Friday, June 20, 2008

A Quaker Bears Witness in Palestine and Israel

by Cherice Bock
Quaker Oats Live
June 16, 2008

I got back a week ago from Israel/Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams. This was a first exploratory step for me, to learn about what CPT does there, the situation and culture(s), and to see if I want to be involved with CPT in the future...

We spent the first couple of days in Jerusalem, then went to Hebron, down to At Tuwani, back to Hebron, Bethlehem and back to Jerusalem. We visited with many organizations working for peace in these areas, as well as individuals who told us their stories. We experienced amazing hospitality from people whose lives have been devastated in many ways...

My overall sense is that the Palestinians are not terrorists any more than Americans are terrorists--and probably even less. There are of course individuals in every culture who use terror as a weapon to try to get their way, but the Palestinians have been painted by the media as a culture that as a whole breeds terrorists, and this is not the case. We met amazing people who are working nonviolently for basic human rights. We met patient people who refuse to be treated as sub-human, and have a high value for human life. These people are not terrorists: they are individuals like you and me who want a decent life for themselves and their children. And this decent life is by and large not being allowed them.

I can see the situation from the Israeli side to some degree. The Jews have been mistreated by so many other groups for so long that now that they have the chance to have a homeland they are not going to give up that chance for anything. This is a place where they can supposedly be safe to live as they please. The problem is, there were already people living on this land when the rest of the world gave it to them. So what do they do with those other people? They do what the European nations did to the native people living in the Americas: they push them out, they legislate inhumane treatment of them, they vilify them so it is easier not to feel guilty about ridding the world of them...

And as I see it, as long as there are people who are suffering and who are in dire need of basic necessities, there will always be a security threat. There will always be desperate individuals and groups who will do anything to get rid of the opposing force. Imagine if another country came into the United States and took over more and more land, kept Americans from getting access to education, food and transportation, and put their military in control of entire areas. Would Americans not fight back? Would Americans sit around and acquiesce to whatever this occupying force wanted them to do? Of course not! Americans would fight back using whatever tactics necessary to gain our freedom back. And yet, when Palestinians use such tactics, the world calls them terrorists...

Israel has the 5th most powerful military in the world for a country the size of Rhode Island, I believe. They have all the conventional weaponry including nuclear bombs. Their military kills many more Palestinians each year than Palestine's puny attempts at harming Israel. And yet, they are not seen as terrorists because their government is "legitimate" and these attacks are military endeavors. What we fail to notice is that Palestine is not given the right to have a "legitimate" government (when they had democratic elections in 2006 and elected Hamas leaders, the world refused to recognize this "terrorist" government), and they are not allowed to have an army. So they resort to guerrilla tactics, as most people would. I'm not saying these tactics are right, but they are certainly understandable.

So to me, one of the main issues here is the worldwide media picture of this people as a huge group of terrorists. This is just not true, unless we're willing to face the fact that our own governments are terrorist organizations that are much more effective and lethal than the Palestinian "terrorism." There are many Palestinians actively and nonviolently working for peace, and a majority of Palestinians just want to be left alone to live their lives. The media is encouraging the dehumanization of the Palestinian people in order for western ideals of conquest, capitalism and wealth to gain more ground. This is cloaked as a religious battle, but really it is a battle of cultures, with the front line in the Holy Land of three ancient religions.

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