Navigating Identity and Strife: Hala’s Tale in the Israel-Hamas Conflict

Foreign Policy Brief #100 | By: Aziza Taslaq | November 19, 2023

Photo taken from: sentinelassam.com

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In the heart of Um al-Fahm, “Mother of Charcoal,” a city in the Haifa District of Israel, lives an ordinary Palestinian Arab citizen; I will call her Hala for security reasons. Hala belongs to the “Arabs of 48,” referring to Palestinian Arabs who chose to stay in their homes in 1948 and opposed relocation to the West Bank, Jordan, or other regions. Hala works as a civil engineer in one of the Israeli companies. She collaborates with both Palestinian Arabs and non-Arab Israelis in her professional endeavors. She holds an Israeli ID, embodying a unique dual identity that brings both complexity and challenges amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. Unveiling the layers of her experiences, Hala sheds light on the impact of the ongoing conflict on her daily life, perspectives, and aspirations for a just resolution.

An Identity Straddling Divides:

Hala finds herself in a distinctive position, being Palestinian Arab yet holding an Israeli ID. She succinctly captures the intricacy of her identity, stating, “I’m Israeli to some Arabs and Palestinian to Israelis.” In a land shared by Jews and Palestinians, where daily interactions intertwine lives, she highlights the stark contrast that emerges when conflict disrupts communal harmony.

Shared Lives, Different Realities:

Living together in a shared environment, which includes common places of work, social spaces and housing areas where different ethnic groups, religions and nationalities live side by side. Hala emphasizes the unity experienced in daily life. However, as conflict surfaces, a palpable divide emerges. Non- Arab Israelis have shelters to retreat to during times of war, while Palestinian Arabs like Hala find themselves without such refuge, exposed to a vulnerable reality.

Dismissal for Empathy:

Post the 7th of October, Hala notes a troubling shift in government actions. Students and employees expressing empathy for Gazan civilians face dismissals, labeled as a form of terrorism. This move curtails freedom of expression and stifles empathy, creating an environment of fear and suppression.

Freedom and Safety: A Precarious Balance:

Hala articulates the delicate balance she maintains between freedom and safety. Fearful of violence and hate speech from some non-Arab Israeli citizens in certain areas, she ventures outside only for essential tasks, primarily to places with a significant non-Arab population due to certain non-Arab Israelis engaging in violent actions against Arabs. The Israeli Knesset is promoting a provisional amendment to the Counter-Terrorism Law 2016. This amendment introduces a novel criminal offense known as “consumption of terrorist materials,” with a potential penalty of up to one year of imprisonment. In this way, they are restricting expression and access to Palestinian content, further encroaching upon Hala’s freedom, leaving her unable to share her thoughts or even engage with cultural and religious content like Quran verses.

Psychological Toll:

The conflict has taken a toll on Hala’s mental health. Constant exposure to distressing images and narratives from Palestinian, Israeli and international sources has left a lasting psychological impact. The fear, restrictions, and divisive environment have collectively contributed to a sense of insecurity and distress.

Justice as a Beacon of Hope:

Expressing a desire for a just resolution, Hala’s concept of justice encompasses an end to the conflict that respects the rights and dignity of all parties involved. Her plea reflects a longing for a harmonious coexistence where both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace, free from the shackles of conflict.

Uncertain Future Governance:

When contemplating the future governance of Gaza, Hala remains uncertain. However, her wish for peace extends to all, emphasizing the need for a resolution that fosters stability and security for everyone involved.

In unraveling Hala’s narrative, we glimpse into the intricate tapestry of an ordinary Palestinian citizen navigating the complexities of identity, freedom, and safety amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. Her story resonates with the broader challenges many Palestinians face, emphasizing the urgent need for a just and lasting resolution to bring about a more secure and harmonious future for all.

 

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