Can you have a boyfriend in Qalqilya?

- Alessandro:

It's true that we can criticize Ramallah, but especially from the point of view of women, it's a place for freedom. Especially when we discuss with younger women. For them, being in Ramallah is gaining a space that is free from what is imposed or what is perceived to be imposed by the family. What do you think?

- Wafa':
I'm actually from Gaza. And this is very important because it defines what I'm going to say and perhaps where I stand.

I think there is a like a very huge relation between loving Ramallah and how the people from the outside look at Ramallah as the liberating city - it's not!
As a Gazan who came here in 1990 to study at the university maybe I was deceived by this 'Oh Ramallah, the liberal city!' The city where women can do everything that they want, where they feel this is like a free place for them. It gives them back their rights and their freedoms. But after one year of being in Ramallah I discovered this is deceitful. This is not true. As far as you're not from Ramallah, you don't carry the privileges of Ramallah people. You will always be labeled as a stranger who is not a 'Ramallawi'.

In 1995 I decided to go back to Gaza. I decided that this is my place. And if I am a free woman, I call myself a feminist, and if I am a feminist then I have to try it there, not in Ramallah. In Ramallah you cannot tell what's true and what's not true. And you cannot read the faces of the people. You cannot tell do they like you because of who you are, or because you are really making an effort to look like them.

- Manal:

My position is not to be attacking Ramallah. Not to highlight the positive or the negative side of Ramallah. I moved to Ramallah 10 years ago. I grew up in Damascus and if you look to Ramallah it's the same. When women want freedom they go to Damascus, when youth want more opportunities they go to Damascus.

I see Ramallah since the 40s as the open city and was the centre. We know that Umm-Kulthum used to come to Ramallah to record her songs, there were famous restaurants that people from Lebanon and other places came to. Ramallah was always an icon of openness an icon to receive everybody.
I don't attack Ramallah, because Ramallah is accepting everybody. It's accepting the Muslim, it's accepting the Christian, it's accepting the conservative or the religious people, it's accepting everybody.

I want to say to Wafa', can you keep smoking and doing what you do in Gaza when you know people don't like it? You can do what you like in Ramallah.
This highlighting of the negative side, it's as if, I see you as if, you are closing the only hope of a place that is receiving everybody, of a place that is giving you yourselves the space to be do be who you are and what you are, to do what you want to do.

For us, for women, Ramallah is the only place where women not only can live alone but can have a boyfriend. I'm not sure you can have a boyfriend in… can you do it in Qalqilya?

- Ruanne:
When you say everyone is accepted in Ramallah, I think everyone is only accepted within certain parameters. Ramallah is a space of consumption, this is what it has become. If you want to be politically active or critical then no, you're not allowed to do that. You're not allowed to go and demonstrate. I went to the Manara to demonstrate over the attacks on Gaza, and I saw a child beaten up.

[Extracts from conversation No. 5]

Gaza is safe. Ramallah is not safe.

- Munir:
I wrote an article about Ramallah and Gaza. I said: Gaza is being destroyed form outside and the main tool is the Israeli army, Ramallah is being destroyed from the inside, and the main tool is the World Bank – which is the consumption. The consumption pattern is really getting inside of us, our thinking and our perceptions; and our relationships etc. are decided totally by this pattern.

All the talk about Gaza is about how can we ruin it from the inside. The idea of 'help' and paying money and reconstruction and so on, is actually to finish Gaza from the inside. As long as the destruction is only from the outside, Gaza is safe. Ramallah is not safe. Because on the outside it looks like everything is fine and everything is flourishing, so I feel… development projects change the city in ways that are much worse than sometimes destroying a few buildings here and there.

I want to say something about the word resistance. When an army invades you resist the army. When consumption invades you resist consumption. Ramallah is not resisting consumption.

- Manal:
What do you mean by consumption?

- Munir:
The number of workshops in Ramallah is consumption beyond belief, for example. Another one is the rise of the banks – Ramallah it is becoming the hub…

- Manal:
This is happening everywhere…!

- Munir:
We have to resist the pattern of living is being imposed on us but very sweetly … but this is how the world has been conquered.

- Manal:
I see consumption everywhere, not only in Ramallah. It’s the mentality of societies everywhere. In Damascus – an unoccupied place – consumption is everywhere. It is a world plan. I want you not to just collect the issues and see them in Ramallah…don’t just condense everything in Ramallah.

- Nasser:
But what's interesting in Ramallah, what's specific about it, is that the creation of a regime of consumption is precisely linked to the occupation by army Munir was talking about. Actually there is not such a split between occupation through consumption and occupation through army, they are two intertwined and interlinked things. It is about the creation of new subjectivities, people think differently, you are reconstituting subjects, reconfiguring people…the radicality of the situation here positions this in a much wider process of fragmentation and bantustanization; it means that here consumption cannot be separated from the colonial regime.

[Extracts from conversation No. 5]