< Report Five: Returning With Open Eyes >

Trees of Peace: Olive Harvest Delegation to Palestine/Israel
November 6, 2012

This delegation traveled concurrently with
the 2012 African Heritage Delegation > > >

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.



Visible and Invisible Walls of Oppression
By Brad Ogilvie

These are some of the common narratives that have been told here in Israeli/Palestine.  Before I proceed further, let me clearly state that this posting is not to excuse any bad and abusive atrocities by the Israeli Military or settlers against Palestinians. But as I hear these tails of injustice, I can't help but think we have these same narratives in the US, and by not seeing these, we are going to be challenged to get to the root causes of division that lead us all the way through the spectrum of violence.

When I have mentioned this to some people, they say "well at least we have laws to prevent this in the states."  This provides absolutely no comfort to me.  It feels like we are saying "sorry our society is so unjust, abusive, violent and prejudiced, but we will give a pass on accountability because we mean well."  To take comfort in laws while ignoring the outcomes misses the real hard work - the same work that we seem to be expecting to be done in Israel, as if we are better practitioners.  Our walls in the states are just as entrenched, just more invisible.  Here's my take on how our walls of segregation and prejudice play out in the states, despite our laws:

Laws are one thing.  Enforcement and access to laws is another.  Basically one's ability to have the law work for them has a direct connection to how much money they have to pay a good lawyer.  The economic injustice prevails.

We may not have blatant walls and checkpoints, but we have rivers, tunnels, bridges and trains.  These often serve as real and symbolic barriers to segregation and access, and used in a myriad of ways.  In DC, there is the "east of the river" concept.  Train stops, as another example, are sometimes lacking (in the case of Georgetown) to keep some people out, while in other places in DC make getting to a low-paying job an ordeal.  

Inner-city violence and rural drug addiction have a direct connection to poor funding for schools, high unemployment and racism/elitism (consider how we classify people in Appalachia as "hicks").

Our prison system is another tool of legalized segregation and injustice, where blacks account for 44% of the incarcerated population.  Those corrupt corporate elite who ruin countless lives in the name of greed walk freely (and in luxury), while those who suffer from their greed are stuck in cycles of violence, abuse, unemployment, addiction and debt all over the country. 

The cultural violence is also reflected in higher suicides and murders in many places or among certain groups.  The government/military doesn't have to do it because we do it to ourselves while the rich and powerful thrive.

Military indoctrination?  Considering that military service is one of the last remaining ways youth can escape the cycles of poverty in their communities all over the world, we have that.  Furthermore, we don't call people dedicated to breaking the cycles of violence in the name of peace "heroes"; we save that for the troops, and do it persistently in everything from sports announcements to priority boarding on airplanes.  Americorps folks don't get that. 

While we don't have home occupations and settlements, we do have predatory loans, right of public domain, and suburban expansionism into rural communities that often displace people.  One Palestinian farmer here, for example, turned down a "name your price" offer for his farm.  He could have been rich.  He chose to stay and fight in a very peaceful and honorable way.  It's inspiring, and I wish more in the states would be so principled, but he also could have been rich.  To me, this is less an example of a victim as a noble person.  

This is not a "tit-for-tat" issue to me.  It's an attempt to normalize the all-too-common narrative that takes place in Israel/Palestine, Washington DC, West Virginia, New Orleans, Pine Ridge, you name it.  Internationally, I see the same in rural Kenya.  The oppressor has a foot on the neck of the oppressed.  In places like the US, it is done so brilliantly that we hardly notice it.  This is not meant to say "so just accept it", but to say "let's unite."  To say "at least we have better laws" does not promote that unity. 

Let's not look at the laws; let's look at the outcomes and come together with greater passion and wisdom that we are all in this fight together.   I believe the change will come when we stop competing for who has the greatest victim narrative.  When those of us in places of privilege deem that the suffering of a group across the oceans is worse than that of those around us, it raises questions and concerns about what we are saying about the value of all people.  However, when truly start relating as equals with a commitment to move forward together, that's when I think we will see our way to greater global justice.

This report is excerpted from Brad's blog. Read the full post at http://williampennhouse.blogspot.co.il/2012/11/visible-and-invisible-walls-of.html


Eye-opening and Jaw-dropping
By Jan Cebula

At the Heathrow airport in London as we were preparing for the last leg of our journey back home, Elissa, one of our delegation members, was saying that as part of studying improvisation she learned to imitate people and could imitate everyone on the delegation. I asked her to imitate me. As she did so, she explained that when I heard something surprising or shocking during our meetings I would look up from taking notes and open my mouth. Indeed, this IFPB delegation has been an eye-opening and jaw-dropping experience.

How could one not be shocked by the pervasive, systematic discrimination and oppression of the Palestinian people and the impact on their daily lives? Travel restrictions, checkpoints, the wall separating Palestinians from one another and their olive groves, demolition and eviction orders, mushrooming illegal Jewish settlements strategically planned to prohibit expansion of Palestinian villages, highways upon which only Israelis can drive, harassment by settlers and soldiers, endless court battles, denial of permits to build, limited or no access to electricity and water… all sending messages about inferior status, keeping people separated and fearful…and apparently used to try to force people from their land or to “self deport.”

But there was also another jaw-dropping experience…that of witnessing the resilience, courage and strength of the Palestinians and Israelis that are resisting the occupation, working for change through the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement, assisting with court challenges, engaging in nonviolent resistance, forming cooperatives, empowering youth and refusing to act as enemies by building bridges and relationships. They were truly inspiring. In them lies the hope despite the overwhelming reality of occupation and inequality.

So what now? We were told that the Palestinian people feel abandoned by the international community and were asked to tell their stories. That we will do, no matter how unbelievable they will sound to others. We were asked to support the good things that are happening there so we will spread the word about buying fair trade products from Canaan, get the word out about Tent of Nations, the nonviolent resistance of the villages in South Hebron Hills and Nabi Saleh, encourage people to boycott and divest and lobby our elected leaders to stop U.S. funding.  


Palestinian Bedouins Struggle to Survive
By George Meek

On the way to the humble tents of the Bedouins, we drove through the lush and illegal Jewish settlement of Ma'ale Adummim, a posh community of 40,000 that has no shortage of water. In fact, Bedouin advocate Angela Godfrey-Goldstein told us the settlement uses up to eight times as much water as nearby Palestinian villages, and is a veritable oasis of well irrigated palm trees and ancient olive trees taken from Palestinian farmers.

Angela says "There never can be peace unless the settlers leave."

We drove a few miles down the road to the poor Jahalin Bedouin village encampment, which is struggling to survive against settler harassment and ongoing threats of forced displacement.

What a contrast!

Village leader Eid Abu Hamis told us that water and grazing land are critical for his people, whose only source of income is their animals. They used to have 1,600 sheep and goats (plus a few camels), and now are down to 140 to support their 22 families. When settlers closed access to springs and wells, the Bedouin illegally tapped water pipes for a while and now have an arrangement to pay for water from the company. Every year the settlers move their boundary closer to the Jahalin, and they have killed and maimed Bedouin children with booby traps and instead of accepting responsibility, made the parents pay fines for trespassing.

With international help, the community has built a beautiful school from tires and mud, and installed some solar panels to supplement its generator for electricity. Obviously they would like to stay where they are, but their days may be numbered. Eid says the High Court has temporarily blocked the army's order to displace them to Jericho, but it could be reinstated and carried out at any time.

"If you take a Bedouin out of the desert, you kill him," Eid explains.

This report is excerpted from George's blog. Read the full post at http://seekpeaceinpalestine.blogspot.co.il/2012/11/palestinian-bedouins-struggle-to-survive.html


She wonders, I wonder . . . why are they saying "no"?
By Elissa Goss

Why is it that a school, made of recycled tires and mud, is under a demolition order, while a mile away, there is a community with multiple nice limestone school buildings? Why do some people, have to go to court to get basic water access, considering they live in the desert, while a mile away, there is an outdoor fountain spilling untold amount of gallons of water an hour for a round-a-bout decoration?

Why do parents have to run into grazing fields to find parts of their children's bodies on the ground after they picked up a booby trapped explosive watch or other object?

Why should a father and mother have to search for their daughter in the mountains at night. . . after finally realizing that she should have been home from school by now?

These are the questions members of the Bedouin communities in Palestine-Israel are asking themselves. . . and asking us, as the international community that passively and actively supports Israel's policies. The state of Israel allows for pretty much unrestricted water usage in housing settlements that are illegal under international law (because they are on occupied Palestinian territory) just down the road from displaced Bedouins who lives in shacks and have had to fight for just basic water. They also are finding that their land available for grazing is diminishing in greater amounts year after year forcing them to graze their herds illegally . . . allowing the Israeli military to set booby-traps with explosives in the "closed military zones" meters away from these herders' communities.

And that is the problem . . . the Israeli state doesn't see these people as human beings with families and communities; they only allow themselves to see them as terrorists.

So I ask this: why would a state support the demolitions of schools? What kind of peace do you think you could create by denying education? Creating and supporting community infrastructure that builds human capacity is what is needed . . . not these barriers that tell young children: "I see the evil in you already, before you are allowed to develop the ability to choose your path, your identity, your sense of self and the world . . . I am going to deny this opportunity to you. I will suppress the opportunity within you."

Is the message we want to send to young children and their families in poverty? I don't. But we are . . . by allowing these policies to happen supported by U.S. and international funding and compliance and in our country with our school system. We view children as empty vessels, just needing to be filled with the "right" information instead of cultivating their capacity to flex the human muscle of compassion, integrity, and curiosity. I can't support policies that say no to a child's capacity to develop fully.

This report is excerpted from Elissa's blog. Read the full post athttp://actsofcommonhumanity.blogspot.co.il/2012/11/she-wonders-i-wonderwhy-are-they-saying.html


Faith, Hope and Love: Closing Reflections from Israel/Palestine
By Brad Ogilvie

At our last delegation meeting last Friday afternoon, we had lunch with Rev. Dr. Mitri Rahib, one of the writers of the Kairos Document.  This document was written by Palestinian Christian leaders in the model of the Kairos South Africa Document bringing together peace makers to address oppression and apartheid.

During the lunch - in a beautiful setting in Bethlehem - Dr. Rahib quoted from Corinthians that "there are these three things that endure: Faith, Hope and Love."  He went on to reflect that faith - more specifically the institutions of religion - are at the core of much of the violence we have seen throughout the world. He comments as well that becomes increasingly challenged in the face of violence and oppression.  Hope, however, "is not what we do, but what we see."  

As I look back on my time in this beautiful land with all its conflicts and desires - human, cultural, economic, religious and political - it is where there were voices of hope that I remember being most energized.  It is not that these folks could not see the what was going on around them; in many ways I think they could see more clearly what was going on.  But through all this, they saw hope.  It was not that they could hope or wish their realities away (from the kibbutz within missile range of Gaza to the olive farmer in Birqin); it was their insistence on not giving into anger and despair - committing to welcoming people in while reaching ever-further out.  They shared a wisdom that our politicians are not our messiahs (a lesson to remember on this election day in comparison to what many felt four years ago.)

Now that I am back in DC and sifting through the emotional, intellectual and spiritual rubble of the past two weeks, I want to put my energy into those places that see hope, not problems and solutions that I suspect will lead to more conflict if they lack hope.  There is going to have to be lots of give and take in this epic struggle over there.  For those of us here in the states, it might also be a good opportunity to practice seeing hope here at home, no matter how things play out today.  If we can't practice it here, what can our realistic expectations be over there?

This report is excerpted from Brad's blog. Read the full post at http://williampennhouse.blogspot.co.il/2012/11/faith-hope-and-love-closing-reflections.html


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