West Bank’s apathy amid Gaza chaos shows Palestinians becoming a divided people

It's not that West Bankers don't care, it's more that physical separation is gradually creating emotional separation

Palestinians participate in a march on November 2, 2017, in the center of the West Bank city of Ramallah to protest the 100th anniversary of Britain's Balfour Declaration, which helped lead to Israel's creation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

For the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Friday was another difficult day.

For the Palestinians in the West Bank, Friday was just another ordinary day — a day for weddings, family gatherings, and, for some, dining at the fancy restaurants in Ramallah and Nablus.

Gone are the days when the deaths of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip (by Israel) would prompt Palestinians in the West Bank to declare a general strike or take to the streets to protest against Israel.

True, there were a few clashes between Palestinian protesters in the West Bank on Friday, but there was nothing unusual about the protests. Such protests, especially in villages in the Ramallah and Nablus area, have been taking place every Friday for several years now.

Palestinians burn tires during clashes with Israeli troops along Gaza’s border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Thursday, April 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Gone, too, for that matter, are the days when the death of a Palestinian in clashes with the IDF in the West Bank would spark protests and a general strike in the Gaza Strip.

During the 70s and 80s, the situation was different, particularly in the years of the First Intifada, which erupted in late 1987.

Those were the years when Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip felt they were one people, and the bond between them was stronger than ever.

However, the physical separation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which began after the signing of the Oslo Accords and reached its peak 11 years ago, when Hamas violently seized control of the coastal enclave, has moved the Palestinians in these two areas farther away from each other.

Today, there is almost no direct contact between the Palestinians in the West Bank and those living in the Gaza Strip. The vast majority of the Palestinians in the West Bank have never been to the Gaza Strip. For them, the Gaza Strip is not much different than Syria, Lebanon, or Iraq.

‘Have our hearts been hardened like stones?’

It’s not that the Palestinians of the West Bank don’t care any more about their brothers in the Gaza Strip. Rather, it’s the feeling that watching the news coming from the Gaza Strip is no longer all that different than watching what happens in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere around the world.

What comes to mind in this instance is the Arabic proverb that says: “What is far from the eye is far from the heart.” This is an expression that is used to refer to the fact that physical distance often leads to emotional distance....

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