A Palestinian's View of the Withdrawal from Gaza
JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:
As much as many Israeli settlers dread the pullout, Gaza's one million Palestinians are looking forward to it. One of them is Khalil Bashir(ph). He's a school principal who's raised his large family in the same house he was born in in the center of the Gaza Strip. In 1970, the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom was founded not far away. Bashir has stayed put, even as that settlement expanded literally into his back yard and even as the Israeli army took over half of Bashir's house, moving first onto his roof and then his upper floors during this recent Palestinian intifada.
Mr. KHALIL BASHIR (Gaza Resident): My house is a military position protecting the Kfar Darom settlement.
(Soundbite of tank passing)
Mr. BASHIR: The tank. The tank.
LUDDEN: Oh, that I heard. That was an Israeli army tank?
Mr. BASHIR: Yeah. I'm leading a romantic kind of life.
LUDDEN: (Laughs) How's that?
Mr. BASHIR: Under shooting and surrounded by tanks, soldiers upstairs around me, all the elements of a normal romantic is found here in my house.
LUDDEN: You certainly seem to be coping with the drama well.
Mr. BASHIR: Yes, I am already accustomed. I am accustomed to this.
LUDDEN: The army said it moved in nearly five years ago because there was shooting from around Bashir's house, something he vehemently denies. And though he jokes about his situation, it has been dangerous. Bashir says the Israeli soldiers have shot two of his sons--one spent five months in rehab--and yet he's never considered leaving.
Mr. BASHIR: I couldn't imagine myself out of my house. I don't want to commit the same mistake my people committed in 1948. I don't want to be a refugee. Moreover, I'm just a lover of my house. As you know, a lover always ready to sacrifice himself for his love.
LUDDEN: From his bedroom window, Khalil Bashir looks right at the walls of the Kfar Darom settlement just yards away. He dares not sleep in that room.
Mr. BASHIR: The whole family sleeps in only one room. This room turned out to be our jail for more than four years.
LUDDEN: After the settlement took over Bashir's back yard, he waged a seven-year lawsuit in Israeli courts to reclaim it but lost. He's now looking forward to getting his yard back.
Mr. BASHIR: And I'm extremely happy for this. I'll breathe freely. I'll be free to welcome my friends without permission. I'll stop being a stranger in my house. This is a blessing.
LUDDEN: Have you thought about the first thing that you're going to do once the soldiers and the settlers have gone?
Mr. BASHIR: My children wanted to play their games freely in the yard. And my wife said that the first thing she will do, she will go upstairs to breathe fresh air.
LUDDEN: And you?
Mr. BASHIR: I'll accompany my wife. I'll go upstairs to see my house, to see what was going on the roof.
LUDDEN: Where the soldiers have been?
Mr. BASHIR: Yes. But in spite of everything, it is not time to gloat, to gloating over another's grief; it is time for tolerance. I do wish the Israelis the best of good luck. I do wish to build a new cooperative, healthy relations with them.
LUDDEN: Khalil Bashir lives next to the Kfar Darom settlement in the Gaza Strip.
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