The reality of a situation affects you the most when you are placed dead center in the heart of a conflict.
In the course of my yearly trips to Occupied Palestine, I seldom witness any relaxation of discrimination, racism, harassment, and subhuman treatment of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. And the many Palestinians with whom I speak fear justice and peace are an elusive dream. "The Israeli government can violate Universal Human Rights laws or a series of articles under the fourth Geneva Convention of International Law, and still manages to receive billions of dollars in United States aid. So tell me, how can there be a decisive peace with justice for the Palestinians?" asked a Palestinian refugee from Gaza. Peace is tossed to the wind.
I want to describe what happened when I, a Palestinian-American, visited my relatives in Occupied Palestine in fall, 1991. At the end of my trip, at Tel Aviv Airport, I went through a security check. If you happen to be an Arab, regardless of where you were born, the odds are never in your favor. You are automatically singled out.
As I approached the ticket counter to obtain a boarding pass for my Chicago flight, an Israeli airport security guard said, "You must first pass our security check." Fine, I thought, everybody must go through this. But then I realized this racist treatment is not for everyone. It is reserved for us. There should be a sign, "For Arabs Only." But there is none.
As an Israeli Security Officer searched through my personal belongings, she wanted to know why I had two cameras. I told her I am a photographer and always carry an extra camera. She continued to drill me on why I need two cameras and what type of pictures I take. I told her I took pictures of my relatives, friends, and nature. "I want to know the names and places you visited," she responded. I explained that I grew up in Occupied Palestine and it is only natural for me to return to the land and capture its beauty on film.