When asked why I would want to travel in the heat of the summer to the conflict-ridden region of Palestine and Israel, my answer was clear: “If we want peace, if we want to bring home our troops, if we want to put an end to drone strikes and perpetual war, we must first resolve the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Yes, I know the conflict seems horribly entrenched but perhaps I will gain some insights upon speaking with the people there.”
Now that I have traveled to Palestine and Israel, I can assure you that I have gained those additional insights. Before I write another word, however, I must say something else: I did not come here to alienate, isolate or de-legitimatize Israel. I am strongly linked to the Christian/Judeo tradition and have several Jewish family members. No, I came here because I have read far too many accounts of Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians and needed to come here and see with my own eyes if they were true.
It breaks my heart to relay what I have discovered: all that I’ve been reading is true.
Israel has been quietly changing and in alarming ways. Like our own country, it is moving to the right politically. Like our own country, it is becoming increasingly militaristic in the name of national security. And like our own country, it has racist subgroups seeking to segregate themselves from “undesirable” populations. In Israel these groups are Arab Druze, Bedouins, Muslims and Christians.
Yet, UNLIKE our country, Israel's West Bank has two separate legal systems: one for Jews and one for everybody else. This allows them to systematically deny the rights of non-Jews to vote, to move freely, to build new homes, or to have access to their traditional sources of water, farmlands and electricity. At the same time, Israel is erecting huge, barbwire-covered walls that encircle and alienate entire non-Jewish communities, most of which are beyond of the Green Line—the internationally recognized boundary between Israel and Palestinian. The waits to get through these checkpoints in these walls are notoriously long, unpredictable and dehumanizing.
I am so sorry to say that it gets even worse. In the first six months of this year alone the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, funded by the European Commission of the European Union and Partnership for Peace, documented the following hate crimes:
1) There were 390 physical attacks on non-Jews by Jewish Settlers;
2) Over 134 Arab homes were destroyed; and
3) Over 12,000 olive trees in the West Bank alone were either burned down or bulldozed by Jewish Settlers of the Israeli military, thereby destroying the Palestinian's major source of income.
I could go on with more disturbing statistics but I think you get the point. There are bad things happening in Israel rights now and no one is holding Israel accountable. Not that no one has tried. Every year the members of the United Nations try to address some of these violations in a resolution entitled, “Peaceful Resolution of the Palestinian Conflict. “ Yet every year the vote is the same: Israel and the United States block its passage.
The time has come to look deeper into the dynamics at play in modern day Israel and Palestine. In my next blog I will outline several rays of light that are emerging from this gathering darkness. Please stay with me—even though it’s difficult—for the name of freedom and human rights and safety for all.
Peace, Shalom, Salaam –