19/5/12 - 2/6/12 70 °F
Home yesterday from the most useful, informative trip to Palestine I can imagine.
Sponsored, as you know, by Interfaith Peace Builders, this one was very different from my earlier trip with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). CPT's trip was a working trip, one that included accompaniment of children, farmers, shepherds under attack or threatened attack by Settlers as much as information-gathering.
This one was straight information, and was so intensely packed every single day that I had very little time for what I had planned to be daily reports. We started each day at either 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. and didn't finish until at least 10:00 p.m., which left very little time or even energy for writing. For that, I'm sorry. But the quality and quantity of the contacts we had, the places we went, the breadth of information we gathered was absolutely priceless. I will write a final report in the coming days that I hope will encompass what I was unable to send while "on the road".
Keeping in mind that nearly everyone on this trip is a seasoned Palestine Solidarity activist, the comments I heard most often were variations of "I thought I knew what the situation was, but I had no idea it was this bad" or "it's worse than the last time I was here". Indeed.
We moved around freely inside Palestine, from the "Gaza Overlook" (from which we were chased away by Israeli soldiers who responded to our presence nearly immediately in three jeeps) to seven miles south of Lebanon. We walked through one of the more than 500 destroyed villages from 1948, for which millions of unsuspecting Jewish children saved and sent their money to the Jewish National Fund's "trees for Israel" campaign throughout their childhood having no idea the intent of those trees - to obliterate the existence of those destroyed villages.
We went to a Bedouin village in the South Hebron Hills, where a solar project is being carried out by engineers from Anarchists Against the Wall and Palestinian engineers. The village is desperately, desperately poor, but has been destroyed by the Israeli army at least once. It is hard to imagine how human beings in any army could look at that village and be willing to destroy what very little they have.
Also saw the beginnings of a recycling project, learned about a number of environmental projects at Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem.
A visit with a Jewish settler in Sderot near Gaza resulted in mixed reactions and for me and some others, sorrow that though the settler woman was eager to see peace and did not seem to carry ill feelings toward Palestinians, she did not articulate any understanding at all of what her nation has done to Palestinians, or how deeply they suffer, or for how long. The same with a representative of a socialist kibbutz, who spoke at length about the good relations they have with neighboring Palestinian villages (or for him, "Arab" villages - Israelis rarely use the term "Palestinian" for their existence is problematic), but when questioned about Palestinians' lack of equal rights, or injustices done to them, he repeated "…we WON" and suggested, using WWII comparisons, that if they "just surrendered", they could all live in peace.
We learned about the phrase "socially incompatible" as the new way Israel describes and excuses blatant discrimination against Palestinians. Israeli courts have ruled illegal discrimination based on race (!!!) so institutions and individuals now use "socially incompatible" as the reason to keep housing areas, schools, etc Jewish-only.
The most valuable thing for me is what I already wrote about, the concept of Samoud, or steadfastness. You don't look for victories or progress. You simply stay steadfast. You keep working for justice. We can do no less.
Will be writing more descriptive essays in this next week as I wind up thoughts from the trip and begin to work on publicity.
If any of you have reactions to what I've written, I would value your reply.