How can we work together to make this Occupation come to an end. A few of you may decide to take up the torch and become an advocate to help bring this terrible human tragedy that has lasted since 1967 to an end. Others of you can simply help me for example by providing me some much needed guidance as my stay in Palestine draws nearer to an end and my next challenge of trying to influence those who can help make a difference do so. When we talk of the Occupation it doesn’t include the other equally appalling situation of individuals and their descendants being housed in Refugee Camps since 1948/49 when their entire communities were destroyed by Israeli forces and they were shipped to these camps supposedly as an interim arrangement. How can we help bring all this to an end without appearing to be anti-Semitic, racist or in any manner promoting hatred? How can I do this as a Christian, following the teachings of Jesus through a message of love that will have sufficient weight to influence media, politicians and economic leaders to step forward and say to the Government of Israel ‘enough is enough” and help resolve this tragedy for the best of everyone involved where ever they reside, whatever their faith is or if they just believe in social justice, peace and a good life for all.
What are the right words to express the situation, sadness, disgust, anguish or just heartbreaking? What do you suggest?
In suggesting an end to this situation I leave the much more difficult questions to much more wiser individuals than I could ever profess to be. This is truly a very complex situation with many of the issues going back before the time of Christ. There has to be a way to end this in a just way. In a world where we take relatively quickly action against Russia for their activities in Ukraine, we seeming let this Occupation go on for decades despite countless United Nations Resolutions to put an end to it. A solution has to be found where we actually have in place a just peace for all.
During the time of making the decision to participate in Palestine and Israel as an Ecumenical Accompanier (EA) I wrestled long and hard to ensure myself that this mission could be done without returning with hate or any hint racism. I am confident in my mind I am accomplishing this. Hate had played a large of my life up to a few years ago when I woke up to the reality that this hate was not only consuming myself but affecting every aspect of my life with family and friends. Hate that I harbored for not only other individuals but for myself and the many years that alcohol played to large of factor in my life and to the many friends, associates and family it is now impossible to make amends to. But life has to move on and I realize it is rather simplistic to suggest, but all parties involved in Israel and Palestine (including Gaza), have to move forward, putting the past in the past and dealing with the future now. There has been too much hate, too much misery, too much oppression, too much fear and not enough trust and love. This is not to imply that Palestians should be asked to stay with the status quo, far be it, they need their lives, homes, dignity and economy restored. They require hope and a future.
What I cannot describe is the feelings that I have day to day when everywhere one goes one is under constant observation of the ever present Army Towers. The other day as I returning with another EA from an overnight visitation to communities in the Fire Zone, the Masafer Yatta. I was checked and questioned as we walked along the road awaiting for our ride, three times by four fully armed soldiers in their passing armored vehicle, all in a space of a half hour. My feelings were not of anger or fear, but wondering what normal Palestians life is like to experience this for every day of their lives, to be checked for no apparent reason. Then one starts looking at the seemingly endless forms of oppression that come with living being occupied by a Military Force. The road closures, the check points and travel restrictions which are impossible to avoid on a daily basis. The ever present Separation Wall, the Demolitions, the constant erosion of property to the benefit of the fully state supported illegal settlements and outposts. The virtual inability (less than 1%) of Palestians to get building permits, permits for cisterns, connect electricity, or to have any stability in their lives. When you can stand in Palestian community that the residents have lived or owned for many generations if not centuries, know that every structure in the settlement has a demolition order outstanding, see the power lines run just feet from their property line to the illegal settlements and outposts yet this community has no electricity except through solar panels donated by the support of another International organization, a gravel trail to the community compared to paved roads to the illegal outposts and settlements overlooking the community, and many more issues. Many communities don’t even have electricity in any form, water or the basics to live. This not to mention the terrible loss of life, the injuries and psychological damage being done to all including the very youngest and most innocent in the community. For a comprehensive list of maps and information publications please check out the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestian Territory at www.ochaopt,org .
I had the benefit earlier this week of sitting in on a presentation with Rabbis for Human Rights, an organization that includes around 160 Rabbis hosting a wide range of humanitarian, legal, educational and advocacy programs. Rabbi Yehiel Gremimann pointed out that the Torah states quite clearly that the land is God’s land and should be available for all his children unconditionally. Referring to the Settlers destroying the Palestine’s olive trees, crops, property and their violence targeting the shepherds that this too is wrong as written in the Torah. I encourage you to have a look at their web sites for more details of their programs and campaign to end the occupation of Palestine: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.rhr.org.co.il. Rabbis for Human Rights have one clear objective, to end the Occupation of Palestine.
There are of course some ultraorthodox Jews that would like to have all of the land King David had in biblical times to be the current Israel, a land where the Jewish people would be the majority if not the only residents. I can certainly understand this (doesn’t mean I agree with) but not at the expense of the population that already there at the time the decision was made to form the state of Israel and the fact that the Palestians were and still are still the majority population. Certainly some come to experience the euphoria of developing a frontier, of helping build the new Promised Land without realizing or comprehending or just plain ignoring the true impact on the people who have lived here for many centuries. It has been promoted by many academics and historians on recent events in Israel and Palestine that it has indeed been the objective of the Israeli Governments since 1967 if not earlier to carry out this dream of a Jewish State either through forced evacuation of the resident Palestians and emigration of Jewish people from around the world approx. (400,000 presently) or by simply creating a state where any non-Jewish residents of Israel would the same freedoms and opportunities as their Jewish neighbours but none the less never afforded the same rights or stature in the state, a two class system. From my observations since being in Palestine this certainly seems to be the logical reason behind many of the oppressive actions taken by the Israel Government and the every growing numbers of illegal settlements and outposts. There is no question of the Government of Israel’s intention by one way or another to have all Palestians residing in Area “C” moved totally out of this area.
When I see the Settlers harassing their neighbours, when I see the soldiers preforming their oppressive duties I still can’t help but think that these soldiers and settlers are normal human beings, with families, hopes and dreams. What has happened to show such signs of hate and distain for fellow human beings is beyond me. What has been accomplished by the newly emigrated Jewish Settlers in the illegal Settlements and Outposts, all with the full support of the Israeli Government is certainly impressive, if it were not for it all being illegal by International Law and at the expense of the Palestians who have owned the land. In fact these Illegal settlements and outposts and the protective buffers that surround them account for 70% of all the very best of Palestian land and resources. When one takes into consideration military sites and protected areas you can well imagine how little land and resources are actually left for the Palestians. One can only imagine if the level of support and equal opportunities were afforded the Palestians as they are for the Settlers and Israeli population in general how rich and prosperous this land and all of its people would be. I of course by virtue where I have been located have benefited from meeting many very caring and generous Palestians. I can also say that with a very limited exposure I have met some very kind and caring Israelis. There are many great programs attempting to bring these people together. More of these programs are needed.
I am not blind to the many atrocities that have been done in the past by both sides in this dispute. I personally cannot condone any form of violence, whether it by Israel in the act of defense or by the Palestinians for the many reasons that they can no doubt justify. One cannot ignore the disproportionate force that Israel forces utilize on any level perceived threat. But to quote Michel Warschawski in his excellent book “On the Border” “it is clear that not only are attacks on civilians, be they bombs launched from a fighter plane or a bomb placed under a bus, morally unacceptable”.
In many ways one can fully appreciate the paranoia and fear Jewish have of the outside world having suffered some of the worst if not the worst persecutions and discriminations in the history of mankind. On the other hand to build a society on separating yourself from the rest of society in a bunker mentality, breeds mistrust and alienation from your neighbours. To build a society where the treatment of Palestians is similar to some extent to what they themselves have endured over the years. I have seen this paranoia on a much smaller scale when certain professions focus their entire working and social life around that of the people they work with and those excluded become “the others”. Many years ago the people of this land lived and socialized together, be it Jewish, Christian or Muslim. Hopefully in the future people of Israel and Palestine will be saying “remember the years when we didn’t socialize or are able to friends like now”.
I need some advice on how to effectively tell what I have witnessed and experienced, to tell what I have learned. This Occupation has to end now for the mutually benefit of the future for both the people of Israel and Palestian.
Any and all positive suggestions are very encouraged and welcomed.
To end on a lighter tone I am including some photos of our furry and feathered friends that we have encountered so far.
God bless all of the people in this fascinating land and pray for the much needed Just Peace.
Find the Gazelle
Herd of Camels