<   Report Five: The Environmental Costs of Occupation  >

An Environment Under Siege: Occupation's Effect on People and Land
Delegation to Palestine/Israel
June 1, 2012

We invite delegation participants to comment on and react to the experiences they have during our Israel/Palestine delegations in written Trip Reports

Individual delegates contribute pieces to these reports.  As such, reports are not comprehensive accounts of every meeting or experience, but impressions of those things that most impact individuals.  Trip reports to not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Peace-Builders, trip leaders, or delegation partner organizations.  We hope you enjoy reading and we encourage you to share these reports with others.



Environmental Costs of Occupation
By Marianne Torres

Because this tour focuses on Environmentalism and Sustainability, we have visited a number of organizations who either work in this area, or whose work touches on it.

On Saturday, we went to Nazareth where we first met with Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), who talked about water and sustainability. Mohammed spoke of water issues that I've spoken about at length before so will only recap using his figures, both of which are slightly higher than those I got in 2010. He said Israelis use 106 gallons per person per day and West Bank Palestinians only 32 gallons.

Israel does not allow Palestinians to collect rainwater in cisterns, and has destroyed cisterns in the past, but Friends of the Earth does have a small recycling program here. Recycling is not yet on the radar in Palestine, and, he said, Israelis don't recycle either. I've never heard before whether they do or don't.

From there to the Kibbutz Metzer, near Nazareth, a lush and lovely place. We spoke with Dov whose last name I don't have. He was quite personable, a "lefty" many of us would be happy to share a beer with. His Kibbutz was attacked by a Palestinian at one time and he said five people were killed, but he told us how he maintained his compassion toward his Arab neighbors. But he made it clear that the land is Theirs (i.e., the Israelis), saying several times "we won". There was more, but we'll share it when we return.

On to the village of Sakhnin and a tour of destroyed villages. When the state was declared, the Haganah and other militias expelled Palestinian inhabitants from as many as 500 towns and villages (maybe more). Most were destroyed and left in rubble. Some were left as they were. Refugee camps have murals with the names of those towns.

Jewish-only housing has been built on top of many of them and others have been overplanted with trees - trees paid for by millions of unsuspecting Jews all over the world.

Several on our delegation remember the trees-for-israel campaigns from their childhood, remembering the dimes and the quarters they collected. It was very painful to see now what those trees were used for, and that IS what it was for. The Jewish National Fund oversees the contributions and the planting, and is a major player in the ethnic-cleansing infrastructure of Israel.

So much more information from here!

We went to dinner at the home of our guide-for-the-day Ali, whose two daughters have recently graduated college in the U.S. - one from Columbia, don't remember where for the other - and have returned to Palestine to work there. His wife is Dutch, and she and the family prepared a lovely dinner for us - all 30 of us!

Next day we had lunch and a tour with Jonathan Cook - Yes, I said Jonathan Cook! - and got pages of details about the issue of Citizenship in Israel and the differences between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. Details of which would have you all fuming.

Then to Bil'in, the village many of you probably have read much about. They confront the Israeli army every week at the Wall near their homes, and this is where a number of people have been killed, but these folks have a serious victory. When the wall was built the town took the state to court. They fought for 5 years, but finally won,and the Wall was moved. A small victory, but one that gave much encouragement.

Time is getting short. Have to abbreviate. Spent a night at Tent of Nations, in the hills above Bethlehem, now completely surrounded by settlements on the hilltops, settlements that are working very hard to force the Palestinian Nasser family from what is left of their land. But they, too, have a victory. They have been there for years, struggling every single day to stay, sometimes under extreme conditions, but they are still there! And many times, it was the presence of internationals that turned the settlers or army away!

This one deserves a report of its own, as does the visit in Hebron, first with a member of the Jewish Community there and then with Issa, a courageous Palestinian man working with Youth Against the Settlements.  I was surprised when I first saw him as I had become so familiar with his face from the pictures I took the last time. He was leading the Open Shuhadeh Street weekly demonstration and was in for forefront with the army clearly very angry with him.

SO much more - we've learned about sustainability programs, the use of solar power in VERY poor villages, recycling but it will have to wait. Can't emphasize enough the importance of coming to Palestine. First, you simply will not believe what happens here unless you see it yourself, for in many ways, it is beyond human ken.

Original version posted here: http://mtorres555.travellerspoint.com/toc/

Steadfast Resistance
By Lissie Perkal

I came on this trip really, to see the bad stuff. I came because I couldn’t comprehend what a 25ft cement separation wall would look like. I wanted to see the petty apartheid and hear about the effects of the grand apartheid. Essentially, I came to Palestine to see the evil.

The first three days (roughly nine meetings) I cried in almost every meeting. There was something in every meeting that hit a nerve and made me cry. I was so overwhelmed by the stories of pain and suffering or I found the speaker’s resistance to be so inspiring that it moved me to tears.

After the first few waves of tears I started to get annoyed with myself. Here I am in this privileged position, visiting the Occupation that prevents so many people from even leaving the West Bank (let alone the country)—weeping? Inside I was asking myself “Who do you think you are? What good are your tears?”

About a week into the trip an older Palestinian woman who was currently fighting to keep her home from the Israeli government and Israeli settlers responded to my questions perfectly. “We don’t want your sympathy, we have enough of that. We want you to act and to talk to your government!” (Referring of course to the military aid we give to Israel).

Now though, after almost two weeks here, I don’t have the need to cry. Not to say that I don’t find the stories and the facts incredibly moving, but now I know about sumood, tears are no longer my first response.

Sumood is an Arabic word that means “steadfastness.”  It is so easy to see this “I will not budge” attitude in every Palestinian activist we’ve talked to. I find it so inspiring and their steadfastness empowers me to be strong and proactive in my solidarity with them. I came to see the ugly but what I’m coming away with is the strength and the beauty of the Palestinian resistance movement.

Originally posted here: http://thelittlestbigspoon.tumblr.com/

Nazareth, Bi’lin, Dheisheh Vineyard
By Cori Mancuso

Clearly, I will not be able to sum up everything or explain effectively all that has happen in the past 3 days. So I will try to explain some particularly meaningful experiences.

Nazareth & Bil’in: We stayed at the Rimonim Hotel in Nazareth the night before. Although I was tired, Kaitlyn and Lissie convinced me to get a drink downstairs at the hotel bar. Mostly because some older people in my group were going and we didn’t want them to have a better time than us! There was a private party going on and we were probably a little disruptive but we had fun anyway. The most beautiful thing is that me and Lissie didn’t have to pay for any of our drinks (only two!). It was good to just relax, have fun, and not talk about Palestinians and illegal settlements.

We stayed in Bil’in and I stayed at a Palestinian home with some of the other women from the delegation. We had great food, danced some Dabkeh (horribly I might add), and met some great Palestinian people that are very funny and welcoming.

We heard a speaker from the Holy Land Trust who is an expert in Nonviolent Resistance in Palestine. His name is Mazin B. Qumsiyeh.  He explained that resistance is any act that forces occupiers to change their action because if they don’t it will cost them money. Unfortunately, the occupation continues with funding. He had a good quote to explain Israeli motive, “maximum geography, minimum demography,” (i.e., taking the most land with the least number of Palestinians).

We took a tour of the Palestinian refugee camp of Dheisheh. It was a bleak situation. Thankfully, they are trying to empower and build up the community through theater, music, workshops, and giving women job opportunities through embroidery.

We went to the Tent of Nations at Daher’s Vineyard. I would not be able to explain effectively how amazing this place is. Look for yourself: ww.tentofnations.org.  

The courage, strength, determination, and creativity that went into this project should be recognized. It was beautiful to hear Daoud Nassar’s story of his ancestral land, his persistence in the numerous permits and demolition orders issued by the Israeli government, implementing self-sufficient and sustainable resources, and his refusal to be enemies, and his refusal to be a victim.

He told a memorable story about how Israeli soldiers were telling him that they wanted to check his car for security reasons and he told them that his children were in the car and they would be afraid (every soldier carries an automatic rifle). They told him they are just following orders. So he decided to speak in English so that they would hear him and understand. He told his kids to wake up and to not be afraid, there are some men here and you do not have to be afraid, they are friendly men. Afterwards the soldiers told Daoud that they did something wrong and told him to tell the family that they are sorry.

Main point: Over and over I hear the Palestinian’s struggle and every time I hear a variation of, “We are all human, don’t they know that we are humans too? “

Originally posted here: http://ifpbdelegation2012.wordpress.com/

By Jim McLoughlin

This is the city where in 1994 a Jewish settler killed more than 20 Palestinians in the town’s famous central mosque.  In one the most heinous versions of Solomonic “justice,” the Israelis then split the mosque in two, making one half of it a synagogue.  The settler is considered a hero by many local Israelis.

The old city of Hebron could easily be the Yad Vashem of the Palestinians. Unlike the Holocaust Museum, there is no need to spend any money on constructing exhibits -- they are already there: the hundreds of needlessly empty houses where people were forced to flee;  the 800 boarded up shops where I could envision the vibrancy of family businesses with children helping out; bands of unemployed youths and adults, the closed schools and mosques, the checkpoints manned by armed soldiers too hardened to care and children passing through them too num to feel.

If the US wants a ”balanced” policy in Middle East, perhaps all those congressmen who slovenly come to Israel and pile into the Holocaust Museum could also come to Hebron. I am sure there is enough money in the $3+ billion US annual budget for Israel to pay for the bus ride.  If not, I’ll pay.


By Cori Mancuso

Early on in the day, Anna spoke about Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. This was extremely helpful considering I did not really know what the movement was. I was so thankful to hear that there is a consensus among Palestinians as to what the International community can and should do. Palestinians want BDS and think it is the most effective way to help them in their struggle.

For so long I have tried to help others in ways that I think would be the best for them not necessarily what they really want. I need to learn more about BDS and really begin to take action. Also, we spoke with Omar Barghouti who is a leader and expert in the BDS movement. He was very inspiring as he spoke of all the successes of the BDS movement.

We also had some free time in the Palestinian city of Ramallah. This is a very cosmopolitan city with many shops, restaurants, and jewelry stores. It was quite surprising to see such a thriving city in the occupied territories. Me, Kaitlyn, and Armando went shopping a little, ate some falafel, and ate some ice cream. It was fun.

As days have passed I have realized that every Palestinian has asked for the same few things:
1. That they be treated like human beings
2. They deserve basic human rights
3. They deserve to return to their ancestral homeland and homes
4. The occupation needs to end for there to be peace in Israel/Palestine

Lastly, today we went through Qalandia Checkpoint - an Israeli military checkpoint seperating Ramallah from Palestinian East Jerusalem -  in order to come out of the West Bank and into Israel. Checkpoints are places run by the Israeli government where people show their passports and IDs to the soldiers, go through a metal detector, and then they can go into Israel. For Palestinians, it usually takes hours and involves harassment from Israeli soldiers. Not to mention, Israeli citizens are not allowed in the Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank so they are not subject to this treatment.

It felt like an animal warehouse. When you get there, the checkpoint is surrounded by a huge gray wall, barbed wire, and Israeli soldiers. The first part when you walk in is like lines of stalls with caged walls and you walk one by one up to the revolving metal door. A soldier proceeded to check my passport and let me through to the exit.

It was a numbing experience to go through the checkpoint. If you want, look up Israeli checkpoints and you should see what I mean.

Originally posted here: http://ifpbdelegation2012.wordpress.com/


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