I have now been in Abu Dis for a month, and i wanted to make some very general observations about the politics of the situation here, based on conversations with Palestinians. I will also be making some reflections on my teaching, culture and general life in the next couple of days.
The occupation remains an overwhelming, crushing pressure on people's lives. The checkpoints, the settlements, the abuses of human rights by Israeli soldiers, seem overall to have got worse, and now there is the separation wall cutting off East Jerusalem from the West Bank. The economic situation seems to have deteriorated, with fewer jobs, and fewer jobs which are decently paid.
Compounded with this is a general feeling of opposition or cynicism towards the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority for their failure to effectively challenge Israel.
The oppression is combined with a sense of powerlessness. One effect of this seems to have been the strengthening of religion as the main vehicle for social cohesion and identity. Religion can be, as Karl Marx put it, "the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering....the soul of soulless conditions". The other effect is the search for a strong figurehead who embodies defiance and liberation - the three most popular political images here are of Che Guevara, Yasser Arafat, and Saddam Hussein (often of him during his US-run trial in Iraq).