Day Fifteen – Meeting with the PLO

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I must admit, walking up the the offices of the national headquarters of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in Ramallah was a bit surreal.  For many years, the PLO was, to the West, synonymous with terror all that is was wrong in the Middle East. In recent years, the Organization has changed, according to their own pronouncements, although many in the West wonder how deep and sincere this change might be.   Even still, the walk up to the headquarters was a bit unnerving:

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This entry from Wikipedia does a nice job of succinctly summarizing the history and development of organization:

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) (Arabic: منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية‎‎; About this sound Munaẓẓamat at-Taḥrīr al-Filasṭīniyyah ) is an organization founded in 1964 with the purpose of the “liberation of Palestine” through armed struggle, with much of its violence aimed at Israeli civilians.[5][6][7][8][9][7][10][11] It is recognized as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” by over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations,[12][13]and has enjoyed observer status at the United Nations since 1974.[14][15][16] The PLO was considered by the United States and Israel to be a terrorist organization until the Madrid Conference in 1991. In 1993, the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist in peace, accepted UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and rejected “violence and terrorism”; in response, Israel officially recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.[17]

Note the highlights:

  • Founded in 1964
  • Their purpose:  Liberate Palestine through armed struggle
  • Much of their violence aimed at Israeli civilians
  • Recognized by over 100 countries (including the US) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people
  • Changed to recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace
  • Accepted UN Security Council resolution 242:
    • Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by (1967) war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security.
  • Accepted UN Security Council resolution 366  which:
    • “Calls upon all parties to present fighting to cease all firing and terminate all military activity (related to the “Yom Kippur” War) immediately”and “Decides that, immediately and concurrently with the cease-fire, negotiations start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.”

We traveled to the headquarters of the PLO in the West Bank city of Ramallah (about 15 miles north of Jerusalem):

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and began our time with a visit to the tomb of Yasser Arafat, founder and long time leader of the PLO.

We traveled to the headquarters and were greeted by this sign in the foyer:
IMG_3594.JPGYasser Arafat on the left; Mahmoud Abbas,  current leader of PLO, on the right

We met with Samar Awadallah, Communications Advisor and Director of Media and Communications for the PLO in a conference room at PLO.

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Samar divides her time between two topics: the history of the current conflict from a Palestinian perspective and current status of the negotiations with Israel. [NOTE:  As I’ve written in the past, the following is her account and perspective as she presented to us]

Historic Perspective

Samar showed maps that show the shrinking extent of occupied Palestinian land – from 100% to 22% (the current amount of land occupied by the Palestinians)

There have been numerous violations of International Law by the Israelis

  • Building settlements
  • Home demolitions’
  • Forcible displacement
  • Military raids
  • Killing’
  • Land confiscating
  • Stealing resources
  • Settler attacks

Palestinians have consistently, according to Suma, negotiated in good faith; however, negotiations have always broke down because of the “bad faith” negotiation posture of the Israelis:  The paradigm:  “Blame the Palestinians”

  • Clinton
    • Promised a “generous offer”
    • No offer came
    • Do not believe that the two-state offer was neither just or fair; a compromise made to give dignity to children a future
    • Israel blamed Palestinians
  • The Bush “Road Map” to peace
    • Palestinians accepted road map
    • Broke down because Israel negotiated in bad faith
    • Israel blame Palestinians
  • John Kerry’s initiative
    • Promised a release of Palestinian prisoners as a “good faith” gesture.
    • No release of Palestinian prisoners
    • Blame Palestinians when negotiation broke down.

Recent developments

Samar sees the negotiations as a part of a Regional settlement, that is, the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians must be seen as a part of a larger Arab-Israeli conflict:

  • Outside-In
    • Arab-Israeli Track
    • Palestinian-Israeli Track

The Arab Peace Initiative

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Samar mentioned the Arab Peace Initiative (API), sometimes called the  Saudi Initiative  which contains the following:

1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.

2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:

a. Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights to the lines of June 4, 1967 as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.

b. Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.

c. The acceptance of the establishment of a Sovereign Independent Palestinian State on the Palestinian territories occupied since the 4th of June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza strip, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:

a. Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.

b. Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.

4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.

5. Calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab Countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighborliness and provide future generations with security, stability, and prosperity.

6. Invites the international community and all countries and organizations to support this initiative.

7. Requests the chairman of the summit to form a special committee composed of some of its concerned member states and the secretary general of the League of Arab States to pursue the necessary contacts to gain support for this initiative at all levels, particularly from the United Nations, the security council, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the Muslim States and the European Union.

Samar believes that this initiative is a fair foundation for peace and shows Arab-Palestinian good faith.

Discussion

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We asked Suma her sense of negotiations, why they have never resulted in a peace accord.  According to Suma, Israelis objection to the peace plans are unreasonable and demonstrate their unwillingness to negotiate in good faith.

We then talked, at length, about Suma’s work, specifically her role preparing the Palestinian team for their negotiations with Israel.  Her responsibility is to provide documentation, maps, and technical support for the team and is not responsible for negotiation strategy.

Suma talked about the Palestinian perspective of the PLO.  She noted that the Palestinians “hate us” (her words), because of the little (if any) progress they have made in advancing their rights or securing a peace with Israel.

A final point, she stated that the key issue in the peace process, from the PLO perspective, is the “right of return” which would include either:

  • A physical return to Israel for the Palestinian refugees, and compensation for their expulsion from their land
  • Staying where Palestinians currently reside, with compensation
  • Moving to another Arab land, with compensation.

Summary

Our presenter was decidedly cordial, eager to share her perspective on the conflict.  She kept referring to the initiatives that the PLO has made over the course of negotiations with  Israel, seeking peace and the opportunity for Palestinian flourishing.  Her belief is that Israel doesn’t truly want peace and that the status quo is sufficient for them is at conflict with what we have heard from others, but there might be some in Israel who, if pressed, might agree.

In our debrief, we discussed several aspects of Suma’s presentation and noted the following:

  • The change in the posture of the PLO over the years, from a aggressively militaristic organization at the onset to one that has (apparently) moderated its stance towards Israel and negotiation – although there are some who doubt the sincerity of this change.
  • The insistence on a just solution to the refugee problem (which is problematic for Israel because of the demographic imbalance it could cause)
  • A Palestinian homeland with full sovereignty rights, including security rights (which is problematic for Israel because it could lead to a hostile Arab country on their Eastern border)

With the conclusion of this visit, we have now with with representatives of all the major “players” in the conflict – except one:  The United States.  On to Tel Aviv and a meeting at the U.S. Embassy.

 

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Day Fourteen – A Visit to a Jewish Settlement in the West Bank

As noted in a previous post, much of the current conflict between Jewish- and Palestinian–Israelis, in fact, much of the conflict between Jewish-Israelis and the world, focuses on the establishment and expansion of the Settlements in the West Bank.  At at the bottom of this post is a longer summary of the Settlements issue, taken from an NPR piece on the topic,  I’m including it at the end for anyone who’d like a more in-depth, but still succinct, explanation of the issue.

For our encounter with Settlements and Settlers, we traveled some 40 miles north of Jerusalem Halamish (If you were plunked down in the middle of the street below, you might think you were in Clovis).

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On 16 October 1977, two groups of settlers, one religious and one secular, with a total of 40 families moved into the abandoned former British  fort near the Palestinian village. Today, the Settlement has grown to approximately 1,200 members.  For more on the founding of Hamalish, see here.

Three bright and articulate women were our hosts for the day:  Our guide (below left) was Judy Aurebach; Sandra Barrett (below center), a community leader, gave us a history of the biblical and modern claims for the establishment of the Settlement; and Shu (below right), another community leader,  gave us a current description of the state of things in the Settlements.

 

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The Settlements cannot be understood from their religious and political foundations.  In brief, the claim for the right to establish this particular settlement can be found on the books of the Genesis, where God gave this land to Israel, and in the book of Deuteronomy, where God promises a return to Israel after a time of scattering (the Diaspora) due to Israel’s disobedience.  Without question, in the minds of these community leaders, and no doubt a majority of the Settlers, the return of the Jews to the land of Israel in early- to mid-portion of the 20th century (after 2000 years of being scattered across the earth), combined with the formation of Israel as a Jewish Democratic state in 1948, is nothing short of a miracle and validation of God’s promise.

In addition, our presenters gave the following was given as rationale for Jewish claims for the land:

  • Claim for the land depends on “when you draw the line.”  Palestinians, according to the Settlers, conveniently draw the line much too recently – it is the Jews who have the longest standing claim for the land, having been their longest standing, traceable descendants.
  • The Settlers didn’t settle on any land for which there was a legitimate Palestinian claim, having chosen land previously owned and managed by the Ottoman empire and lost at the end of WWI.
  • The Jews have “made something”out of the land and have a kind of industriousness that is not a prominent among the Palestinians.
  • Jews respond to “provocation” in the Judea/Samaria (West Bank, or Occupied Territories, to Palestinians) by expanding Settlements.

All this has led to a confidence in the Settlers self-understanding of their right to settle this site.

The presence of the Settlers in the West Bank has been viewed as a provocation by many Palestinians and the source of numerous conflicts (rocks thrown at their cars as they pass through highways in Palestinian controlled areas, shots fired into the community to name but a few).  The latest attack came in the form of a fire bombing of a number of homes (see photo taken from internet, below)

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Settlements are almost universally condemned, and a recent UN Resolution 2334 passed 14-0, with the United States abstaining (source).   U. S. Presidents going back to Clinton have advised to strongly advised against Settlement expansion as an impediment to peace.

Summary

A whole tour could be given to the Settlement issue and several lengthy post as well. Suffice to say, this issue will be at the heart of any Jewish-Palestinian peace negotiation. At our debriefing following the tour, our group made the following observations:

  • This was the strongest presentation to date on the religious rationale for not only the Settlements, but also for a Jewish nation of Israel.
  • Religious claims, on either side, make negotiations more difficult.
  • Also, this presentation provided the strongest rationale for the legal argument for the establishment of the a Jewish Democratic nation of Israel (e.g. the Jewish claim goes back further, Settlements are only built on un- or non-titled land)
  • We wondered if some of the comments stereotyping Palestinians work ethic were racist and gave a false sense of racial superiority.
  • The United States has opposed Settlements for several decades now as does the international community.
  • Many of the assertions made by our host were at odds with what we have heard others make.
    • Settlers respect property rights
    • Settlers are respectful of their neighbors
    • Palestinians are advantaged by Israeli rule in the land.

In sum, this excursion helps with another piece of a most complex  puzzle.  We, as a group, are beginning to both better see that complexity as well as understand the strengths/weaknesses of the various peace proposals.

Tomorrow, off to meet with a negotiator from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

 

 

From theNPR article

1. Settlements are growing rapidly

The term “settlements” may conjure up images of small encampments or temporary housing, and many have started that way. But they now include large subdivisions, even sizable cities, with manicured lawns and streets full of middle-class villas often set on arid hilltops. Israel is constantly building new homes and offers financial incentives for Israelis to live in the West Bank.

When the Israelis and Palestinians first began peace talks after a 1993 interim agreement, the West Bank settlers numbered a little over 100,000. Today they total around 400,000 and live in about 130 separate settlements (this doesn’t include East Jerusalem, which we’ll address in a moment).

They have grown under every Israeli government over the past half-century despite consistent international opposition. Hard-line leaders like Netanyahu have actively supported them. Moderates and liberals have also allowed settlements to expand, though usually at a slower rate. The settler movement is a powerful political force, and any prime minister who takes it on risks the collapse of his government.

You can click here to see data on the settlements and a detailed map from Peace Now, an Israeli group that is opposed to settlements and closely monitors them.

2. Settlements complicate efforts for a two-state solution

Critics of settlements say they’ve intentionally been established in every corner of the West Bank, giving the Israeli military a reason to be present throughout the territory and making it impossible to create a viable Palestinian state. The settlement locations and the roads that connect them make Palestinian movement difficult.

The settlements are just one of many obstacles to a peace deal. Drawing boundaries, the status of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees, and myriad security questions — including terrorism — are equally challenging, if not more so.

And as the settlements grow, it will be increasingly difficult to remove a large number of them, a tactic known as “creating facts on the ground.”

3. The distinction between East Jerusalem and the West Bank

Shortly after the 1967 war, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, which is part of the West Bank and had a population that was then entirely Palestinian. Israel declared the entire city to be Israel’s “eternal and indivisible” capital.

No other country recognizes Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, with the United States and others saying the city’s status must be determined in negotiations. This is why the U.S. and other countries have never moved their embassies to Jerusalem. Most are in Tel Aviv.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, claim the eastern part of the city as their future capital.

Around 200,000 Israelis now live in East Jerusalem. Combined with the roughly 400,000 settlers in the West Bank, about 600,000 Israelis now live beyond the country’s 1967 borders. That’s nearly 10 percent of Israel’s 6.3 million Jewish citizens.

While the Israelis tend to speak of East Jerusalem and the West Bank as two separate entities, the Palestinians regard them as a single body — the occupied West Bank.

4. What does Israel say about settlements?

The settlers and their supporters cite the Jewish Bible, thousands of years of Jewish history, and Israel’s need for “strategic depth” as reasons for living in the West Bank.

They also note that Israel took the territory from Jordan, which has since relinquished its claim to the West Bank. Therefore, the settlers argue, there is no legal sovereign in the territory.

However, no country, not even Israel, considers West Bank settlements to be sovereign Israeli territory. As we noted, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and administers it as part of Israel. But Israel has never annexed any other part of the West Bank.

The settlers want to be formally incorporated into Israel, but that would ignite a major controversy. For now, Israel regards the West Bank as “disputed” territory that has been under the Israeli military since the 1967 war.

5. How about the Palestinians?

From some Palestinian cities, there are clear views of Israeli settlements — and new construction — on nearby hillsides. And in most settlement neighborhoods, there are wide areas of empty hillside closed to Palestinians, which Israel says are necessary buffers for security.

Palestinians see them as visual proof that their sought-after independent state is being taken from them. Palestinian leaders have opposed peace talks in recent years while, as they see it, Israel is building on land that is part of those talks.

6. Has Israel ever dismantled settlements?

Yes, on a few occasions, most notably in 2005, when it removed all 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip. Israel decided these small, isolated settlements were too difficult to defend in a territory where the Jewish residents accounted for less than 1 percent of the population.

The evacuation of the settlements was deeply divisive within Israel, and Israel’s security forces had to drag some settlers from their homes kicking and screaming. The episode demonstrated that Israel could remove settlers, but it also showed how much friction it creates inside Israel.

7. What are the proposed solutions?

Kerry on Wednesday outlined the general approach: land swaps. Under this scenario, the largest Jewish settlements, which are near the boundary with Israel, would formally become Israeli territory. In exchange, Israel would turn over an equal amount of its current land that would become part of a Palestinian state.

In addition, settlements deep in the West Bank, far from Israel, would be disbanded. It would be a difficult political move for an Israeli prime minister, but it would also be difficult for a Palestinian leader to accept a peace deal without removing settlements.

Day Thirteen – A Trip to Masada and the Dead Sea

Today, we woke up early to make our way to Masada and the Dead Sea.  Some our team left around 3:30 – or Oh-Dark-Early to make it to the base of the Masada for a hike to the summit by sunrise.  We didn’t quite make it to the top before the sun peaked over the hills in Jordan, but a spectacular sunrise view none-the-less:

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For those who don’t know the tragic/inspiring story of Masada, here’s a brief history from the Jewish Historical Society 

According to Flavius, Herod the Great built the fortress of Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. Herod, an Idumean, had been made King of Judea by his Roman overlords and “furnished this fortress as a refuge for himself.” It included a casemate wall around the plateau, storehouses, large cisterns ingeniously filled with rainwater, barracks, palaces and an armory.

Some 75 years after Herod’s death, at the beginning of the Revolt of the Jews against the Romans in 66 CE, a group of Jewish rebels overcame the Roman garrison of Masada. After the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple (70 CE) they were joined by zealots and their families who had fled from Jerusalem. There, they held out for three years, raiding and harassing the Romans.

Then, in 73 CE, Roman governor Flavius Silva marched against Masada with the Tenth Legion, auxiliary units and thousands of Jewish prisoners-of-war. The Romans established camps at the base of Masada, laid siege to it and built a circumvallation wall. They then constructed a rampart of thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth against the western approaches of the fortress and, in the spring of 74 CE, moved a battering ram up the ramp and breached the wall of the fortress.

Once it became apparent that the Tenth Legion’s battering rams and catapults would succeed in breaching Masada’s walls, Elazar ben Yair – the Zealots’ leader – decided that all the Jewish defenders should commit suicide; the alternative facing the fortress’s defenders were hardly more attractive than death.

Flavius dramatically recounts the story told him by two surviving women. The defenders – almost one thousand men, women and children – led by ben Yair, burnt down the fortress and killed each other. The Zealots cast lots to choose 10 men to kill the remainder. They then chose among themselves the one man who would kill the survivors. That last Jew then killed himself.

Elazar’s final speech clearly was a masterful oration:

“Since we long ago resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice …We were the very first that revolted, and we are the last to fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom.”

Day Twelve – Hebron and Christian Peacemaker Teams

The most pressing problem in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the challenge presented by the settlements in the West Bank.  We will travel to a settlement tomorrow and will have more details there on the Settlement movement.  Briefly, Settlements are intentional Israeli communities, established in the West Bank, that are either legitimate endeavors based on the rightful claims of the Jewish population to land of Israel OR illegal intrusions into the region by a colonial power.

Perhaps no more challenging are the Settlements outside of Hebron.

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The Settlers in the two communities outside of Hebron are particularly aggressive in establishing both their right to be there and the right of the Jews to “possess the lands of Judea and Samaria,” to use their terminology.  The aggressive posturing of the Settlers has led to daily confrontations with the Palestinians in Hebron, some of which have turned violent.   Israeli organization B’Tselem (you will remember them from Day Two) states that there have been “grave violations” of Palestinian human rights in Hebron because of the “presence of the settlers within the city.” In order to protect the Settlers (numbering around 850), Israel stations about 650 Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

Into this mix moves Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT).  CPT was established in 1994, motivated by a call to engagement by Ron Sider.  Troubled by the “passiveness” of Christian pacifists, he called for radical engagement by those who call themselves by that name.  His now famous challenge is at the heart of the mission of CPT

Making peace is as costly as waging war.  Unless we are prepared to pay the cost of peace-making we have no right to claim the label or preach the message.

Sider imagined a Christian pacifist “brigade” of 200,000 dedicated individuals who would put themselves in harms way, if necessary, to stop violence.  These individuals would place themselves at risk in the same way soldiers would in a combat situation.  This means that these uber-dedicated pacifists might even lose their lives  confronting evil, as some have.

Unless we Mennonites and Brethren in Christ are ready to start to die by the thousands in dramatic vigorous new exploits for peace and justice, we should sadly confess that we really never meant what we said….

Unless comfortable North American and European Mennonites and Brethren in Christ are prepared to risk injury and death in nonviolent opposition to the injustice our societies foster and assist in Central America, the Philippines, and South Africa, we dare never whisper another word about pacifism to our sisters and brothers in those desperate lands….

Unless we are prepared to pay the cost of peacemaking, we have no right to claim the label or preach the message (source)

Christian Peacemaker Teams

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Partnering with nonviolent movements around the world, CPT seeks to embody an inclusive, ecumenical and diverse community of God’s love.  We believe we can transform war and occupation, our own lives, and the wider Christian world through:

the nonviolent power of God’s truth
partnership with local peacemakers
bold action
CPT places teams at the invitation of local peacemaking communities that are confronting situations of lethal conflict.  These teams seek to follow God’s Spirit as it works through local peacemakers who risk injury and death by waging nonviolent direct action to confront systems of violence and oppression.

CPT understands violence to be rooted in systemic structures of oppression. We are committed to undoing oppressions, starting within our own lives and in the practices of our organization.

CPT enlists the whole Church in an organized, nonviolent alternative to war.  CPT’s initial roots among Mennonites, Church of the Brethren and Quakers have spread into a broad ecumenical network that supports:

  • biblically based and spiritually-centered peacemaking
  • creative public witness
  • nonviolent direct action
  • and protection of human rights.   (From the website)

We drove to Hebron in the West Bank:

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Visited the markets in the Old City of Hebron

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to meet Katherine, a staff member with CPT in Hebron.

During her remarkable presentation, Katherine discussed the nature of her work and highlighted the following:

  • Safety is an illusion we  create via wealth and violence
  • The Israelis are involved in the “criminalization of daily life” in that a Palestinian can be stopped and/or detained for just about any reason at any time.
  • Three major areas of focus:
    • Monitor “hot spots” – Create quantitative data on how often Palestinians are stopped, delayed, etc. Send reports
    • Be on call when needed – Will respond/intervene/monitor if there is a confrontation
    • Be in solidarity with the oppressed – amplifying voices of Palestinians (not being their voices)

Katherine shared with us experiences they have had as Christian peacemakers who intervene at the point of conflict between the oppressed and oppressor.  For Katherine, the oppressors in Hebron are those who live in the Settlements and the IDF.  She shared with us stories of rude and aggressive behavior of the Settlers.  Also, stories of coming along side of young boys who have been arrested/detained by the military, documenting harassing behavior by soldiers, and the time they were raided for displaying a protest sign.  In all this, Katherine displayed not only a deep concern for those they defend, but a sincere desire for change in the hearts and minds of those who oppress.

Summary

It was a humbling pleasure to meet individuals who are an embodiment of Ron Sider’s challenge to “operationalize” pacifism.  They have interjected themselves into one of the most challenging situation there is on the planet and have some success in intervening in situations to protect those most vulnerable.  They know that their efforts might seem insignificant to those from afar, and might not seem like it makes difference on a grand scale, but it makes a difference to those whom they assist and those of us privileged to view their work up close.

Below, some of the ordinance they have collected from around their facility.

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Day Eleven – An Arab-Israeli advocate

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We have met with civil rights advocates for the two major racial/ethnic groups in Israel/Palestine:  Palestinian refugees and Jewish-Israelis.  Today, we met with Amjad Iraqi, a attorney who works with the Adalah, a civil rights organization located in coastal city of Haifa.

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Adalah
Adalah (“Justice” in Arabic) is an independent human rights organization and legal center. Established in November 1996, it works to promote and defend the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, 1.2 million people, or 20% of the population, as well as Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
Adalah seeks to achieve equal individual and collective rights for Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and to defend against gross human rights violations against Palestinian residents of the OPT. To achieve these goals, Adalah:

Brings impact litigation and other legal interventions before Israeli courts and state authorities:

  • Provides legal consultation to individuals, NGOs, and institutions;
  • Appeals to international institutions and fora;
  • Organizes legal seminars and conferences;
  • Publishes reports and analyses of critical legal issues;
  • Conducts extensive media outreach in Arabic, Hebrew and English locally and internationally;
  • Trains legal apprentices and new lawyers in human rights litigation and advocacy.

We met Mr. Ariqi in Adelah’s offices on his day off.

Mr. Ariqi began his presentation with a review of the historical events that have led to the current conflict.  In brief, the current conditions for Arab-Israeli arise from the establishment of a Jewish Democratic State, that is, a nation where one ethnic group has established itself as not only the controlling group but seeks to maintain that control through its legislative and legal processes.
Adela works through the Israeli courts to advocate for the civil rights of Arab-Israelis, where they have found some success. The following are a list of some of their legal victories.
Precedent-setting cancellation of 51 demolition orders on homes of 500 Arab Bedouins in the Naqab (Negev)
Adalah submitted the petition in 2007 on behalf of the residents of the unrecognized village of Asira to the Kiryat Gat Magistrate Court, which cancelled the demolition orders in December 2011, calling them ‘disproportionate.’ The 70 families of Asira have lived on their lands for at least 7 generations. Their land claims were recognized by the British Mandate, but the State has viewed them as illegal squatters until now.
Overturn of Admissions Committee block on Arab Palestinian couple’s wish to live in small community 
Adalah successfully fought a case on behalf of married Arab couple Ms. Fatina Ebriq Zubeidat and Mr. Ahmed Zubeidat against the community town of Rakefet and the Israel Land Authority (ILA). The Admissions Committee of Rakefet rejected the couple’s application to live in the town on several occasions, claiming that they were “socially unsuitable” to live in the community town. Adalah brought the petition in 2006, which the Supreme Court accepted only in 2011. Adalah is now petitioning against the Admissions Committee Law, passed by the Knesset in March 2011, which permits 400 small communities in Israel to reject homebuyers on the same basis.
Right for Arab Palestinian MKs and parties to run in elections
Twice in the run-up to national elections, Adalah represented all Arab Members of Knesset (MKs) and political parties targeted by disqualification motions. In 2003 and 2009, the Supreme Court overturned the decisions of the Central Elections Committee to disqualify Arab MKs and parties.
Compensation for Palestinians in OPT harmed by Israeli military
In a unanimous ruling, a nine-justice Supreme Court panel decided in 2006 that Israel cannot exempt itself by law from paying compensation to Palestinians in the OPT who have been injured and harmed by the Israeli military.
Banning of use of Palestinians as “human shields” in violation of international law
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the Israeli army’s use of Palestinian civilians as “human shields” in military operations constituted a violation of international humanitarian law and banned the use of this practice. Adalah continues to demand investigations into reported incidents.
Current major representations include:
Petition against discriminatory Citizenship Law
Adalah challenged the 2003 Citizenship Law, which bans family unification between Palestinian citizens of Israel and their Palestinian spouses from the OPT. Thousands of Palestinian families are forced to live apart as a result of the racist law. In 2006, a 6-5 Supreme Court majority dismissed the case. Adalah has launched a legal challenge against harsh new amendments to the law.
Opposition to Jewish-only JNF policy
Adalah continues to challenge the state’s policy of allocating lands controlled by the Jewish National Fund (13% of land in Israel) only to Jewish individuals before the Israeli courts and international forums. Most of this land was confiscated by the state from Palestinian refugees and then transferred to the JNF.
Representation of Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel killed in demonstrations in October 2000
Adalah represented the families of 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel killed by police during demonstrations in October 2000 before the Official Commission of Inquiry. In its final report of 2003, the Commission recommended criminal investigations into the killings. In 2008, the Attorney General issued a discriminatory decision not to indict any of those responsible for the killings. Adalah continues to demand justice and accountability for the families.
Other highlights of our conversation with Mr. Iraqi:
  • A conversation with a very good, and fair-minded, Jewish friend of his who acknowledge the tension between a Jewish and a Democratic state.  In essence, the challenge is how to be fair to national minorities when the survival of your state requires them to be kept as a demographic minority.
  • According to Mr. Iraqi, the Jewish system evidences both structural (laws, policies, practices) as well as personal biases (judges ruling not on the merits of the law, but on how a decision would affect the political climate of the country) which makes achieving legal victories difficult.
  • As with persons of color in the United States, he experiences various forms of subtle discrimination on a regular basis, whether it is an encounter with an Israeli on the street or in a shop.

Adalah not only advocates for Arab-Israeli rights, it is involved in advocating for a new Israeli consitution where those rights would be enshrined in law:

Adalah is issuing “The Democratic Constitution,” as a constitutional proposal for the state of Israel, based on the concept of a democratic, bilingual, multicultural state. This proposed constitution draws on universal principles and international conventions on human rights, the experiences of nations and the constitutions of various democratic states.

Summary
Our time with Mr. Iraqi highlighted the challenges of forming a Jewish Democratic State. For those interested in a two-state solution, with one of the states being a Jewish state, the challenge is combining the first two descriptors:  Jewish and Democratic. As Mr. Iraqi related, even his most fair-minded Jewish friends acknowledged that the system is skewed in favor of its Jewish populations.
At our debriefing later that evening, we noted this challenge.  The solution(s) to the current conflict are not easy to find and would be problematic to implement.  The various perspectives, based on individual and collective experiences, lead to competing solutions that collide, often at odds with each other, in this one very remarkable place at this critical time.
We did make a couple of stops in our return to Jerusalem:  The Bahai Gardens

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and the ruins at the city of Caesarea

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Day Ten, Part I – Breaking the Silence

[NOTE:  There will be two posts today, given the distinctly different focus of the events our group experienced.  This first will deal with a presentation from an individual  that was critical of the Israel army’s involvement in policing the Occupied territory – albeit from an individual generally supportive of Israel (and former IDF member).  The second will focus on our trip to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and our time with the founder of the Jewish Institute for Justice, both events working to support the current orientation of the State of Israel.]

Breaking the Silence

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Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. We endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life. Our work aims to bring an end to the occupation.

Soldiers who serve in the Territories witness and participate in military actions which change them immensely. Cases of abuse towards Palestinians, looting, and destruction of property have been the norm for years, but are still explained as extreme and unique cases. Our testimonies portray a different, and much grimmer picture in which deterioration of moral standards finds expression in the character of orders and the rules of engagement, and are justified in the name of  Israel’s security. While this reality is known to Israeli soldiers and commanders, Israeli society continues to turn a blind eye, and to deny that what is done in its name. Discharged soldiers returning to civilian life discover the gap between the reality they encountered in the Territories, and the silence about this reality they encounter at home. In order to become civilians again, soldiers are forced to ignore what they have seen and done. We strive to make heard the voices of these soldiers, pushing Israeli society to face the reality whose creation it has enabled (from the website, emphasis added).

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Our presenter was Dean Issacharoff, seen above, on the right, protesting the Occupation as a member of Combatants for Peace).  Mr. Issacharoff is a former member of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) gave his account of abuses either he committed, or saw committed while serving in Occupied territory.  

Mr. Issacharoff began his story by recounting the events that led him to enlist and then re-enlist in the IDF.  He spoke about his desire to serve at the highest level and in the most challenging areas in Israel.  More importantly, he spoke of his desire to serve in, what he perceived, was the most moral armed service in the world!   

He attributed the problems he encountered to the abnormal task that the IDF was asked to perform:   to subjugate a people rather than to defeat an enemy.  He soon found himself in situations where, according to his account, he was asked to act in ways that ran counter to what he believed was right.

Although Mr. Issacharoff did not commit any acts that led to death or serious physical harm, he was involved in instances where Arabs were, no doubt, traumatized or terrorized by his actions.  He shared about incidents in which he would lead raids on families “in the middle of the night” ostensibly to look for evidence of some violation, when, in fact, there were other operational goals which were to:

  • Make the population feel that they are being chased
  • Brand their consciousness with fear

The effect of the occupation harms BOTH the occupier and the occupied.  The occupied do become demoralized, made to feel less-than, and have their hopes and aspirations squashed!  But, this work also takes its toll on the soldiers themselves, they become “de-sensitized” to the immorality of their actions, defining a “new normal” that is beneath themselves as both soldiers and Israelis.

For more stories from those who “broke the silence,” see here.

Breaking the Silence is not without its critics:

Breaking the Silence likely has accurate testimonies. Among 10,000 soldiers, there has to be one who is a sadist or disturbed. And it’s very possible that one in 100 soldiers deviates from procedures.

The problem is that Breaking the Silence activists are creating the impression that this is Israel’s face and that this is the IDF’s face: An army of brutal and sadistic soldiers. The main lie is in the generalization and exaggeration. The lie is in taking unusual events, and there are such events, blowing them out of proportions and then running to the UN to talk about “plunder” and telling foreign journalists that “IDF soldiers use machine guns to fire at civilian populations” as a routine practice (source).  Also, see here for another perspective.

Summary

Given what we had heard over the past several days, our team was struggled to know our own mind about what we heard.  We were surprised only to the extent that we had heard stories of “much worse” from Refugees or their representatives.

That said, some of instances described were quite alarming, especially the recounting of some of the mid-night raids which ended up with machine guns being pointed at the heads of young children who had just been rousted out of their deepest sleep.

Next, two much more pro- (or at least more sympathetic)Israeli experiences.

Day Ten, Part II – Yad Vashem and Israeli Human Rights

Yad Vashem is impossible to describe – and impossible to forget.  The Holocaust, an event so powerful, so  transforming deserves a powerful, transforming venue.

Its 180 meters – long linear structure in the form of a spike cuts through the mountain with its uppermost edge – a skylight – protruding through the mountain ridge. Galleries portraying the complexity of the Jewish situation during those terrible years branch off this spike-like shaft, and  exit emerges dramatically out of the mountainside, affording a view of the valley below. Unique settings, spaces with varying heights, and different degrees of light accentuate focal points of the unfolding narrative.

The design of the building supports the experience the visitor.

  • The main building resembles a long, slender triangular spike, suggesting the nails that secured the rails that carried the Jews to the concentration camp.

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  • The long, narrow hallway intersects the adjacent exhibit rooms, The visitor walks back and forth through the museum (the transition barriers forcing visitor to walk through each room), duplicating the experience of the Jew of the early to late 20th century, starting with the raise of anti-semitism and ending with a startling view of modern day Israel.  The first half of the hallway slopes down and raises towards the end, advancing the sense of both the increasing despair of the Jewish people throughout the Holocaust and then the raising hope with the creation of the Jewish state.

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Floor plan

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Wire cables guiding the visitor back and forth through the exhibit

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End of the hallway

  • So many powerful exhibits:  The rise of anti-semetism in the 1930s, interviews with individual Jews who experienced various aspects of the Holocaust, artifacts from the time, the Hall of Names, to name but a few.

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Hall of Names

As mentioned at the beginning, no amount of words can describe the effect of the visit. The visitor is left with an overwhelming sense of the unimaginable horror of the Holocaust, the incredible capacity of humans for evil, and the undoubtable resolve of the human spirit.  Also, it is impossible to understand the commitment of the Jewish people to a Jewish state without an understanding the effect  Holocaust (as well as the wide-ranging anti-semitism of recent centuries).

Jewish Institute for Justice

The Jewish Institute for Justice (JIJ) describes itself as “dedicated to cultivating and defending rule of law, human rights, freedom of conscience, and democracy for all people in Israel and its adjacent territories (source).  More:

Within Israel, we protect freedom of conscience and advocate for members of ethnic and religious minority groups. We do extensive work on behalf of victims of prostitution and human trafficking, give comfort to Holocaust survivors, advance affirmative action for Ethiopian new immigrants, and provide representation to Lone Soldiers including those who have been abandoned by their ultra-Orthodox families for choosing to serve in the IDF.

While most human rights organizations superficially point to Israel’s occupation of the disputed territories as the foremost abuse of human rights in our region, we espouse a more thorough and balanced view on the matter. We have drafted and disseminated extensive reports on the human rights abuses of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and the Hamas government in Gaza. Our work in this regard has taken us before the UN and European Parliament, as well as to esteemed academic venues on several continents (source).

We met for just about an hour with Calev Myers, founder of the Institute.  Mr. Myers immigrated to Israel from the USA in 1992. He graduated from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and became a licensed member of the Israeli Bar Association/

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In a wide-ranging conversation, Mr. Myers discussed the following:

  • The civil rights work of the JIJ in protecting women, religious and racial minorities, Lone Soldiers (soldiers without relatives), Holocaust survivors WITHIN the state of Israel and others.
  • Believes that the Palestinian Authority does not look out for the interests of the Palestinian People in the way it should and its leaders have siphoned millions, if not billions of dollars into their personal bank accounts at the expense of the people they purport to serve (see story here).
  • Believes that Israel needs to “look” and “be” strong, and when it appears weak, other nations take advantage.
  • He stated that he is an advocate for all oppressed peoples, including Palestinians, who he believes are as oppressed by their Arab brothers
  • Mr. Myers believes that the oppression of the Palestinians by Israel does exist!!, but is overstated.
  • The UN has an uneven record of supporting human rights, and is driven as much by political concerns as it is interested in advancing human rights.
  • Has supported efforts from members of Congress to withhold money the U.S. sends to the Palestinian Authority (about 150 million a year) until their is a full accounting of how those funds are used (link).

The last part of conversation centered around Mr. Myers view of a “solution” to the current conflict.  His view involves a modified one-state solution, with the Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank forming a kind of United Arab Eremites (or Swiss Canton) type of federation.

This idea is born out of Mr. Myers’ perception of the “reality on the ground”:  Israel would never accept a fully functioning Arab state on its boarders – one with the capacity to form its own military – AND the advent of the settlers in the West Bank.  He noted how difficult it was to remove 9,000 settlers from Gaza and that it would be nearly impossible to remove 500,000 from the West Bank.  Better to recognize this reality and form a governing body that allow for significant (some??) Palestinian independence and self-rule than to hold out for an impossible second state.

This solution, Mr. Myers believes, would assist the Palestinians in moving forward in their own political, economic, and social development.  As long as the Palestinians are “deluded” (his words) into thinking they will be allowed to return to Israel, to the homes they left (no matter the reason for their leaving), they will be distracted from making a life for themselves and their people.  Mr. Myers then went on to address some of the other issues related to “right of return,” “citizenship,” and the requirement of nations hosting refugees to absorb them into the life of their country.

Summary

As mentioned earlier, we had spent several days engaged in conversation with Palestinians and their advocates.  Dr. Kincaid scheduled these more Israeli-centric events and meetings subsequent to those in order for us to have a better idea of the conflict before we heard messaging that was more familiar to us.

In our debriefs, we discussed with new perspectives some of the issues that have been at the center of our conversation:  One-state v. Two-state solutions; the role of ethnicity and religion in nation formation; the extent of culpability in the plight of the Palestinian, and more.

Our heads are spinning – no doubt!! But our hearts are heavy as these issues are more than newspaper headlines to us.  We now have faces to put with places and a deeper understanding of the issues.  We are (my perspective) rejecting simple explanations of the cause of the conflict and simplistic offers of solutions.  This is a complicated place – a place that breaks your heart and taxes your mind.  A place with equal parts beauty and tragedy, kindness and contention, grace and violence.

More tomorrow –

Day Nine – Visit to a Refugee Camp

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There were no tents, no mess hall, no flag pole – there was nothing “campy” about the Dheisheh refuge camp just south of Bethlehem.  I don’t know if i was expecting any of these typical camp amenities, but I wasn’t prepared for what i did find.  This camp did not have any tents – having moved past that stage in the evolution of a refuge camp – now a collection of one to four-story buildings housing every typical type of community activity from a community center, to schools, to shopping.

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This was, for me, the most powerful event of our trip – the intersection in the lives of men, women, and children of their life and story with the stories of their people and the people of Israel.  

We spent the afternoon at the camp, but not before an orientation presentation on the the “refuge issue.”  [NOTE:  the following section will provide some necessary context for the visit to the refuge camp – the account of our visit to the camp resumes, below)

Badil – Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights

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We started our day by visiting Badil, a refuge advocacy organization whose work advances the individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people to return

Mission

BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights is an independent, human rights non-profit organization committed to protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons. Our vision, mission, programs and relationships are defined by our Palestinian identity and the principles of international humanitarian and human rights law. We seek to advance the individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people on this basis.

History

BADIL Resource Center was established in January 1998 based on recommendations issued by a series of popular refugee conferences in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. BADIL is registered with the Palestinian Authority and legally owned by the refugee community represented by a General Assembly composed of human rights defenders and activists in Palestinian civil society, national institutions and refugee community organizations (from their website).

Presentation

Our presenter’s first name was Lubnah (she did not give her last name), a woman with a commanding presence, articulate, and deep and detailed knowledge of issues related to Palestinian rights.

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She briefly summarized the work of Badil as:

  • Empowering Rights Holders
  • Influence Duty Bearers (individuals with the responsibility to influence, enact, and carry out policy, including those on this trip)

The need for this organization is necessitated by the ongoing Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe” the word the Refugees use to describe their forced displacement since 1917.

Lubnah packed quite a bit of information into her hour-and-one-half presentation, the highlights of which were:

  • Important reports, videos, and publications form their organization (see “publications” tab on website).
  • A surprising description of how Global issue as Palestinians are “scattered” throughout the world (the Palestinian Diaspora)

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  • Definition of a “Forcibly Displaced Persons” (FDP) – a person moved against their will either through direct removal or the creation of intolerable conditions that require a move in order to survive and flourish.
  • Difference between Refugees and Internally Displaced Person (IDP)
    • Refugee – if cross international border
    • Internally Displaced Persons  – stay within borders, but lose home
  • UN Agencies tasked to facilitate return
    • UNRW- United Nations Relief and Works
      • Makes sure “rights of dignity”
      • Provides health care and education
    • UNCCP – United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine
      • Created to assist the “Right of Return”
      • Annually submits report, usually three lines, “No progress has been made

“Obstacles and Solutions”

In this somewhat oddly named section, Lubnah described the “obstacles” Israel faced in managing the indigenous population and how the “solutions” they devised.

Without question, hesitation, or apology, Lubnah placed the primary (exclusive?) blame for the current Palestinian Diaspora with the Zionist movement and the successful implementation of their goals by the Israeli government.  [NOTE:  As with yesterday’s post, I will simply relate her account here rather straightforwardly, knowing that there is another side of the story that we will hear later in the week.]  She stated her belief that the goal of Zionism was:  Maximum Land with Minimum Palestinians and described the nine strategies that the state of Israel uses to keep the Palestinian population in check (see website)

The presentation was powerful, as was the one we experienced the previous day.  We knew we were, again, receiving one side of the story, but is was a compelling story!!   I, for one, was not fully prepare us for what we were going to see when we met those whose lives were lived at the junction of the stories of the nation of Israel and Palestinian people.

The Camp 

Our guide through the camp was Murod, a self-identified refugee who stated as his birth home that city from which he was displaced, not the town of his physical birth.  U.S. educated (Washington University, St. Louis – sociology major).  He was obviously bright, articulate, and had deeply thought through both his identity as a Palestinian Refugee and as a Resister to the Occupation.

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He talked with over lunch before we left to tour the camp.  The highlights of his talk:

  • He and his fellow Refugees will never except life in the camp as “normal,” but will make it as comfortable as they can until they return.
  • The Refugees will accept nothing less that the offer of full right of return to their homes/homeland – whether they accept that offer is up to their discretion.
  • They assert their right as occupies, under international law, to resist by any means necessary the control of their occupiers.

Murod was clear and unapologetic in asserting his rights guarenteed by International Law.  His thinking was fully in line with what Lubnah had articulated earlier in the day. Both Murod and Lubnah were not what one might normally think of as Refugees – both being thoughtful, articulate, and effective advocates for the rights of the Refugee.

Our tour consisted of a walk through a small portion of the one square-mile, 14,000 person camp.  We saw many of the kinds of buildings pictured above, and men, women, and children going about their day-to-day activities (no one was “loitering about,” as I had thought might be the case ahead of time).  It was a remarkable place for its industry, friendliness, and its ART!!  I’m planning a blog dedicated just to the the role of art and the artist of the Occupation, but for now, below are some of the images you saw on buildings on the side of street, images of fallen members of the community  memorialized in murals around the camp – constant reminders of the affect of the occupation.

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There was much more art on display throughout our visit – as well as a visit to Banksy’s Gallery across the street from the partition wall.  Below, is a picture of the wall (with two of our gang) along with one of his iconic pieces.

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Much more art later.

Tomorrow, Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center and a meeting in the evening with someone about something 😉

Day Eight – Demolished homes/shattered lives on the West Bank

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Aside from our very first conversation with the researchers at B’Tselem, every individual, or group, with whom we have met has either been pro-Israeli or standing as a broker between the Israeli and Palestinian populations.  Today, we met with a representative from the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), an organization that is most decidedly pro-Palestinian.

This post will be a rather stark and straightforward description of their perspective and will not include the Israeli perspective, that will come in a later post.  The ICAHD position is highly, one might say brutally, critical of the Israeli government and assigns to them the most cynical and malevolent of motives.  Below is a brief, and unvarnished summary of their position on the Israeli occupation,the barrier wall, and housing demolitions.

The Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)

ICAHD believes that the housing demolitions in the West Bank are a part of a larger Israeli effort to subjugate the Palestinians:

The motivation for demolishing these homes is purely political, and racially informed: to either drive the Palestinians out of the country altogether (the “quiet transfer”) or to confine the four million residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza to small, crowded, impoverished and disconnected enclaves. By such practices Israel effectively forecloses any viable Palestinian entity or the realization of Palestinian self-determination; it also solidifies permanent Israeli domination and illegal settlement expansion, de facto annexing the OPT (from the ICAHD website)

Our guide was Ruth Edmonds, who holds both a Jewish and British passports.  She owns a compelling personal story (growing up in three countries:  Great Britton, Germany, and Israel), a keen wit, an expressive personality, and a passionate advocate for the Palestinian people.  Her presentation was fact-filled, animated, and, from time-to-time, a bit salty.  In it, she was highly sympathetic of the  plight of the Palestinian people as she was critical of the Israeli government.

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More on ICHD – The Israel Committee Against House Demolitions

ICAHD is a non-violent, direct-action group originally established to oppose and resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territory. As our activists gained direct knowledge of the brutalities of the Occupation, we expanded our resistance activities to other areas – land expropriation, settlement expansion, by-pass road construction, policies of “closure” and “separation,” the wholesale uprooting of fruit and olive trees and more. The fierce repression of Palestinian efforts to “shake off” the Occupation following the second Intifada has only added urgency to our efforts.

Since its founding, ICAHD’s activities have extended to three interrelated spheres: resistance and protest actions in the Occupied Palestine Territory; efforts to bring the reality of the Occupation to Israeli society; and mobilizing the international community for a just peace. Our activities include:

  • Resisting the demolition of Palestinian homes.
  • Disseminating information and networking.
  • Providing oral and written reports to the UN (from their website)

ICAHD’s position is that Israel seeks to exert domination over the Palestine through, what their founder calls The Matrix of Control, which is designed to render the Occupation invisible.  This approach is designed to:

  1. Allow Israel to control every aspect of Palestinian life in the Occupied Territories, while
  2. lowering Israel’s military profile in order to give the impression to the outside that what Palestinians refer to as “occupation” is merely proper administration, and that Israel has a “duty” to defend itself and the status quo, yet
  3. creating enough space for a dependent Palestinian mini-state that will relieve Israel of the Palestinian population while
  4. deflecting, through the use of “administrative” image and bureaucratic mechanisms, international opposition and thus to maintain control indefinitely and, in the final analysis,
  5. to force the Palestinians’ to despair of ever achieving a viable and truly sovereign state and to accept any settlement offered by Israeli. (“Time is on our side” is, as Sharon has often said, a cornerstone of Israeli policy.)

According to Jeff Halper, co-founder of the ICAHD, the infrastructure supporting the Matrix of Control is quite elaborate (see full explanation here).

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The above description is intended to be stark and disquieting.

For our tour, our guide highlight two elements of that Matrix:  the barrier walls and house demolition.  It is ICAHD’s position that the barrier wall, ostensibly designed to insulate Israel from suicide bombers, serves a greater purposes:  to isolate and subjugate the Palestine people, to keep them from actualize their life potentials, and, ultimately, to encourage self-deportation.

IMG_3296The barrier wall from the Mount of Olives

The housing demolitions are just one more way “of making life in the Occupied Territories unbearable.”  Our guide gave three reasons for Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes:

  • Military – In association with assassination.
  • Punitive – in retaliation for attacks on Israelis.
  • Administrative – tearing down buildings built without permit.

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Demolished house in the West Bank

Summary

This, perhaps, was the most sobering day of our trip.  We had heard about the demolishing project, as well as the barrier wall, and knew something of what to expect. What was new for several of us was the extent to which these two strategies were a part of a larger “Matrix of Control” – the result of which was the most depressing squalor that is life in the West Bank.

For a more thorough description of the demolition project, go to the ICAHD website.

As we debriefed, we wondered, puzzled, and became angry.  We acknowledged that there is more to the story, and we will hear from Israelis with a different perspective later in the trip, but today was a time to see things from the perspective of the Palestinian and a most articulate advocate and be moved.

If this is truly indeed the Israeli strategy, then Israel is as far from being a “light to the nations” as one could imagine.  More could be written about life in the West Bank, the refugee camps,  the Oslo accords, areas A, B, and C, and so on.  The effect of all this, the very real lived experience of the Palestinian on the West Bank is truly indescribable. Though we didn’t take this picture, will leave with this  . . .

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