Gaza Reflections and More. . .
Tuesday, June 1 - Thursday, June 2, 2010
Delegation 33 Announcement
Report 1: Walking the Way Toward Truth
Report 2: Identities in Conflict Zones
Report 3: By Sea, By Air, By Land: Control at Any Cost
Report 4:Gaza Reflections and More. . .
Report 5: Learning from Families in Beit Sahour
Report 6: Protests, Anger, Irony, Inward Peace, and Commitment to Action
The Interfaith Peace-Builders delegation that is currently on the ground has been following the events around the Gaza Freedom Flotilla closely and experiencing the reactions by Palestinians on the West Bank to the Israeli attack. They have also been building an understanding of the broader context of Israeli actions during these two weeks. Below are some of the delegates’ reflections.
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Words Fail Completely - But We Are Here and We Must Try
But I am here and I must try. I grieve deeply for families and friends of the dead and wounded. I grieve also for my country and in particular for my President who has lost credibility when he promised us honesty and transparency…especially now in the face of the Israeli propaganda behemoth which has risen on its haunches to devour facts, evidence and human beings. News blackouts, confiscation of cameras, suppression of eye witness accounts - all done with the tacit approval of the US - make the loss of human beings, a bloody foot print leading directly to the door of the Obama administration.
The loss of life and the loss of belief in my government is devastating.
- Liz Seraphin
The extreme gap between facts and reality here, versus the Israeli news-spin of fear and distortion in the USA, seems to be at its widest today.
Last night we heard from a settler, who in tears said she felt her government had lied to her about her move to the settlement Ma'aleh Adumim, lied to her about the confiscation of Palestinian land to build that settlement and lied that Palestinians were savages to be feared. Today, we hear the spin from the USA, both in connecting the Gaza flotilla to Hamas, and the US Consulate’s warnings of the dangers we supposedly face here. More lies and news - spin of fear!
Within this tragic and purposely created gap, lies misery for the Palestinians, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for the USA, and supposed security for Israeli citizens. It is a gap created as policy to implement a premise: that Israel must keep fear high, and delay the time of peace, until Palestinians are first fully expelled through its harassment and demolition orders, and Israel’s dream of a Jewish-only Zion is obtained.
Just imagine what the United States response would be if Iran attacked a humanitarian aid vessel carrying thousands of tons of food and medicine. The United States would surely issue a more definitive statement than the meager one issued by the Obama administration “regretting the loss of life on the Gaza flotillas.”
This was a massacre. I often wonder what is the use of learning the law if Israel can just decide whether or not to follow it.
In the occupied Palestinian West Bank, we participated in a protest in downtown Ramallah standing in solidarity with Gaza, and the International (mostly Turkish) human rights activists that were murdered. We also participated in a demonstration in Sakhnin, a Palestinian town, in 1948 occupied Palestine. Palestinians and the rest of the world are demonstrating and outraged. When will the United States end its unjustifiable support for this lunatic state?
- Lara Elborno
After the Israeli Defense Forces massacre aboard one of the flotilla ships, we learned there would be a demonstration in Ramallah, which many members of the group participated in. Though I am not sure how many people attended the demonstration which gathered in the city’s center and marched towards a Turkish official building, I am confident saying this number was in the hundreds and that this group was very vocal and outraged. Also, several news agencies (international and Palestinian) documented the protest.
When we returned to the city square after the march, I noticed the logo of Israel’s channel 2 news agency on a reporter’s microphone. Since I speak Hebrew, I was able to listen in on the news report he was recording which went as followed “despite the news of the events at sea, residents of Ramallah seem apathetic. Life in Ramallah continues as usual.”
This reporter waited until the hundreds of demonstrators had scattered to record his report and give the illusion that Palestinians unfazed by the display of international solidarity. Since the Israeli military forbids Israelis from entering Ramallah (under “security” pretences), the Israeli public, and by extension the US, would have completely inaccurate representation of the sincere sentiments of solidarity emanating from Palestine. I felt disgusted and helpless witnessing the propaganda masquerading as legitimate news, especially knowing how many people will believe it.
- Keren Carmeli
After spending time in Palestine it becomes more and more apparent how meaningful the actions and bravery of international activists are to the struggle here. The heartlessness and impunity with which the Israeli government and military acts is reinforced by such massacres as that committed against the Gaza aid flotilla. This is juxtaposed by the way that the US manages to manipulate Israeli aggression; an advisory by the US Consulate in Jerusalem warned that its citizens “should specially use caution in places with large Arab populations…” I have not seen any difference among Palestinians’ actions towards our delegation since the attack on the vessel because it is clear to the Palestinians with whom we interact that we stand with them and recognize their struggle. I cannot help but draw the parallel to the Bil’in residents who every week appreciate the solidarity that international and Israeli activists offer them in protesting Israeli land theft.
From all we have heard Palestinians are not fighting against Jews, Americans, Israelis, or ‘the West,’ but against total injustice. I am disgusted at the US government’s virtual silence and weak stance on this illegal and horrific act and only hope that the US public does not accept Israel’s lies that those on board the ships had terrorist links, when in fact many of them were statesmen and well-respected human rights activists.
- Sofia Wolman
I am embarrassed that my government still feels compelled, after such blatant human rights abuses, to support an Israeli government which by its actions no longer deserves a place among the community of nations. Perhaps I feel this more profoundly because I am in Jerusalem and I have seen on the faces of Palestinians the betrayal they feel toward a President Obama who just a year ago, in his Cairo speech, pledged his support for a just resolution to Israeli-Palestinian crisis. What I find most hideous is Obama’s “regrets” over the murder of unarmed, innocent civilians in international waters and his successful attempt to scuttle a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israel. He has also shamelessly allowed Israel to conduct its own investigation. How will this be possible? Israel continues to hold the dozen or so journalists who were passengers on the Turkish ship so as to hijack all media coverage to its advantage. It claims that it was their soldiers, dressed in full battle gear and armed with automatic weapons, who were the victims, not the perpetrators of violence.
I am embarrassed because, yet again, the rest of the world sees my government complicit in the actions of the Israeli government.
Learning in a Taxi
This evening I left the group to meet my ultra-Orthodox relatives in Jerusalem. As I was walking up the street trying to hail a taxi, I met an older gentleman. We talked for a bit and I told him I was going to Jaffa Gate. He asked if he could come with me and I agreed. A few minutes later we got a cab. The driver was a real “character,” very animated and very funny. For the next 20 minutes the three of us discussed the Israel-Palestine issue. I first told them I was Jewish. Both men said the issue was not about Jew or Muslim, Israeli or Palestinian. They said it was about human beings. We all agreed that the Palestinian Authority was ineffective and the Israeli Government dishonest. There was no animosity toward me or toward Jews at all.
On the way back my nephew hailed a taxi for me. The driver was a man who was probably in his mid-30s. I was sure he was Jewish. We began to talk. He told me that 90% of Palestinians dislike the Palestinian Authority. He then said he was Palestinian. I said I was Jewish. I asked what he wanted. He said “I want my home back.” He didn’t mention a one or two state solution. He said he had many Jewish friends. He told me a story about one of his passengers…
One day he picks up a woman. She was a tourist. She began to talk about the Israel-Palestine conflict. She told him that she thought the solution was to kill all Palestinian men. The driver did not interrupt. He let her continue. She made a comment that he was Jewish but he simply let her continue. When they arrived at her destination she gave him 50 Shekels, 30 of which were a generous tip. The driver then told her that things were not always what they seemed; that he was Palestinian. She was speechless and left. Perhaps, because he did not react with the anger that she was obviously displaying in her comment about a “solution” to the conflict, she may have begun to see Palestinians and herself in a different light.
- Rich Forer
Learning From the Bus
The bus we are on is one of those normal tour buses. It is big, spacious, seats everyone. But every time I get on, I sit at the same seat. There are seat numbers allocated to each seat. I never look at it but intuitively look around and my body somehow naturally finds itself at the same seat. The seats are all the same yet I instinctively know where my seat is and I want to sit here and sitting anywhere else just didn’t feel…right.
It got me thinking. If I am so ridiculously attached to a bus seat that is not even mine but just because it is my comfort zone and it was the first seat that I chose to sit on, what more the home of a Palestinian?
A home which was owned alongside the many centuries of memories created? However bizarre, we form affinities, groundless (maybe) affinities but that’s only human and to have memories taken away, comfort zones destroyed…
Humans are possessive, territorial creatures who live on the memories of their ancestors and progress from there. And to simply steal and destroy memories and affinities…the human soul dies a little each day.
It would be so uncomfortable for me if someone took this bus seat that I am in right now away from me. It would be somewhat difficult for me to share this eat with someone when there are seats for everyone in this big bus… so really, there is nothing complicated or difficult or hard to comprehend. As social as we are, we need a place to call our own, to progress, to feel safe, to create memories with the ones we love…
Can you imagine what it will feel like if your bus seat that you have become so attached to was taken away from you?
- Eulalia Han Ni
The purpose of our trip and the challenge thereafter, is to discover a scaffolding of our past experiences on which to hang our new realizations, that we might bring ourselves and others to know the harsh realities.
I found one hook in that scaffolding as I looked at a cartoon which depicted an Israeli soldier covering a cache of keys. It triggered an image of a drug rehabilitation counselor I know who jingles his keys in his pocket, as he paces in front of those who are still imprisoned by drugs. Those people understand that if you have been in jail or homeless, or if your driver’s license has been revoked, you no longer have autonomy.
This attention to keys, symbolic of the Palestinian struggle, emphasizes the independence and enhanced self-image that come with freedom.
- Bea Volkman
Filling the Gaping Holes
It is clear to me that what we are seeing here fills the gaping holes existing in mainstream US media coverage of the situation in Palestine/Israel. Here, Israel’s misinformation and lies are blatant; a drive on Highway 443 provides a good example.
This past week Israel supposedly opened Highway 443 to Palestinians (Israeli citizens have yellow plates, Palestinians have white and green plates). Many major roads through the West Bank are closed to Palestinians, as they connect settlements. Strange then, that although Highway 443 had supposedly been opened to Palestinians a few days ago, all we saw on the road were cars with yellow plates. But then we began seeing the access roads from Palestinian streets and towns. On these roads, about 100 meters down from 443, there were massive concrete cubes, blocking any car from getting on the highway. These are the facts on the ground that we may hear so much about, but do not often get to see.
- Sofia Wolman
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