14 Dec Day Five: B’Tselem, Jerusalem Post & The Swedish Consulate
After the eventful day in Hebron, most of us were left with a lot of questions. Fortunately for us, Tuesday meant three different meetings who we hoped could provide us with answers.
The first meeting of the day was at our hostel with Danya Cohen, the International relations officer of the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem operating in the Occupied Territories. Danya was not only extremely knowledgeable about the occupation and the statistics for human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, but also made sure to give us information about Israel’s current political climate. B’Tselem’s have many opponents in the Knesset (even president Netanyahu) and legislation threatening to legalize illegal settlements is pending. While discussing the latter, she reminded us that all Israeli settlements are illegal under International Humanitarian Law(IHL). However, according to Israel, the occupied territories are defined as “disputed”. This makes it legal for settlers to move there under Israeli law, which causes tension between Israel and the international community. Danya also claimed that the Palestinian authority is under the mercy of the Israelis. “Imagine a prison cell. The prisoners may control the inside of their cells – but the warden controls the hallway and the rest of the prison. Then what actual power do the prisoners really have?”
After our rewarding meeting with Danya we grabbed some lunch at the market before we visited the office of Yaakov Katz, the editor-in-chief of Jerusalem Post. Jerusalem Post is the leading Israeli news source in English, claim to hold a centrist position and openly supports a two-state-solution and secularisation.
Yaakov, an American-born Israeli, impressed us right away with his charismatic eloquence and knowledge about Israel’s social, economic and military situation. He emphasised that the Israelis are a people from the ashes of Auschwitz with a history of being persecuted – further increased by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the six day war in the 1960s and in general being surrounded geographically by states who are “enemies” to the Israeli state. He advocated for the international community to stop criticising and boycotting Israel, since it further increases the Israeli psyche of being hunted. He maintained that in order for Israelis to be willing to collaborate, they have to feel safe and secure. Thus, international boycotts work against their purpose (“You’ve got to be smart – not right”). Worryingly enough, Yaakov believed the majority of Israelis to be turned off by the prospect of peace and that he doesn’t see a near end to the conflict. He claims many Israelis have become apathetic regarding the conflict, and that a party supporting a two-state solution would have a hard time winning general elections.
Leaving Yaakov’s office feeling a bit frustrated but glad to have gotten a different perspective on the conflict, we headed to the north-eastern part of the city. We were lucky enough to have our last meeting of the day with Hans Grundberg, the deputy Head of mission at the Consulate general of Sweden. Sweden has had an official presence in the region for over 100 years and the Consulate general’s jurisdiction consists of Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza strip. The consulate is the official representative of Sweden towards PNA and the Palestinian president. As a bonus for us, the former UF-member Cornelia joined us for the meeting since she is doing her internship at the Consulate this autumn. For those of us still in school, and especially for those of us that just have started our first semester in Uppsala, it was really inspiring to see a former Uppsala political science student working at such an impressive institution.
By Sara Nuder, Jon Egerlind & Andrea Cartriers Lagnefors