My head and my heart are still in the Westbank, they are still with the people and my friends there even though Leiden University seems convinced that my head is ready to concentrate on political theories and the accompanying numerous deadlines a week again. It must be this clash between reality and theory that got me confused. Or maybe it is the fact that I am back in a country where water is so intrusive that we have to fight it, while I have become used to treating it so carefully since you can easily be without it for days in a row. Or maybe it is that my days do not start with numerous invitations for Arabic coffee or over-sweetened tea anymore, but with grim faces rushing off to work. I am probably part of that last group myself, since my sense of time has turned somewhat more Palestinian than Dutch people tend to appreciate. Or maybe it is because here the feeling creeps upon me that I can do so little, even though I know very well that that is not true, that my work now really begins.
Or maybe its just me and the fact that I wish to be there and not here.
Sometimes explanations can actually be as simple as that.
Somehow though even a few days at home and some distance to what I have been living does help me put some things in perspective (somewhat). It seems weird or too late to now touch upon the subject, but for me it makes perfect sense; one of the things that I have mentioned too little in my blogs is the Alternative Information Center, truly my home away from home.
There is a reason for that. The people who work there have become my friends and family and the fact that they and the AIC are at the middle of so many things was just the way it was since my arrival and still is since my departure. It is something so natural that I almost took it for granted from the start.
Now however I realize how special it is that an organization so small and facing so many difficulties can play such an important role in so many areas. Therefore, after many stories, I would like to tell you the one of the AIC.
There is no better way to explain the Alternative Information Center than by this picture.
It is quite simple; these are two friends who spend a sunny afternoon together. There hopes and dreams are the same… for their children to grow up safely and happy, to safeguard and cherish their marriage, to excel in their jobs and to do what they are doing here: spend time with their family and friends.
In order to achieve their hopes and dreams they are both working against the occupation because in the current situation neither of them is sure of any of their hopes and dreams. Despite its long history and numerous battles, the basic ideology of the AIC is as simple as that.
Less simply but more extensively put:
The Alternative Information Center is an internationally oriented, progressive, joint Palestinian-Israeli activist organization. It is engaged in dissemination of information, political advocacy, grassroots activism and critical analysis of the Palestinian and Israeli societies as well as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The AIC strives to promote full individual and collective social, economic, political and gender equality, freedom and democracy and a rejection of the philosophy (ideology and praxis) (weltanschauung) of separation.
The most urgent regional task is to find a just solution to the century-old colonial conflict in Palestine and confront the ongoing Israeli occupation-regime within its international framework. The AIC method of action develops from the awareness that local struggle must be practically and analytically situated within the framework of the global justice struggle.
This is what underpins the AIC: Palestinians and Israelis, supported by internationals, who are working to end the occupation and its physical and mental practice of separation. I took this picture at the AIC summercamp for youth and it was the first time in a year that Avital, the administator of the Jerusalem office, met her colleague and friend Amira, the administrator and Women’s Group Coordinator in the Beit Sahour office.
They are separated by the Wall not only as friends, but also as colleagues since the Wall forced the AIC to move into separate offices. The office in the Westbank lies in the Oslo area A, meaning that Israelis are prohibited from entering it and the office in Jerusalem lies in Israel, meaning that Palestinians can only enter when they obtain a special permit. One that is very hard to obtain, Amira did not even receive it when she needed it for medical treatment. To me it still seems surreal that a Palestinian volunteer who has been working for the AIC for the past 5 years still has to ask a three month international volunteer: so how does the Jerusalem office actually look like?
Still, despite the physical separation no one allows the AIC to turn into two offices: we are one. This could not be possible with a strong ideology alone, it is built on mutual respect and friendship to see this through to the end until their hopes and dreams can be reached.
One of the things that I have come to most appreciate is that even though the AIC is mainly concerned with producing and disseminating information concerning the reality of the situation it has not forgotten where it comes from. At heart it is still an activist organization that is struggling against injustice. This is why I will be always grateful that they gave me the freedom and full support when I slowly wandered away from my ‘official workplan’ because I felt that I could mean more where I was actually needed: on the ground with the grass roots movement of finding ways of alternative non-violent actions and signs of presence.
The AIC exemplifies Palestinian and Israeli critical thinking and analysis of what is really going on in Israel and the Palestinian Territories without falling out of touch with that reality and with the gut to say that things are going on that are unacceptable according to Israeli and International law. That is why the AIC does not only produce numerous articles, podcasts, videocasts, deeper research analyses of the Economy of the Occupation, settlement monitoring, but also practically organizes Youth and Women’s Projects.
My deepest respect goes to the people that I have gotten to know so well, who are working on all this 7 days a week. Both offices endure their hardships and it is often forgotten that not only Palestinians suffer of this occupation. There is a real tension and fear within Israeli society that cannot be denied. They live under a constant strain and stress but there is also a clear imbalance that is hard to accept especially when you live there, even though it seems impossible there is a great denial that there is an ongoing occupation. Standing up against that and the government often leads to becoming an outcast and being seen and treated as a traitor.
Luckily the AIC is one of the few organizations that has been long-standing together against all the challenges that the unjust reality of the occupation brings to both societies. I am incredibly glad that I had the chance to be a part of that. Its as simple as that.
Posted By Rianne Van Doeveren
Posted Sep 5th, 2008