BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK – At the Aida Refugee Camp, a few blocks from Israel’s separation wall, is the Al Rowwad Cultural and Theater Center founded by Dr. Abdelfattah Abusrour in 1998 with the philosophy of “beautiful resistance” against the Israeli power over their land.
Abusrour is part of thefirst generation of children born to refugee parents in the Aida Refugee Camp, which was established in 1950 between the towns of Bethlehem and Beit Jala. It is now home to around 5,000 inhabitants all descendants from the 1948 expulsion from Palestine.
Abusrour considers himself “fortunate” to have gotten a scholarship to study in France, where he stayed for nine years and got his master’s and Ph.D in biological and medical engineering. But his heart was always also with theater, painting and photography. He came home with the dream of working with children to help shape the future of a Palestinian state.
The center started working with children in refugee camps in the area of Bethlehem and Bet-Jala, but then spread all over the West Bank with mobile “beautiful resistance” programs in theater, dance and music training.
He explained the center’s philosophy: “Resistance, because we are under occupation still until today and we have this right to resist the occupation; and beautiful, to reflect all this beauty, this humanity, this culture, this heritage, this beautiful heritage of unarmed struggle that the Palestinians have carried over the years even before Gandhi and Martin Luther King.”
U.S. is ‘supportive of an apartheid system that is suffocating us’
The center takes some of the children to tour and perform internationally.
“We go internationally to give the children the possibility to see real, free and peaceful countries without checkpoints, without tear gas, without occupation soldiers,” said Abusrour.
Children have toured in the United States, among many other countries.
Abusrour says he was very eager to tour with the children in the U.S. because it is the richest, most powerful democracy in the world. But he also wanted to show them that even in the biggest democracy, injustice can be found.
“We took our children to poor areas like Afro-American neighborhoods because it was important for me to show them as Palestinians that there are equal injustices in other places of the world,” he said.
While he appreciates the power of the U.S., Abusrour believes that as a country, it is not living up to its ideals.
“The United States of America is a country like any other country. It has its beauty and faults," said Abusrour. He added that it is "the land of free and the brave, apparently, and they are violating the values that they pretend defending.”
For many Palestinians, it is hard to ignore the long-term support the U.S. has given and continues to give Israel for its security. Many find it hard to understand how a country like the U.S., which plays a leading role in shaping the policies of other countries, can help Israel’s continuous violation of the Palestinian’s rights.
“As a Palestinian I see that [the U.S.] is supportive of an apartheid system that is suffocating us, that is continuing a violation of human rights and human values that we share as Palestinians,” said Abusrour. “I see the governments of the United States of America, one after the other, supporting this illegal occupation.”
This story is part of a series by msnbc.com and NBC News "What the World Thinks of US". The series aims to check the pulse on current perceptions of America's global stature during the election year and ahead of our annual Independence Day.
Share your thoughts about this story and our series on Twitter using #AmericaMeans
Stories in the series: