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How Palestinians in the occupied West Bank view Israel's military strikes on Gaza

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, the West Bank, where we are broadcasting today, is the other big Palestinian area which Israel occupied in a war more than 50 years ago. Hamas does not rule here, but has supporters, as we saw in the al-Am'ari refugee camp. Palestinians driven out of Israel upon Israel's independence moved to that camp in the late 1940s.

This area started maybe as tents or shacks, and it's been built up layer by layer of concrete block buildings with hardly any planning. We're in this narrow alley. It's just an improvised neighborhood.

NUHA MUSLEH, BYLINE: Look at it.

INSKEEP: NPR producer Nuha Musleh was helping us to look. We read graffiti on the walls. Hamas passed here.

MUSLEH: Yes.

INSKEEP: That's what the graffiti says.

MUSLEH: Hamas passed here.

INSKEEP: She pointed out posters on shop after shop which show men Israel has killed or imprisoned.

MUSLEH: Let's see the date here. So he was killed on the 16 of June, 2023. And he had spent so much time in jail, and then he got - they came in and shot him again.

INSKEEP: I want to be clear. Everybody on these posters are people who, according to Israel, is a criminal. And up and down the street, there are posters celebrating them.

MUSLEH: Yes, celebrate. These are the heroes of the resistance.

INSKEEP: As we talked to men in this neighborhood, several said they had been imprisoned at one time or another. Nuha Musleh led the way toward a doorway.

MUSLEH: That's the coffee shop. We're going to go up to it there.

INSKEEP: Lead the way.

MUSLEH: Yeah.

INSKEEP: More posters outside the coffee shop.

We found men smoking and playing cards. When we asked about the war, they talked of what they see as Israel's abuses here. Israeli settlers on the West Bank have taken much of the land, and security forces conduct raids against what they consider terrorist threats.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Through interpreter) Wherever we go, we get humiliated. If we're found at checkpoints, the Israeli humiliate us. If we travel, we are humiliated. All the time, we are humiliated.

INSKEEP: Several teenagers gathered around, so we turned to them, and our producer asked, what do you want to do when you grow up?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Through interpreter) The future in Palestine is either a prisoner or a martyr or an injured person.

INSKEEP: That's a common answer here, although Nuha Musleh did a useful thing. She waited a minute and asked the question again and got different answers.

MUSLEH: What do you want to study?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Non-English language spoken).

MUSLEH: He wants to be a lawyer.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: (Through interpreter) I want to be an accountant.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: (Through interpreter) I want to be a lawyer because only a lawyer will be empowered to defend Palestinians.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: (Through interpreter) I want to be an engineer.

INSKEEP: So they do have dreams, though they doubt those dreams will come true. Until very recently, some Israeli officials said dreams like that were the way to peace. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked of prosperity for Palestinians as a substitute for a fully independent state, which he opposed. Many Palestinians reject that, as we heard in another coffee shop in a more prosperous part of town.

AHMAD AWEIDAH: Sorry about that.

INSKEEP: It's OK.

AWEIDAH: I haven't had my morning coffee yet.

INSKEEP: No, it's OK. It's OK.

Ahmad Aweidah is the owner of Zamn (ph), a word that means old times. He said we must order something.

AWEIDAH: 'Cause, you know, this is my coffee shop. In Arab culture, it's really rude if you come to my home and you don't accept my hospitality.

INSKEEP: You can order an Americano or a cappuccino instead of traditional Arabic coffee. This is one of many businesses Aweidah has owned over the years. When I first met him here almost a decade ago, he was running the Palestinian stock exchange.

The last time we talked, when you were at the stock exchange, you saw that as part of building a Palestinian national identity.

AWEIDAH: Absolutely.

INSKEEP: How did that work out?

AWEIDAH: Well, depends.

INSKEEP: He argues that Palestinian businesses suffer under Israeli oversight. He then offered what he called a frightening reality, that something else highlighted the Palestinian cause, the October 7 attack by Hamas.

AWEIDAH: I don't think we've ever - you know, we've ever been in the center of the hearts of minds of the entire world like we are now, albeit for an extremely heavy price.

INSKEEP: Like some others we met here, Aweidah minimized the violence of the Hamas attack that killed 1,400 people.

AWEIDAH: Maybe not me personally, but, you know, for people who have tried the political process for 30 years now, maybe the path of armed resistance is a solution.

INSKEEP: This is a particular kind of armed resistance, though, targeting women and children, targeting unarmed people.

AWEIDAH: That is - the Israelis target women and children all the time.

INSKEEP: Israel denies deliberately targeting civilians. Aweidah does not talk, as Hamas has, of driving Jews from Israel. He talks instead of a rainbow state where all people would enjoy equal rights. Yet, he argues, the Hamas attack had a certain effect.

AWEIDAH: Because the entire world had forgotten about the Palestinians. The Israelis had forgotten about the Palestinians. The occupation became sort of the occupation number 54 on any average Israeli's mind. You know, it was - there was this certain belief that this really could go on forever at a very, very low cost.

INSKEEP: Meaning that the occupation could continue...

AWEIDAH: Would continue forever. The settlement building would continue forever and that the Palestinians were going to shut up and just lump it and end up living in isolated little cantons among a sea of Jewish settlement.

INSKEEP: He is now hoping Israel will more seriously consider a political solution.

I'm interested in what you foresee. You say after this, meaning after this war between Israel and Hamas. Israel intends to crush Hamas.

AWEIDAH: Well, yeah, yeah. Israel intends to crush Hamas, like Hamas is a thing that you can crush. This is just the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

INSKEEP: Israel has said Hamas is a terrorist organization separate from the Palestinian national cause. Aweidah says it's a political movement. And if he sounds angry at times, he says he has a reason. He pulled out his phone and brought up a photo.

AWEIDAH: This is my grandfather's house in West Jerusalem.

INSKEEP: He says his family was evicted from that stone house after Israel's victory in the 1967 war. Fifty-six years later, Aweidah says he still goes there with his cousin, and they have breakfast while sitting on a bench in the garden.

Do you expect something for that property?

AWEIDAH: Absolutely.

INSKEEP: What do you expect, to have...?

AWEIDAH: Minimum - a recognition of the guilt that - for a start, the psychological closure.

INSKEEP: This kind of historical view is not Israel's priority right now. Israel says it needs to eliminate an enemy that killed civilians and continues firing rockets at Israeli cities. Israel has said it is premature to say what kind of Palestinian government might follow Hamas. Whoever it is will face the reality of millions of Palestinians in Gaza and here on the West Bank who say they belong here.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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