An average day in an unusual office; human rights research in Palestine

Many of you have been asking me what it is I am actually doing here in the West Bank. What your kind-hearted donations have actually contributed towards. So here is a brief summary of a typical day in the research office;

My weekdays can be varied, but I have a set number of tasks to complete which are ongoing. The first of these is data entry. This can be really fascinating, but mostly just requires me to check figures for anomalies. I look through the information collected from the field, this can be qualitative or quantitative, and enter it into the database system. If there is a discrepancy it is usually a missing figure or basic detail – so, a household reports there are 7 members of the family, yet only 5 have had their details recorded, or, a family reports that they are refugees, but there is no record of their registration number.

The fieldwork is conducted via household surveys which ask questions about land ownership, agriculture, residency, access to work permits, and the impact of the Barrier on healthcare and education. It also takes into account movement and displacement, attempting to understand the challenges faced by Palestinians in their everyday life.

For me, the most interesting section is that which looks at the psychological impacts of the Barrier, settlements and life under Israeli occupation. Sometimes it is heart wrenching;

When a mother reports that she has sent her children to an orphanage so they don’t have to face the soldiers every day at Qalandia checkpoint.

When a young man with a young family says that he has stopped applying for work permits after facing constant rejection, pushing him to contemplate suicide.

When a new father cannot register his baby to take her through the checkpoint to visit his family, because he is forbidden from accessing the registration office in Jerusalem.

When a young girl reports that, after being chased by a military dog on her way back from school, 20 IDF vans came to arrest her in her home for throwing a stone to scare it away. 

Once you have seen things with your own eyes and heard peoples stories first-hand, it is sometimes difficult, particularly for a Westerner, not to see the Palestinians as victims. But I think victimisation is an inherently negative concept. In that view, I do not want this blog to be an outsourcing of pity for Palestine. Life here is not so different from life in England; indeed it is probably safer – and definitely friendlier – here than London.

Palestine is not a poor country, it is a rich country – rich in terms of the warmth of the people, the delicious food, the ancient history, the birthplace of three religions. Palestinians do not live in the war zones that we see reflected in the media, nor do they spend their lives in destitution. The people we meet say to us; go home and tell your friends and your family about Palestine! Make them understand that the challenges we face here are not in the form of guns and bombs, but in the form of a fight for justice and human rights. We do not want aid, we want to be able to work and visit our friends and family and feel free. We want to be treated like human beings. 

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