Sam Bahour, developer

"We're so close, but we're so far apart mentally. There's a huge chasm between us."

Sam Bahour, Pt. 1
2:56 minutes
Real Video (4.9 MB)
Windows Media (1.4 MB)

Sam Bahour, Pt. 2
3:44 minutes
Real Video (6.3 MB)
Windows Media (1.8 MB)

Sam Bahour, Pt. 3
4:00 minutes
Real Video (6.7 MB)
Windows Media (1.9 MB)

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I first heard Sam Bahour on NPR some months before my trip. When a friend of a friend offered to put me in touch with him, I was more than happy to follow through.

Sam is managing a crazy project: Construction of the largest western-style shopping center in the West Bank. The project was started a month or so before the intifada started. It would never be initiated under current conditions. And yet Sam and his associates have persevered, and the center is due to open soon.

It's going to be a beautiful center, and it seems to me it makes an important statement: "This is the normal life we all have a right to expect: working, shopping, eating, playing...taking care of our needs and desires, just as people everywhere do. This is normal. We have a right to expect this. We WILL expect it, no matter how forcefully these expectations are disrupted by an odious occupation."


Part 1. Sam asks if we have had a chance to visit any of the rural areas on the West Bank. It's important if you have time, he says. Over half the population of the West Bank lives in the rural areas, and he says they are paying the highest price of the occupation. "You find a whole different set of problems that the occupation creates in the rural areas."

"We're so close (Israelis and Palestinians), but we're so far apart mentally. There's a huge chasm between us."

Part 2. "After Oslo, I felt it was a good opportunity to come back... I was recruited with one other American by the Palestinian authority to help privatize the telecommunications structure."

After that he opened his own company, an IT consulting firm, the first in Palestine. Then another job led to his position as general manager of the firm that was building the first western style shopping center on the West Bank. "The community was looking forward towards a peaceful framework and economic development." The project was started a month or two before the current intifada broke out.

Part 3. "The first intifada wasn't artificial, it was grass roots. It provoked the community into action against the occupation. This intifada...I wouldn't even call it that. There's nothing mass about it. It is an armed conflict between a weak party and a strong party. In my opinion, the weak party made a wrong decision to take on the bully, and it's now paying the price for doing so."

"It's hard to explain to the community after 36 years of occupation that there are normal Israelis who are looking for the exact same things we are looking for, to live."

There is no reason that Gaza shouldn't be free of occupation, right away, he said.

"The settler movement is a wrong decision that Israel has taken historically that has put them in a bind today. They can't unravel what they have done easily, because it has physical human beings involved.

"I don't think Jerusalem is the issue. Jerusalem is rocks. At the end of the day, we are either going to agree who owns the rocks, or we're going to share the rocks. But when you have people involved - which is settlers and refugees - it's different, because a person is a complicated being. He has rights. He has justice in mind. That's the hard part."


Voices of Israel and Palestine

Copyright 2003-2009 Peter Rashkin. Material under other bylines is copyright by the authors. All rights reserved.