leaving Palestine, and taking their hopes with them

Our policy throughout the Middle East has succeeded in creating enemies and weakening real or potential friends, in building-up repressive, violent and aggressive regimes and destroying the hopes of reformers and democrats.

Perhaps nowhere else at the moment is this better illustrated than in the Palestinian community, where, for those who have eyes and ears, the human dimension of our stupidity plays out so intimately yet dramatically, and at such great cost to any hope for peace and stability.

Palestinian-Americans (and other well-educated and prosperous Palestinians) are possibly in the best position to put an end to the violence thoughout the region and build a viable and just state. Now however they are being encouraged to leave, in many cases after returning from abroad during the last decade, when it appeared that their homeland was on the verge of statehood.

The residents of Turmus Aya, most of whom are American citizens, are trapped most days behind concrete blocks that Israeli soldiers have placed across the road into town, which is not a hot spot in the conflict.


[Because of the Israeli military occupation] Universities are inaccessible, and beyond selling corn flakes at the Supermarket California or pizza at the local restaurant, there is little work to be had.

Palestinian-Americans are concentrated in the southern West Bank, in Ramallah and surrounding villages like this one, where there are plenty of basketball hoops and residents tend to greet strangers with, "How ya doin'?" Like Turmus Aya, Deir Dibwan, to the south, also feels like a ghost town, because so many residents have gone to America.


These days, some Palestinian-Americans are embarrassed to be leaving for the United States, and others even to admit their citizenship, but Mustafa Zatar, 55, who worked for many years in Puerto Rico, proudly wears a baseball cap bearing the American flag.

"Every Fourth of July I fly the flag on my roof," he said.

For four generations, as the West Bank passed from the Turks to the British to the Jordanians and then the Israelis, Palestinians have been leaving to seek their fortunes elsewhere. They gained citizenship in the United States, or Panama or France, and passed it on to their children.

The pattern has been for men like Ziad Igbara to leave after they finish high school to study or to work, but to raise their families here. Mr. Igbara said he did not know his own father until he was 14.

With his father and brothers, Mr. Igbara has been selling clothes in the Bronx for 22 years now. Unlike his brother Najeh, he is leaving his wife and six children here when he returns to the United States again this summer, because he is determined that they establish roots here. But he said he did not know how long he could hold out.

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Published on July 29, 2002 3:32 PM.

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