Editors’ note: On Oct. 7, Hamas militants staged a surprise attack on Israel, as a result of which at least 1,400 Israelis were killed and hundreds were taken hostage. In the days since, Israeli forces have launched a counter-offensive in Gaza that has taken thousands of Palestinian lives, according to local reports. As tensions continue to escalate, JURIST is seeking perspectives from law students, law professors, and lawyers across the region and beyond. In this, the second in a series of interviews highlighting the regional experience, JURIST spoke with a young lawyer in the West Bank who wished to remain anonymous due to security concerns. The first interview of the series, featuring an Israeli law student, can be found here.
The goal of these interviews is to share the lived experiences of those in the region whose daily lives are directly affected by the conflict. It is not a news article. All statements included in this interview are the genuinely held beliefs of the interviewee, and we are publishing them in order to share her subjective experience, not as a means of reporting objective facts. Our hope is that by sharing the perspectives of a broad swath of legal professionals in the region, we can help facilitate a broader understanding of the factors at play in the region. Neither this nor other personal opinions shared on our site constitute JURIST editorial policy, nor do they necessarily reflect the views of the editorial team. For objective reporting on the topic, please review our News section.
Will you please tell us where you are from and where you are now?
I’m a legal trainee in the West Bank.
How did you feel when you heard about Hamas’ October 7 attack?
I was happy about it, because people in Gaza have essentially been imprisoned for years — unable to go anywhere, including to the West Bank, or even to the nearby [Israeli] settlements. So I felt happy because they were resisting — starting to resist the years of oppression and imprisonment that they were facing.
I was also happy to see that they weren’t doing major damage when they broke through the fences and went into the nearby settlements. They were following what they had always learned — to not kill any children or civilian women or elderly people. It felt good to see that they had broken through, but to know they were adhering to their moral code.
But I was also afraid given the history of our region. The Hamas fighters were obviously overpowered by Israel, so any breakthrough — any act of resistance — would obviously be met with heavy bombing and mass killing of innocent people.
And it’s not just the people of Gaza who are targets of civilian killings. We justifiably fear this in the West Bank too.
I can say that from experience given what my family has gone through — including the traumatic experiences of Israeli forces having broken into our house, having arrested my dad and my brother many times.
I’m always on edge and I’m always scared of what will happen next.
Can you tell us more about the arrests of your father and brother?
This is an experience that I think many people here in the West Bank share. So my dad was a lawyer for Palestinian prisoners who were being held in Israeli prisons. Because of this, he had always been targeted, but one time when I was a young teenager, tanks — I would say a couple dozen of them — surrounded our house, and the Israeli forces blew up the front door and then stormed in. After that, they basically flipped the house upside down, searching everywhere, confiscating all of our electronics — anything we could use to record and share what was happening.
My father was then charged with dealing with terrorist organizations.
He was initially released, but the criminal case kept building against him until he surrendered himself a few years later, and had to spend nearly two years in jail.
That wasn’t the first time something like this happened, but it was the biggest and most traumatic.
And beyond the immediate fear and my father’s incarceration, it also hit our family very hard from a financial perspective as he had been our provider.
Similar events occurred when my brother was arrested a couple of years later. Again, they broke into the house, turned everything upside down, searched through everything, and eventually accused him of resistance work and arrested him, and jailed him for about two years as well.
How has your daily life changed since October 7?
Things are not the same. We are always stressed. We are always glued to the news. We barely sleep at night. And beyond that, as a show of solidarity, many institutions and businesses in the West Bank are boycotting, so shops and schools are shut down. It’s a way of showing the anger and sadness that we feel here. But also that means that there’s really nothing to do but sit at home and focus on our stress about what’s to come.
For me, and I’m sure it’s the same for many people here, as someone who struggles with mental health issues, seeing videos of the conflict has heightened my anxiety and depression. This has made it impossible to keep working, and to keep writing.
How do you feel about the international responses that have emerged so far?
To be honest, none of the reactions of world leaders have surprised me. What’s baffled me is how the international media has covered the conflict. I’m seeing so much misinformation on major news outlets, and so little coverage of the terrible things that are happening in Gaza.
How is Hamas viewed in the West Bank?
Hamas doesn’t have many followers in the West Bank. On one hand, people just don’t want to get arrested for being involved with them. And on the other, many people here don’t agree with all of their principles. But in Gaza, Hamas has all the power.
I can say, speaking for myself, I’m not a supporter or follower of Hamas; but it’s not lost on me that they’re the only ones who have actually managed to stage a resistance against Israel.
How do you feel about the responses of the Palestinian authorities so far?
Their response has been nothing short of disappointing. I’m embarrassed to say this, but they actually met support marches in West Bank with violence and mass arrests. People here generally see the Palestinian government as working hand in hand with Israel.
What are your hopes for the future of Palestine?
I want the killing and the bombing to stop. But I also want the people of Palestine to be liberated. I’m a grown woman, and I’ve never left the West Bank. I’ve never been to Jaffa. I’ve never seen the Palestinian Coast. I’ve never been to Jerusalem. I’ve obviously never been to Gaza. I want basic freedoms. I want to be able to explore my own country. I want some sort of liberty.
Neither this nor other opinions shared on our site constitute JURIST editorial policy, nor do they necessarily reflect the views of the editorial team. For objective reporting on the topic, please review our News section.