The Holy Land Trust is an organization whose identity and goal is to empower society for the future. We have noticed since we began work in 1998, and especially recently, that the Palestinian people lack a vision for the future. In our political life we tend to focus more on the past. We are very proud of our past, but unfortunately we continue to live in it. We continuously complain about the present and everything happening around us, and have no plans for the future.
Our society has accustomed itself to a certain manner of thinking and is reluctant to change it. We can't wait for someone to come and liberate us or give us a state; we need to fight to achieve such things. If you were to ask a Palestinian today about the present situation, the answer would probably be that we are living through the hardest and most difficult times to date, and the situation cannot possibly get any worse. If you were to ask the same question again after six months, you would probably get the same answer. These complaints and pessimism about the current situation is what our organization aims to overcome. The method we use is non-violence, because non-violence is not only a means of resistance, but of individual empowerment and thus the empowerment of society to take initiative.
We work at achieving this through training sessions, women's employment guidance activities, along with the rest of our activities. In addition to empowering the community, we also take part in the struggle that is not only political, but social and economic as well. On the social level we work on consolidating the idea of non-violence within the society, while on the economic level our aim is to become totally independent from Israel. Our ambition is to realize this independence with a serious economic boycott that will mean more than just words.
In our attempts to build a healthy society and establish a democratic foundation, our organization tries to tackle two major challenges facing the Palestinian people. The first is the occupation and the means of resisting it. The second challenge, which I think most people are oblivious to, is what will take place after the occupation is over.
Many people think that the problem is the occupation only, but if the occupation were to end tomorrow I think we would face grave internal problems. We won't wake up to find the democratic state we dreamed of that is based on the freedom of the individual, of women and of expression. I think we should begin sewing the seeds of the future now. So when we talk about non-violence as a form of resistance we also mean it as a way to build our society.
There is a third challenge we face within the organization, which is the international challenge. In addition to the great Palestinian efforts needed to end the occupation, we are also in need of international pressure on Israel. There are two projects we are working on that aim to achieve this.
The first is by travel and knowledge, through which we encourage foreign delegations visiting Palestine and the Holy Land to visit in an untraditional way. When Western tourists visit the city of Bethlehem, they typically go to the Church of the Nativity after going through the military checkpoint and leave after fifteen minutes, without knowing anything about us and our lives, and without knowing that they have just visited an Arab area. In many cases they are taught to fear the Arabs whose home they are visiting, and are instructed not to talk to any of them. We want tourists to enter the Holy Land and visit civil organizations. We want them to become familiar with the political reality, the refugee camps and the Wall that is now being built. More importantly, we want them to become active within their communities, churches and governments when they return home. We don't want them to feel sorry for us and describe us as poor unfortunates, but rather to carry out the message of what they have seen here to their own churches, institutions and governments in order to support the Palestinian cause. We call this project ‘alternative' or ‘political' tourism.
Our second project concerns the media. We face many challenges in the Western media, which is usually supportive of Israel, leading to wider coverage of the Israeli point of view. Often this causes complaints among Palestinians. Many of these cases are justified, but as an organization we ask ourselves how we can deal with the Western media in an effective way. This eventually led us to found the Palestinian News Network in 1998, which was the first independent, non-governmental and non-profit network registered in Palestine. The network's objective is to reveal the truth about what is happening in Palestine to the world, and shed light on issues not covered in the Western media. It focuses on issues concerning non-violent resistance, social movements or celebrations taking place in Palestine in an attempt to highlight the human side of things. We have received a great deal of positive response to our work not only from individuals, but from international news agencies with whom we have built a relationship of honesty and trust. In many cases these agencies use our reports as sources for their coverage.