In one month I will be returning home from my stay in Palestine. The last two months have passed quickly and it seems I have just just started to form deeper relationships with the people I work with and serve in and around Bethlehem. As I prepare to leave, I think about what I have come to understand and what I still do not understand (which is a lot). With my experiences and knowledge gained here, I have a number of concerns that will be going home with me. I share them as follows:
1. The occupation is illegal and contravenes humanitarian laws. Most of the countries of the world accept this position but do little to force Israel to accept and correct it – this concerns me a lot.2. The occupation impacts children. I can only imagine the fear the children feel when their houses are raided in the middle of the night by soldiers wearing balaclavas, their anxiety in having to cross military checkpoints twice a day to attend school (body x-rays and backpack searches), the terror of being both harassed and assaulted by fanatical settlers, etc. These are things no child should have to experience. We would not accept this treatment to our children or our neighbour’s children so why would we accept it for Palestinian children. I am concerned that too few people in the world are willing to say this is unacceptable and it has to stop.
3. This occupation has been responsible for thousands of deaths and countless injuries. I am concerned that there could be more.
4. Many countries (including mine) provide financial aid to communities in the West Bank. What is not known to many is that the government of Israel has plans to relocate/eliminate some of these same communities. I am concerned that my tax dollars may be used for some good project that may only have a life of a few years.
5. The issue of access to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem could well have a de-stabilizing affect in Palestine/Israel, mid-eastern countries and the rest of the world. Restrictions or limitations on access to pray at this historic mosque have the potential to ignite protests and violence in a number of countries in the mid-east as well as having a global impact. I am concerned that the current political agenda of the government of Israel could cause such serious problems.6. The government of Israel is currently planning to create a state specifically for “Jews”. This is an affront to the term “democracy”. This plan has been likened to the previous apartheid state in South Africa and can be described as nothing other than racist. I am concerned that the government of Israel will proceed with this plan while countries such as mine stand idly by.
7. Currently, Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel are treated as second class citizens by the government of Israel. The key countries that have generally been providing unequivocal support to Israel (i.e. USA, Canada and Australia) need to remember their own histories as it relates to the treatment of the indigenous people of their lands. The Israeli government has a master plan to relocate 12,500 Bedouins to a piece of land outside Jericho. Not only will the Bedouins lose their livelihoods because they won’t be able to raise their animals but they will also lose their social structure and their culture. This sounds very similar to our own history with aboriginal people in Canada. In Canada, we are still struggling to “right the wrongs” that we committed in our past. With this history in mind, I am concerned that my government is supporting a government that continues with similar practices?8. Much of the world was complicit (or did not object) when the state of Israel was formed without regard for those that were already living in the land. The accepted view in 1948 was that Palestine was a “land without a people” and that Jews were a “people without a land”. In hindsight, this was just plain wrong and could have been handled so much better. As global citizens, we need to accept our responsibility for the current situation. One of the key ways we can do that is to object to the Israeli government’s violation of international human rights and international humanitarian law. I am concerned that there will be too few such objections in the global community.
These are my concerns. My hope is that you share some or all of these concerns and that our collective voices will soon be heard.