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Home arrow Blog arrow June 2007 arrow June 5, 2007

June 5, 2007

My muse, Brenda Starr inflamed me all day long,

An investigative report on the tactics of a particular group of Kossacks [those who read and comment on diaries at the Daily Kos] will be published within the next few days.

Today, I offer the third in a series excerpted from my

MEMOIRS in Occupied Territory: An Orwellian Disney Land

On March 16, 2006, sixty international’s traveled in a bus through the West Bank and observed miles of caravans/trailer homes where more illegal settlements/colonies are planned. The trailers are perched upon the highest hill tops to claim the property for future construction of more illegal settlements; for under International Law, all the settlements are illegal.

In 1998, Ariel Sharon admitted, “Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can…Everything we don’t grab will go to them.”

We arrived at the impoverished  village of A-Twani and met the indigenous people of the land and two, twenty-something year old Christian Peacemaker Teams/CPT volunteers, who spend 3 months at a time observing, reporting, escorting and protecting the children going to and from school.

The reason these children require protection is that the settlers/colonists/squatters verbally harass and physically threaten the children. The spokesman for the village, Hafez informed this reporter, “In 1982 there were a few caravans on our land and year after year they increased stealing more land, and now they have grabbed 70% of it. The settlers attack farmers, shepherds, women and children with sticks and chains and beat them. It was much worse before the Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove volunteers came here.

“Sometimes the settlers attack the Internationals.  A six year old girl was beaten on her way to school and a 74 year old woman spent three days in the hospital. They have shot the tires of our tractors and the settlers chop off the tops of our fruit and olive trees or uproot them. We choose to react nonviolently and call the police, but it takes at least an hour for them to arrive and all they do is write a report and nothing ever happens.

“Israeli groups like Ta’ayoush [Hebrew for co-existence] and Rabbis for Human Rights opened the window for the International community to come here and although the settlers even attack the Internationals things are not as bad as they once were.”

Ta’ayoush representative Ezra added, “Our activities in this area have changed the picture here. The occupation is about making life impossible for the people and evacuating them from the area. Israel thought it would be easy but since we came here we have been instruments of legal aid and have forced the Israeli police to intervene. These people are remarkable and the cooperation between them is amazing.”

24 year old Christian Peacemaker Teams volunteer, Matthew from Oregon affirmed, “The most common abuse is verbal but it is very dangerous when the settlers-all of them from the USA-attack with chains, rocks, sticks. One Palestinian was beaten twice and the police did nothing. After the third beating and our video evidence the police finally had to do something because we insisted and the Rabbis for Human Rights and Ta’ayoush helped with the legal assistance. The people here are committed 100% to nonviolent resistance and the Israelis have reluctantly responded.”

We walked up the hill to the illegal settlement of Ma’on which has 300 residents. The Kadima party has vowed to dismantle the most ‘religious’ settlements and Ma’on is on that list.

 According to International Law all the settlements are illegal; it is forbidden for occupiers to build them. Yet, they continue to do so and the world remains silent.

My first experience of the Qalandia checkpoint in Ramallah was in June 2005. By March 2006, it had undergone a transformation. The dark rocky unpaved road had been paved in some places and there are now street lights, but the visceral sense of oppression remained.

My Sabeel [Arabic for The Way] group met with Dr. Hanan Ashwari, Secretary General of Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy/MITFAH, who informed us, “We have had difficult times before but this is the worst! When people are constantly under assault and existing in a state of siege, they are too traumatized and they can no longer make rational decisions. Hamas was not just elected because of Fatah’s corruption, but because the people voted against USA policy! It was a vote of anger and revenge! Abbas wanted to postpone the elections because he knew Hamas would win. Technically our elections were free, but when people live under siege, pain and trauma they cannot make rational decisions.

“Israel has all the benefits but takes no responsibility as an occupier as stated in the Geneva Convention. Israel and the USA are perceived as the enemy and are starving the people. We are in desperate need of a viable peace process and need international intervention to control Israel...Unless the world enforces International Law and the Declaration of Human Rights there will be increasing violence and instability. We are in a battle for the soul of Palestine! When people think they are doing Gods will, like with the White House we are all in danger.

“Sharon slapped 14 conditions on the Road Map which exists only on paper. The Road Map is a club to destroy Palestinian society. Israel’s unilateral disengagement is against the Road Map. The disengagement was really just a reorganization of the occupation. The pats on the back for Sharon are amazing! Gaza is a massive prison because Israel retains control of air and sea borders.

“We have had democratic elections before Israel existed, we are not backwards people. We have always believed in the separation of church and state and have had a secular society. Hamas wants to be a credible political party and they are telling the people to maintain the cease fire and do not react to what happened in Jericho. It would be funny if it weren’t so painful!

“Hamas will be pragmatic and flexible, but what worries me is that they will change Palestinian society for the Muslim Brotherhood has taken over. I don’t want a theocracy; I want women’s rights and diversity. Hamas understands while there is injustice there cannot be the enforcing of Shiriah/Islamic Law.

“American aid never went to the PA, it went to USA NGO’s and profit making companies. The USA never paid any PA salaries...Hamas will gradually enforce Islamic Law and they will define what a crime is: such as homosexuality and adultery.

“Unless the world enforces International Law and the Declaration of Human Rights there will be increasing violence and instability. What happened in Jericho was an agreement that the PA would guard the USA and British prison guards. On March 8th it was reported that the guards were in danger and that renegotiations were needed. The Americans were off that day and five minutes after the Brits left the Israelis stormed the prison.”

On our way back to Jerusalem two soldiers with smiles on their faces boarded our bus and asked us if we had a good time in Ramallah. I have found most of the soldiers never look directly at us, but those few who do, will respond with a smile and return our greetings of shalom. Maybe they are just new on the job, and they do all indeed, look like babies to me.

At the Jerusalem YMCA we met Dr. Bernard Sabella, Executive Secretary of Middle East Council of Churches and Services to Palestinian Refugees who told us the best thing we can do is reach out to the children who live in the refugee camps and the rural villages.

“I challenge you all to enter a new age of reconciliation. We must address the injustice of the occupation, the problems of abuse and denial of human rights for we are in crisis! We must expose the human rights abuses because of this occupation. How can you change hearts and minds when Israel does what it wants and the USA remains silent? We are in a time of crisis!”

In the afternoon of the eighth day of our Reality Tour, the sixty international ecumenical Christians were introduced to Sabeel’s Contemporary Way of Cross. The Sabeel way, transforms the traditional Christian tradition of meditating upon the journey that Christ took after his condemnation as he carried his cross to where he was crucified with an updated meditation on empire and occupation.

In Jerusalem there are fourteen plaques along The Via Delarosa hanging on the walls of buildings depicting where Christ may have fallen three times, meets his mother, is stripped, nailed and dies.

The Contemporary Way suggests fourteen reflections beginning with 1948, The Nabka: The Catastrophe which followed the failure of the UN partition plan of ‘47 when the Irgun and Stern Gang [Zionist terrorist groups] depopulated 400 villages and forced 726,000 Palestinians to flee to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.

Station Two reflects on those refugees and the 460,000 more that fled during the War of 1967. Currently there are 675,670 registered refugees in the West Bank, 938,531 in Gaza and over two million in Arab countries who have never received compensation and have been denied the right to return as guaranteed in Articles 13 and 15 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in UN Resolution 194.

I was astounded to learn that in Natna, [the nearly sixty year old Jerusalem refugee camp] The Wall butts up to the boy’s high school. The ‘playground’ where 780 adolescents gather is in reality a slab of cement ground about the square footage of a basket ball court.

A refugee informed our group that on a daily basis, “The Israeli Occupation Forces show up when the children gather in the morning or after classes. They throw percussion bombs or gas bombs into the school nearly every day! The world is sleeping; the world is hibernating and is allowing this misery to continue.”

I wandered around taking photos and was warmly greeted by a teenage boy who asked my name and where I was from. I cringed when I said America, for I am ashamed that over one hundred billion USA tax dollars since 1948 have helped support the occupation and build the friggin’ wall.

A few miles from the refugee camp, one enters into an Orwellian Disney Land of lush green grounds in the illegal colony of the Pizgatzeev settlement. I was sick at heart and in my gut when we drove less than a mile into the illegal colony for I immediately counted three playgrounds and a swimming pool. I still wonder how many USA tax dollars helped to build them, and why the same was not done for the refugees.

As our group was praying a gunshot issued from the Natna refugee camp, then another and another in rapid succession. I was told that the IDF was showering the refugees with gun fire and terror, and that it was just a normal daily occurrence. I lost it completely then, and sobbed uncontrollably. I felt like the Magdalena when she could not find her Lord, but then I thought of Jesus, and how he cried buckets of tears over Jerusalem.

2,000 years ago roving bands of politically radical and religious Jews rose up and openly resisted Roman Occupation in Palestine. They were called Zealots, and I imagine if I had lived back then, I would have joined them. But, instead, I ardently, fervently, zealously curse the empire that condones the violent terrorizing of innocent people just because they are Palestinian, or Iraqi's, etc. etc. I also wonder when will the Israelis wake up and see they too are victims of the occupation, for the once oppressed have become the oppressors and that leads to a loss of their own humanity.

I pray the Jewish state would indeed be a democracy, but if they want to be a theocracy, or an ethnocracy, fine with me if they would only just follow the Hebrew Prophet, Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require? Do justice, be merciful and walk humbly with your God.”

When Israel became a state, it was contingent upon upholding the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 13 states: Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Any Orthodox Brooklyn Jew with no historical connection to that land, can move to Israel and receive many benefits and perks; such as not paying any taxes without any consequences.

But the state of Israel denies refugees whose families were born in that land, the right to return home.

   
 
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