Ahmad Abu Ras, 28, lives in the West Bank and cannot leave because he is on a list. It's the type of list that can lead to your death. But that hasn't stopped him from voicing his views in an area where speaking out against the Palestinian Authority can bring consequences of imprisonment and even torture.
Still, Ras spoke to Independent Journal Review, courtesy of a veteran member of the Israeli Defense Forces. While thousands of Palestinians protested President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital, Ras holds a different view.
“I was raised in a Palestinian religious family who hated Israel,” Ras said. “We supported and followed Hamas.”
He didn't go into details about the time he supported and was a member of the terrorist group, but he did talk about what changed his mind.
Ras's shift in thinking came when he found himself behind bars in an Israeli jail for allegedly assaulting a police officer. Though incarceration was nothing new for Ras, as he had been imprisoned in the West Bank before. He expected to receive inhumane treatment similar to what he experienced back home.
“In Palestine, I was in isolation for a very long time,” he said. “It's a long nightmare, and they beat you, they do everything they can until you confess to things you never did ... We are raised to treat our Muslim brothers with kindness, but the Israelis treated me better than my Muslim brothers did.”
“They were supposed to be my enemies,” Ras said. “But the police officer in jail told me 'I want you to be free, if you're innocent, we will let you go.'”
As it turns out, Ras was found innocent of the charges against him and released. “It was fair,” he said, “They asked me questions, it lasted a few hours, and it was over.”
“That was my turning point,” he said. However, his choice to think and act a different way didn't come without severe consequences.
“I still suffer from my time in jail. I cannot leave. If you reach the border, the guards will kill you. So, my name is on a list with many other Palestinians. We go to jail for nothing, and it happens a lot.”
“We receive a false charge, get tortured, and are banned from traveling anywhere. And it's not just me, thousands of Palestinians are suffering the same thing.”
Ras shared his perspective on the announcement from Trump about Jerusalem:
"For me, it a positive step. The Palestinian Authority is lying to us. They want us to fight against Israel. This first step reveals that the Palestinian Authority is lying.
Jerusalem has been under Israel control for fifty years and we know it’s theirs. The people who want to protest the decision are shallow. Hamas leaders want people to protest in the streets against Americans, for what? You know, they don’t care about any step for peace."
You won't see Ras joining any protests in the West Bank since he has only good things to say about Israel.
“[It's] a great country. First of all, it’s democratic. It has a great economy in the area. It’s a first world country. It has human rights,” Ras said. “Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians work in Israel and have a good life. I’m not lying to you when I say that many Palestinians want to live under Israeli rule. In Israel, you make $2,000 salary minimum. In Palestine, you don’t get half of that.”
Ras also worked in construction on Israeli-built developments. While the topic remains controversial, he finds a severe lack of credibility in the backlash surrounding them. With a counterargument all his own, he revealed how the settlements benefited him and his family.
"Settlements have existed for a long time. Israel is not building settlements on stolen land. Palestinians sell their land to Israel, and then the settlement is built.
I worked in a settlement in construction. I had a good salary. I was treated good. It was great. My father has worked in a settlement for 27 years."
Ras emphasized that thousands of “Palestinians” support Israel, but take a grave risk sharing that opinion. “I could be charged with treason for talking to you,” he told IJR. “But the world must know what's happening here.”
Author's note: Ahmad Abu Ras is a pseudonym. Ras asked for a fake name to be used and his face to be concealed in the photograph he gave to IJR to protect his identity.