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Palestinians: Mixed feelings on statehood

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES (BP) — Geographically, Shukri’s* job opportunities are landlocked by the guarded borders the West Bank shares with Israel.

In reality, they’re constricted even more.

“I studied to be an electrician, and I applied for a job in an electricity company (in the West Bank). They refused me,” said Shukri, a Palestinian Christian. “I have the right to have a job there — I have a certificate, and I know people who work there who don’t have a certificate.”

It’s “complicated” being a believer in Jesus Christ in the Palestinian Territories, he said. “It’s hard to find a job because we are the minority.”

In this polarized society with high unemployment, jobs tend to go to the likeminded. Since many of the larger Palestinian businesses are owned by Muslims, jobs for Christians are few.

Job opportunities may exist in Israel, but like most Palestinians living in the West Bank, Shukri is not allowed to go into Israel even though he can see Jerusalem from his home.

“I need permission to cross the checkpoint into Israel, and I don’t have it,” Shukri said.

It’s hard sometimes, and he doesn’t know what will help — but he and a good number of his fellow Palestinians don’t think it will be a United Nations vote that does it.

On Sept. 23, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made the bid for the U.N. to recognize Palestine as an independent state. The U.N. Security Council agreed Sept. 28 to review its application for statehood.

“We discern that most Palestinian people realize that even if this passes the U.N. vote, it will not create a viable Palestinian state,” said Stephen Johnson*, a Christian worker among Palestinians. “It would create a state, but a state that wouldn’t do anything for them. Their freedoms wouldn’t change. Opportunities to provide for their families wouldn’t change.”

That goes for Christian and Muslim Palestinians alike, he said.

“Palestinians are very politically astute and they know that even if the U.N. body did recognize Palestine as a state, it would not change life on the ground,” Johnson said. “In fact, there is danger in doing this.”

Palestinians, he said, are fearful that American and European aid would be reduced or eliminated.

“They understand that their country does not have the resources within itself to build the nation they want to be,” Johnson said.

But even so, Palestinians are proud of Abbas’ presentation at the U.N., he said.

“They feel the world doesn’t understand their suffering and does not validate it,” Johnson said.
*Names changed. Ava Thomas is a writer/editor for the International Mission Board based in Europe.

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  • Ava Thomas