Through the Eyes of Ehab: A True Narrative of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, by Bernadette Naoum (2006)

All the rhetoric in the world cannot truly explain the Arab-Israeli Conflict. One could read infinite amounts of books, articles, government document and so much more, but those words will never mean the same as an account from an individual who has lived the crisis. After interviewing my co-worker Ehab, I was able to see the conflict on entirely new level. Ehab put many problems into prospective and was able to make myself and possibly many others rethink their thoughts of the conflict. Though many people may think they fully understand the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is quite obvious understanding the conflict means one must acknowledge the experience the people endured.

Unlike many others, Ehab was able to come to the United States. Before his life changed in 2002, Ehab was living the city of Gaza. His parents are originally from the city of El-Majdal but after 1948, the Israelis renamed the city to Eshkelon. While we spoke of his hometown, one could see the despair in his eyes. He lived his life in a refugee camp and experienced violence, death and bloodshed daily. Ehab recalls his neighbor being kidnapped and the other being shot right in front of him. Because of the minimal work opportunity in Palestine, Ehab joined the military in the 17th Forces Presidential Security and one of Yasser Arafat’s bodyguards. Though he does not agree with many of Arafat’s ideals, he had no other choice but to join the military. His generation was trapped between surviving and dying. Although he was never involved in any killing, he did admit to being involved in the 1987 Resistant Movement in the Beach Camp, he was shot at age 15 and did throw rocks and burned tires. He does not believe in violence but during the 1987 Intifada, he had no other choice. The ideals of the people are rarely ever depicted but one must not forget it is the most important position in any conflict.

When we spoke about the violence in Palestine, it was hard to hear the sad encounters Ehab and so many other Palestinians dealt with. I am sure the violence goes both ways but when you hear a first person encounter, it turns your perspective in so many other ways. I was not completely unaware of the violence and did not realize the affects it had on so many individuals. Because of my strong background in Middle Eastern culture and politics, the information was not new but it was extremely hard to hear. People tend to become too involved with their own problems; they often forget about what is happening half way around the world.

Ehab believes people should know about the conflict before they judge him or any other Palestinian. He has lived his whole life feeling no country wants him and belongs nowhere. Ehab recalls a situation when he had to leave the West Bank and go to Gaza. Rather than driving approximately two hours back to Gaza, Ehab was forced to go to Jordan to get a visa. He then had to go to Egypt to get back to Gaza. But Jordan had told him if he gets to Egypt and they do not give him a visa, he was not welcome back in Jordan. By going to Egypt was a risk he had to take to go back to Gaza. When Ehab reached Egypt, they questioned him for two days and finally gave him a visa back to Gaza. Ehab ventured back to Gaza, but the ride to Gaza was not very easy. He was forced to take a bus to Gaza but because the checkpoints were closed he had to sleep on the border over night. Finally after one week of the hassle, Ehab returned back to Gaza. The idea of traveling for one week from going somewhere that is only two hours away from the other is outrageous. What did Ehab do to the Israelis-nothing. Simply because Ehab is Palestinian, he is treated inhumanly and has been wronged his whole life.

Though many may feel the Arab-Israeli conflict is not a world-wide problem, Ehab and many Palestinians do not understand why the Palestinians have been shunned out of the world. Ehab believes the Middle Eastern countries initiative was not strong enough.  Each time Palestinians left Palestine, the Arab world would fear the Palestinians infiltrating through their own countries. In many cases, Ehab says that the countries had their own problems and did want to deal with them. But what were the Palestinians to do; they were helpless at the time and needed all sorts of assistance. He compares the Jews leaving to Israel, where were the Palestinians supposed to go?  If the Middle Eastern countries would have worked together to help the Palestinians, it is possible that the conflict would have been resolved years ago.

This past semester we examined politics and culture through literature. Ehab did point out that “words are stronger than the sword”. He is aware of the authors we read and knew of the issues we addressed. He says many of the authors that we covered in class were very influential for their time. Not only do books capture the attention of the people but we did discuss the movie “Paradise Now” and he says watching the ending was very touching. He and I both share the same ideals of literature being influential but it does not convey the entire truth.

After the interview my perspective of the Arab-Israeli conflict completely changed. I do hope a solution is possible but according to Ehab there is too much blood and the conflict is like a cancer that can be given so many treatments but will never be completely cured. They can impose cease-fires for years but that will never heal the conflict. All Ehab says he wants is a chance and not be judged, after the interview I realized that I cannot classify all the Palestinians as the same. The Palestinians in Lebanon are very different than the Palestinians in the U.S. or even in Palestine. All individuals are their own person and should be looked at as individuals.