When I first visited the Palestinian territories, I was afraid I would have to hide my identity as an American and possibly wear a headscarf. To my surprise, I was warmly welcomed exactly as I was, and after more than two years living and working there, it remains one of my favorite spots on earth. The people are charming and generous, the landscape is gorgeous, and the parties, concerts, and beer gardens in Ramallah are world-class.
But behind all this looms the conflict, the occupation, and violence. Since September 2000, more than 5,500 Palestinians and 1,100 Israelis have been killed. A series of walls, fences, roadblocks, checkpoints, army bases, and settlements keep the Palestinians in the West Bank under an almost constant state of siege and strangle the economy of many towns and villages, including Bethlehem. Gaza has been turned into an open-air prison whose desperate inmates can only get vital supplies through smuggling tunnels — which also transport weapons that Palestinian militants use to target Israeli civilians.
Using photographs, stories, and statistics, this presentation colors in the Palestinian experience, with all its complexity and contradictions, as it is rarely shown on the news or in books. It is a fascinating world of beauty and terror, of hospitality and homicide, of the absurd and the sublime constantly together — a microcosmic view of a little-understood human story with global implications.
Speaker: Pamela Olson
Pamela Olson graduated from Stanford in 2002 with a major in physics. She lived in Ramallah, West Bank, for a year and a half beginning in the summer of 2004 and worked as a journalist for the Palestine Monitor. She interviewed the first elected female mayor in the West Bank, witnessed the 2005 Disengagement from inside the Gaza Strip, and served as the foreign press coordinator for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi’s Presidential campaign against Mahmoud Abbas in January 2005. She later worked for a year at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington, DC. She is now writing a book about her time in the West Bank called Fast Times in Palestine.
This was an unusual subject for a Google Tech Talk, part of me thinks it might have been more appropriate under the authors@google series, largely to head off the kind of flame wars this topic seems to illicit. That being said it is an incredibly moving talk about life in the West Bank. There are parts of her talk that fill me with hope and others that fill me with despair. Her description of the west bank as a huge ‘open air prison’ is a heart breaking image.