The words and images were so simple but yet so profound.
The setting was the Palestinian village of Beita near Nablus. The event held on November 17th was the opening of the youth development resource center funded by USAID as well as private international technical companies. The audience included US Under Secretary of State James K. Glassman responsible for public diplomacy and public affairs, Ziad Asali, president of the American Task Force on Palestine, and Jean Case, chief executive officer of the Case Foundation (the two are co chair of the US Palestinian public private partnership senior Palestinian officials town leaders and practically all 8,000 residents of Beita.
After the speeches of the Minister of Youth and the Governor of Nablus and a senior USAID official, Iqab Attari the chair of the youth center got up. After thanking the donors and the guests Attari turned to the donors and thanked them for their contributions but reminded them of the larger problem facing Palestinians.
All your efforts and contributions in building this center and hooking it with the latest technology and genuinely helping our youth will all be wiped out the moment that a youth from Beita goes tries to go to Nablus or Ramallah and is stopped and humiliated at an Israeli checkpoint, he said.
The people of Beita should know. According to Wikipedia fifty of the village's residents were killed by Israelis. The village was a major news item in June 1998 when a clash between stone throwing youth and gun wielding Israeli civilians led to the death of one Israeli and three Palestinians. Following that incident Rabbi Haim Druckman of the National religious party said that the entire village should be wiped from the face of the earth. The town was not wiped but the Israeli army punished the villagers quite badly. They destroyed demolishing 13 houses , damagied 23 .killed three Beit residents, injured dozens arrested hundreds detained and deported six Palestinians.
If the idea , was missed on anyone, the show and tell event that followed sealed the case. With money from American IT companies and the cooperation of the organizers of the center Ruwwad -- the USAID funded youth project run by Boston Based Educational Development Center -- a state of the art computer lab was unfolded. Young people from Beita quickly hooked up their computers got on line and told the anticipating audience that they plan to connect with another group of young people. Expecting that the connection will unveil teens from Australia or youth from Chicago or fellow young Muslims from Turkey, the youth of Beita had a much more domestic group of youth that they were dying to see and talk to. Instead of Los Angles or Istanbul, we were shown on the big screen Palestinian youths from nearby East Jerusalem.
After the introductions and the greetings came yet another telling moment. The youth from the Nablus area town wanted to know how their fellow Palestinians in nearby Jerusalem were doing. They wanted to know how Nablusites were doing? No one talked about the Wall, no one mentioned occupation, travel restrictions wasn't harped on. Their message delivered without malice, anger or hatred was clear. To take a quote from the Clinton play book. It is the occupation, stupid.