It has become a small nucleus of Palestinian society


- Alessandro:
Specifically Ramallah is a different situation, it's not like, let's say, Bethlehem, Hebron or Jenin or Nablus exactly because, as you just said, there is a kind of urban density with people, with diversities even though they're under occupation. So what we are trying to understand is that if specifically for Ramallah, there is a possibility for a Palestinian counter-project, something that we can call resistance or just another form of co-optation. Because we can say that perhaps in Jenin, Hebron, they do the same thing more-or-less, but they are not built in the same way, for the same reason and they don't have the power. This is the basic thing about Ramallah, no? That in a way, because there is the Palestinian Authority, they have the power to speak for everybody, in other words they are representative of power.

- Jamil:
It has potential yes, because if you take other towns – we don't have cities, we have towns – if you take al-Khalil or Nablus, for example, these cities are still structured by family-groupings, the main families there, they control more-or-less the economy and political structure etc. Ramallah is different, it doesn’t have this structure. It has become for some various reasons - I have mentioned some of them - the annexation of Jerusalem, the borders etc. - the fact that it has become the seat of the Palestinian Authority, NGOs, new companies, private sector, political parties, so it contains this plurality, diversity from different parts of the West Bank, so it has become to represent the Palestinian society in terms of the composition of Ramallah, the demographic composition. And in terms of people relating to each other not through kinship but through other means, through work, through neighborhoods, through associations, through cultural activities, political affiliations etc. Now, this is still, I think, in a state of potentiality, to become the opposition centre, it has some objective qualities because of its representative character. It could become the centre for resistance and demand for self-determination and for inventing new forms of opposition to the Israeli project.

- Sandi:
(in Arabic) So what do you feel could be the potentiality of Ramallah?

-Jamil:
Because Ramallah has become a real urban centre, forget for a minute about the colonial situation, it has come to represent Palestinians from different walks of life, from different areas, from Gaza, also with Palestinians who are returnees, diaspora, so it has become a small nucleus of Palestinian society, including also Palestinians from '48 areas who work in Universities and different institutions. So objectively it has the potential to become the centre for resistance against the Israeli project of turning Gaza and the West Bank into Bantustans and calling it a Palestinian state.

[Extracts from conversation no.7]

There is this illusion that they can do it without resistance...


- Jamil:
There remains still among the elite of the Palestinian Authority, and part of also the political elite and the private sector, the idea that there is still the possibility of a state, of an independent sovereign Palestine through negotiations. There is this illusion that they can do it without resistance – I'm talking about not just one form of resistance but resistance in its various aspects; against the Wall, against colonization, against normalization etc. But this myth, this illusion, is, I think, disappearing fast after the failure of the Road Map, of Annapolis, after the rise of the extreme right-wing Israeli government, the continued expansion of the colonial settlements. So now, the great majority of people realize that there is not going to be a Palestinian state in the sense that Bush used to talk about, or maybe that Mubarak would talk about. But there is a project, a Bantustan state, with pockets of population under the control of the Israeli state.

The elite have also come to see that they have some privileges and they don't want to say to the Israelis 'Go to hell. The PA is just a fa├žade, we don't have any form of sovereignty, and we're going to dissolve the PA and go back to a liberation movement.' The time will come, I think it will come soon, even if Obama assures them everyday that there is a two-state solution. There is not, there is one state that is creating an apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

- Alessandro:
Is it even possible to dismantle the Palestinian Authority at the moment, because too many people are inside the machine?

- Jamil:
They are inside the machine and certain structures have been created and certain people find it difficult to do it, how are you going to support 165,000 people who get salaries form the PA. What about the education which is now run by Palestinians, health services etc. You could keep the PA, not as a political organ but as a municipality running services, that's what it's doing in fact, it's not doing more than this! Because there has been no negotiation done by the PLO, the PLO has been frozen since the PA has been established, it's not active, it's not the representative body. We don't have any national institutions, for example, since 2006, the Legislative Council has been paralyzed, the PLO institutions have also been paralyzed so that's why we have this polarization between Hamas and Fateh and each has established its own political domain , with Fateh in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, with no national umbrella, no national institution to flesh out your differences, find out the solutions to the national problems.

Once you are outside Ramallah you immediately face Israeli checkpoints, so you have to see it through this system of controlled urbanization where the Palestinian Authority has some sort of symbols of sovereignty, but in fact it's all very deceptive. There is not much power, this is it. I f you go to the restaurants and if you go to the fashion shops you can maybe choose fashion from Italy and maybe suits from France whatever, you think that you have entered this bubble - but it is a bubble, it can be punctured. Like what happened in 2002 when the Israelis invaded Ramallah. Which within one hour the Israelis took complete control, Arafat was besieged in one room, with smelly toilets and it was difficult to get him food. It shows you the real power - still with the occupation, when they want to use it they use it.

[Extracts from conversation no.7]

'Forget about Jerusalem, Ramallah is your centre.'


- Sandi:
You don't think that the project of normalization, or normalizing Ramallah, is like giving someone machines to live longer? Like having a dead-body that is kept alive by the illusion of being alive?

- Jamil:
You think it's like a bribe to the political elite?

-Sandi:
Exactly.

- Jamil:
I don't know the point of view of the Israelis but I think that the first thing they want to establish is: 'Look, Jerusalem is not going to be your capital, if you want a capital, here is your capital, Ramallah-Bireh.' 'Forget about Jerusalem, Ramallah is your centre.' I mean talking to the elite, not to you and me. 'Ok, you want to have a sense of urban life, you can have your theatres, you can have your restaurants, you can have whatever, but within this few square miles, few square kilometers.' But at the same time, it reminds them every now and then, they go in at two o'clock in the night and they take who they want and they leave. And they tell them before, they tell the police that 'We have some activity between 12am and 4am' which means 'disappear' so they tell them who's the master, but allows them to play in this free space, a space which has been fenced. This, I think, will eventually, I hope sooner rather than later, will become obvious.

[Extract from conversation no. 7]