting threads of discussion that were only conducted privately at the time.
Although you are free to disagree with my point of view, I would recommend you avoid threatening, drooling, ranting, anti-Palestinian hate-mail as it tends to get my goat. I may be tempted to publish your spleen and e-mail address and invite the not inconsiderable number of other visitors to this website to e-mail you with their comments. Before pressing the send key, ask yourself this: "Do you feel lucky, punk? Are you ready to receive reminders of your intolerance every week for the forseeable future?" :-)
Attempts to mailbomb me were rendered obsolete after I switched my connection to a leased line which meant that it only took a minute to delete several thousand messages. If you still want to try it, be very careful not to accidently leave your e-mail address in the messages as one by a pro-Israeli racist did. I promise to reduce your e-mail account to a harsh memory within 24 hours.
If you want any of the photos for a collection or publishing, please get in touch via the contact page. High resolution image files are also available to publishers via ftp/e-mail by arrangement.
A portfolio of some of my images from the Palestinian West Bank is available here, where you can order gallery-quality professional prints in a variety of sizes.
Do not write and ask me for "photographs depicting graphic/gory Jewish/Zionist violence/terrorism against Palestinians/Arabs". I know what you want them for and I don't wish to be part of the promotion of anti-Semitism, white nationalism, Nazism, Aryanism, Holocaust denial, or any other form of racist and morally bankrupt propaganda. Seek professional help to deal with your sociopathic tendencies instead of seeking to legitimise them by calling them "political beliefs".
© Copyright Nigel Parry, 1998. All rights reserved. All materials published on the A Personal Diary of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict web site (hereinafter: "The Content") are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws and by international treaties. The Content is owned by Nigel Parry, except in the case of specifically credited images and text, which remains the property of the sources acknowledged.
The Content is made available to you for personal, non-commercial use only, and shall not be published, copied, reproduced or otherwise distributed, in any medium or by any means, including but not limited to electronic, mechanical, photocopying, photographic, magnetic, or other record, without the prior written consent of Nigel Parry.
In case it isn't already clear, Web mirroring of all or part of the Diary is totally unacceptable, and will be pursued in a legal arena.
For print reproduction rights of text and images, please contact Nigel Parry. Printing and photocopying of Diary entries for classroom, group or other educational/activist discussions is completely acceptable. Please inform the author (no need to request permission) for this kind of use, as a courtesy and just because I'm interested in the feedback.
Similarly, you are free to link to the Diary, its various sections, or specific pages in it. Please inform me by e-mail that you have done this, for my information and in order that I can offer a 'thank you' link back where appropriate. Contact Nigel Parry here.
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