<   Report Two:  Testing Our Patience and Our Privilege   >

Today's Realities, Tomorrow's Leaders
Delegation to Palestine/Israel
July 21, 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.  Submitted reports may be edited for clarity or brevity. Trip reports do 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.



My First Checkpoint
By Laila F.

There could not have been less than one hundred people at that checkpoint. The majority were complete strangers to me, however we were all connected by a certain thread. A thread linked together by anger, frustration and patience. It seems to me we are incredibly patient. Patient enough not to start a riot, break some windows, curse out soldiers, or most simply, give up.

Standing in that line I felt guilty. Guilty because on the 29th I will be flying home to a life of privileges. While these Palestinians have to bear that heat, those crowded cells, and the brutal soldiers every day. Sometimes just to purchase a gallon of milk or a carton of eggs. 

After about forty-five minutes it was my turn to cross through the checkpoint. I spotted four soldiers, not much older than I am, sitting with their feet up, soaking in all the air conditioning they were blessed with. It made me wonder if they even had a guess what the temperature was like outside the thick glass they used for "protection." 

One soldier spoke to me in Hebrew. He and his companions began to taunt and tease me when they realized I could not comprehend their words. As if belittling me because I am not a Hebrew-speaking, Jewish Israeli. Even though my passport did not change in those few minutes the soldiers were handling it, they felt it was necessary to examine each page over three times.

After I picked up my bag at the end of the conveyor belt I thought about what I just experienced. I remembered the humiliation on the faces of the Palestinians as they desperately raced to a newly opened gate. Then the disappointment in their eyes when they were turned away. I remembered that some Palestinian women have died along with their unborn babies because their water broke at the checkpoint and their condition was plainly ignored. I remembered how broken-hearted the young Palestinian children selling small items in the heat were when they realized all their hard work became just a waste of time. I remembered the Palestinian teenagers beaten to death and the others being attacked by the military's dogs. I remembered that the Palestinians still managed to smile and joke with their family and friends at that checkpoint, sending a message to the entire world. A message that the Palestinians most simply, will not give up. 

October 21 - November 3, 2012

Join Interfaith Peace-Builders for a unique opportunity to learn about the current situation in Israel/Palestine and the effects of the Israeli occupation. Applications from individuals of African descent will be accepted on a rolling basis until August 1, 2012.  Preference granted to community leaders, activists, artists and others who display a strong commitment to activism in their own communities.

Click here for more information and to apply today!


Nothing Like A Checkpoint
By Nader H.

No matter how many books we read, how many videos we watch, and how many lectures we hear, nothing is like going through a checkpoint in "Israel". It is a game of psychology, of trying to get into people's heads. The place was hot (my shirt was drenched with sweat and I had to alleviate myself with thoughts of my cats at home) the location was eerie and set me in a place that recalls Nazi Germany for its discrimination and absolute disregard for human compassion.

The word normalization was best defined by my friend Sami Abed who said that it was making the "abnormal, normal". Seeing little kids making fun of the situation and playing around the area, teasing the soldiers made it seem like it is nothing to be mad about. I was mad and thought to myself that if Americans were to go through this injustice, then they would go mad.

When I first entered the compound, most Palestinians looked at us with puzzled looks that asked us why we're here. My answer is to feel and experience something as a Palestinian American, whose father has sacrificed a lot to get me to come on this trip. The feeling I got was heartbreak to know that I have more privilege than these people and that now I know the incredible strength of Palestinians who exist and have that will to survive.

I also reflected today about Israeli guards who were put into those positions. How could their countenance be of ignorance? This feeling is one that will change me in deep and profound ways. To see how humans can be under fear and ignorance (Israelis), but also to see the resilience, humor, and frustration from the Palestinians. To actually experience it in person is very surreal.

At the end of my experience, our delegation tour guide, Said, said in a sarcastic and cold tone, " Don't worry guys, I'll take it easy on you tomorrow". Unfortunately I can't say the same thing to most Palestinians.


Jamal’s Poem
By Amani and Jamal B.

Listening to Ruth from Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) yesterday and Sahar Francis from Addameer today stirred up all kinds of emotions for me (click here for photos from these meetings). On one hand I was happy to see the dedication and effort that's being put into advancing the cause and seeking justice. On the other hand I was very angry to hear how this conflict is affecting the livelihood of the families and especially the children.

I couldn't help but remember a poem my son Jamal wrote a couple of month ago and would like to share it with all of you. 

Mamma, Mamma! there is a big yellow truck outside!
It's like the toy I always wanted, but huge!
Baba, Baba! remember the toy soldiers I asked for?
They're right outside and I think they want to play!
Brother, sister, won't you come play with me?
It's like a movie out in our front yard!

Won't someone come play with me?
Oh my! you have all begun without me!

Mr. Soldier, Mr. Soldier! what can I be?
I see my Baba is playing dead 
Brother is the bad guy going to jail
and mamma and sister being escorted by two men

Should I be the little kid causing trouble?
I can do that! I'll throw rocks and stuff

Mr. Soldier, Mr. Soldier! Will this movie be played in America? 
It can be on the big screen for all of the world to see!
Oh! I could've never even dreamed of such a life! 

 My friend, My friend! wake up! wake up!
A big yellow truck is at my house!
Just like the toy we always wanted!
Wake up, wake up! Won't you come play with me? 


Apartheid Justice
By Walter H.

This is a report summarizing a presentation by Sahar Francis, the Director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organization.

The talk focused on Palestinian political prisoners of the Israeli state and Addameer’s  efforts to defend them.  The theme of the presentation was that Palestinians are subjected to an unequal, apartheid justice system under the jurisdiction of military courts that have wide latitude under the frame of “state security” to dispense justice as they see fit.  Ultimately, it will require an end to the occupation to reform this system of unequal justice but, in the meantime, Adameer does what it can with the help of eight lawyers and support from some international human rights and prison reform organizations.

Addameer estimates that some 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested since the 1967 war and occupation, including more than 10,000 women and 10,000 juveniles.  Some 4,600 political prisoners are incarcerated in Israeli prisons now.  The apartheid state extends to criminal justice, as the Palestinians are segregated and subject to a separate and decidedly unequal legal system. 

Palestinian political prisoners have been beaten, occasionally killed, and subjected to the full panoply of tortures familiar to followers of the Iraq War: hooding, physical abuse, sleep deprivation, loud music, being tied to tables and chairs, being hanged by the hands for days, causing injury, and more.  An Israeli high court ruling in 1999 curbed some of the abuses in theory but enforcement of the ruling has been almost entirely neglected and there are gaping loopholes for so-called “ticking bomb” cases in which “state security” justifies virtually any treatment of Palestinian political prisoners.  As the speaker noted, “security” concerns always trump the norms of international justice.  Rarely if ever is an Israeli soldier or security official punished for violating the human rights of political prisoners.

“Crimes” committed by the prisoners include protests and demonstrations; writing on walls; alleged connections with anti-Israeli organizations; throwing stones or other forms of resistance, including violence with weapons or explosives.  In some cases these prisoners confess under torture to crimes they may not have committed but the Israeli courts have ruled that even confessions wrought under illegal torture should stand.  Other prisoners confess because of threats to their families; and others falsely implicate other prisoners to gain better treatment for themselves. 

Whereas Israelis get their “day in court” within 24 hours of arrest, Palestinian prisoners under Israeli military rule can be kept for days and weeks before being confronted with charges, by which time many have been forced into confessions or plea bargains.  All of this is performed in Hebrew, often with incomplete translation by incompetent soldier-translators, with confessions presented as if they were made by the prisoners.

Three tiers of justice exist for resistance to the occupation - even for committing the same crime - one for Palestinians, one for internationals, and another for Israelis.  An Israeli might get a wrist slap for participating in a demonstration; an international might be forced to sign a pledge or be deported, whereas a Palestinian might receive months or years in prison for the same “crime.”  

In the past two years an Israeli crackdown and withdrawal of privileges such as family visitation rights, banning of books in Arabic, threats to family members, and ongoing perversions of justice prompted a hunger strike among the Palestinian political prisoners.  It proved somewhat effective but not all privileges have been restored as Israeli officials promised to bring an end to the action.  In conclusion, the existence of thousands of political prisoners and their subjugation to a grossly unequal system of justice flow from the broader realities of Israeli apartheid. 

Adameer secures the release of prisoners and improvement of their situations, but this can only be achieved on a time-consuming and painstaking basis and not in large enough numbers to challenge the pernicious system as a whole.  Unequal justice for Palestinian political prisoners will continue as long as the Occupation remains the dominant social and political reality in Palestine.

October 21 - November 3, 2012

Join Interfaith Peace-Builders for a unique opportunity to learn about the current situation in Israel/Palestine and the effects of the Israeli occupation. Applications from individuals of African descent will be accepted on a rolling basis until August 1, 2012.  Preference granted to community leaders, activists, artists and others who display a strong commitment to activism in their own communities.

Click here for more information and to apply today!


Home Is The Nucleus
By Sharif Z.
Excerpted from original piece

. . . . I felt pretty privileged as a Muslim male.  I wasn’t scolded for my attire and I was allowed to enter the Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of The Rock (click here for pictures of our visit).  My roommate Nader and I first went to the Al-Aqsa mosque where two Palestinians were demanding to prove that we were Muslim.  They asked for my passport after I read a couple verses and the first guard started to laugh. He gave the other guard my passport and said “This is a Zakout, Sharif Naser”, I was a little curious why he found that humorous.  We sat in the mosque for a bit then decided to head to the Dome of the Rock.  There was another stern Palestinian elder at the gate who also demanded that I prove my Muslim identity. After some arguing, I told him my name which instantly changed his attitude.  He then happily greeted me and told me I should have given him my name to begin with (I was starting to be concerned as to why both Palestinians and Israeli’s were concerned with my name, it was becoming a trend).  Entering the mosque was a powerful experience.  After praying, Nader and I met up with the rest of the group to visit the rest of the Old City.

We then entered the Christian quarter where we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was considered to have been crucified.  I found it amusing that the keys to the church were actually guarded by a Muslim family as to not create arguments between the different Christian sects.  Shortly after we had some delicious falafel at Abu-Shukri’s (considered the second best falafel in the region), and headed back to the hotel to meet with our first speaker. Although I found the Old City beautiful, I was ready to focus more on current events rather than events that took place thousands of years ago.

We met with Ruth who was a member of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, an organization of Israelis who resist Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories.  Since 1967, more than 26,000 Palestinian facilities have been demolished. In 2011 alone, 622 Palestinian structures were demolished by Israeli authorities, of which 222 were family homes and the rest water and agricultural storage facilities.  Displacement has a particularly overwhelming effect on women and children primarily because it interferes with education.  Displacement also results in post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety.  In 2011, 609 children under the age of 18 were displaced (approximately 66% of total displaced people that year).

This displacement is prominent in areas of area C of the West Bank (controlled by Israeli forces) and East Jerusalem.  A Palestinian may not legally build in these areas without housing permits yet over 94% of all Palestinian permit applications are rejected.  Many Palestinians choose to build their infrastructure to meet their family and community needs and hope that they will be able to avoid demolition.

Most Palestinian families live in fear of losing their homes and the Jerusalem Municipality and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), AKA Israeli Occupation Forces, are able to demolish homes at any time of day without warning.  It is very common for Palestinian children to return home from school to find their homes and belongings destroyed.  Other common scenarios include IDF forces coming in late hours to demolish homes, giving Palestinians only minutes to gather their things and evacuate or risk being crushed by bulldozers.

East Jerusalemites (mostly inhabited by Palestinians) are required to prove by Israeli law that they live in Jerusalem. Even after a Palestinian is born in a Jerusalem hospital, the family must prove status through the Ministry of Information.  A citizen of East Jerusalem is required to go to schools in Jerusalem and subject to pay taxes and face random inspections.  All East Jerusalem Palestinians are checked if they have paid their taxes through checkpoints (which many Palestinians are forced to pass through every day) and are subject to loosing their East Jerusalem permit if they cannot keep up with bills.  

Another problem is that East Jerusalem Palestinians are limited to who they may fall in love with. If they marry a Palestinian from the West Bank, then their spouse cannot move to East Jerusalem. This usually forces East Jerusalem Palestinians to give up their residential status if they decide to live with their families. Keep in mind that Israeli’s are not subject to the same laws.

To read Sharif’s introduction and more about traveling through the West Bank, continue here: http://educatedpalestinian.com/2012/07/18/the-home-is-the-nucleus/


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