“…and I mean really listen, a young Palestinian from Balata Refugee Camp told me”

A Land without Borders is a journey that lasted more than a year, around West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In a series of 12 chapters, the Israeli journalist and author Nir Baram recounts his journey and discussions with people from diverse backgrounds – Israeli and Palestinians – throughout the country from Palestinian refugee camps, to Israeli settlements and from crossings like Kalandia to Al-Aqsa Temple Mount. He provides a direct, honest, painful even shocking overview of the misery and violence and the impacts of occupation on communities, families and individuals across the West Bank.

Baram offers a new insight into a conflict that lasts fifty years and reveals a troubling situation of Israel-  both Palestinian and Israeli. At the beginning of his book Nir Baram poses three questions:

  1. Had the West Bank become a different place since the 1967 war?
  2. Where the two states solution implementable anymore?
  3. Were Israelis and Palestinians acknowledging the core of the conflict?

By now more than 550.000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and they are spreading further partly through outposts. In the meantime, Palestinians continue to face serious threats, destruction to homes, loss of land, assets and livelihoods, forced displacement and restrictions on freedom of movement, insecurity and psychological distress.  Palestinians, natives of Jerusalem, do not have the same rights as Jews. Separating by the wall, the Palestinians districts are not accessible to ambulances services or waste collection. Palestinians are tread as second class citizens.

Most Israelis supress any knowledge of the hardship of the daily lives at the occupation partly because, Nir Baram argues, it will contaminate their political illusions. At the same time, they don’t want really to talk about Israel’s political future, “making to indeed with generalizations, complaints and vague predictions, peppered with black humour. I realised”, says Baram, “that what has evolved in Israel over the past few years is a collective repression of the future.”

Nir Baram calls the period of occupation a demonic time. He thinks that the traditional two-states solution has failed.  He proposes an alternative solution, a project called “Two states, one homeland”, meaning two separate states within the 1967 borders that will maintain free movement between them, equal rights, and where settlers do not lose their homes. That, of course, means that some settlers would be under Palestinian sovereignty but they would no longer be settlers, they would be citizens.

Is Nir Baram’s vision utopian? Perhaps. But at least he has a vision, which surprisingly have found some unexpected supporters in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, whereas all the political steps that have been taken in the past decades, have all but failed.

Disclaimer: Maquina Lectora received  a free digitised copy from the publisher via NetGalley. No other compensation was received for this review.