<   Report Two:  "This Struggle is Necessary"   >

An Honest Broker? The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Delegation to Palestine/Israel
May 31, 2013

Two Very Different Walls
By Ann Hunter

Tuesday (my mother’s 91st birthday!) was our first full day in Jerusalem. To beat the tourist crowds we left the hotel very early to visit holy sites in the Old City. . .  We began the real work of our delegation in the afternoon, meeting first with Catherine who works for the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). She presented a lot of information about the conditions and relief work OCHA is doing in the West Bank and Gaza, particularly in regards to threats of loss of land, displacement, and restricted movement and severely limited water use for Palestinians.

To hear firsthand about what it truly means for Palestinians to live in occupied territory is overwhelming, deeply disturbing, and leaves me with some sense of hopelessness about a peaceful solution to the Israeli Palestine conflict. But we also met with Micah, a Jewish Israeli activist who works for Grassroots Jerusalem, an organization advocating for Palestinians who are facing displacement and demolition of their homes. He told us the poignant story of a little girl who took her dollhouse to school because she was afraid her house would be bulldozed while she was away. . .

We finished our day driving through East Jerusalem, seeing Jewish settlements scattered throughout places that had been Palestinian neighborhoods, and then coming to a dead-end on what was once the main road to Jericho. There was the other wall blocking our way, the one separating Jews from Palestinians, the one Palestinians must have a permit to pass through at a checkpoint, the one with graffiti pleading for an end to the violence and occupation.

With thanks to our new friend Ralph Watkins for pointing out the irony of starting and ending our day at two very different walls.

This report is excerpted from the blog of the Central Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. Click here to read in full. 



VIDEO: Reconcile These Walls
By Ralph Watkins

Ralph Watkins posted this video of the delegations’ first full day in Jerusalem:


"I'm Not a Politician.”
By Nuala Cabral

"I'm not a politician. I don't like politics. But we have a political problem that requires our energy."  This was a comment made by one of today's speakers, Fajr Harb, an activist from the youth leadership organization Palestinians for Dignity.

Harb didn't plan on becoming activist. He went to school for engineering because he wanted to better develop his land for his people. The occupation made it difficult for him to solely focus on development. The land is being taken away, along with the rights of his people.

Today Harb and the young people who resist the occupation nonviolently and strategically, risk being arrested, interrogated, tortured and imprisoned. But when we (IFPB delegates) asked him about this, he did not seem fazed. For him this struggle is necessary. Staying complicit is not an option.

I have only witnessed the occupation for two days so far - and it's already clear to me why Harb has made this courageous decision.


Palestinian Prisoners and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement
By Larry Hendel

We held great meetings Wednesday with Palestinian prisoner support activists Salah Hamouri and Randa Wahbe of Adameer, and Omar Barghouti, a primary organizer for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Salah and Randa spoke in chilling detail about the Israeli chokehold on political life in the West Bank today.   Not only are people’s freedom of movement and residency totally controlled by the Israeli government (imagine a combination of PW Botha and Franz Kafka), but thousands have been jailed when they politically organize, including hundreds of adolescents who are routinely incarcerated for minor offenses.  Prisoners are responding with hunger strikes and other actions, and they should be honored as heroes by people around the world.  One of the prisoners we met had been in jail for many years and was released as part of the prisoner exchange worked out in 2011 for captured Israeli captain Gilad Shalit.  This was a difficult session, hard to hear all the stories first hand.

It was followed by an upbeat talk by Omar Barghouti, a primary organizer for the BDS movement.  Mr. Barghouti was buoyant about the growing success of the movement, including Steven Hawkings’ recent refusal to attend a conference in Israel, boycott resolutions from the University of Johannesburg and COSATU, a very positive court decision in England regarding the faculty union’s decision to endorse BDS, and the BDS endorsement by the US Asian American Studies Association, the first US academic association to do so.

According to Omar, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has virtually unanimous support in Palestine from “all parties, all unions,” strong support across all segments of the Arab world, growing support in Europe, and is starting to take root in the US.  It’s so invigorating to be in the presence of activists who radiate hope and enthusiasm in the midst of unbelievably difficult circumstances.  We in the US have a lot to learn.



You Can’t Visit a Checkpoint
By Ralph Watkins

Today we traveled to Ramallah in the West Bank. . . We heard brilliant, brave, courageous activist talk about their struggle against Apartheid under military rule and military law.

To go from Jerusalem to Ramallah you have to pass through the Qalandia Checkpoint.  On the way to Ramallah from Jerusalem you pass right through but on the way back it is a different story.  You have to present your papers to get to back into Jerusalem.  The ironic part is that all Palestinians aren’t allowed to pass through only the lucky few (yet another story).  We walked through the checkpoint to try and get a small sense of what the less than 1% of Palestinians who can pass through have to deal with on the daily.  Literally it was as if we were going into a maximum security prison. 

Walking down the walk way reminded me of something prepared for the slaughter of live stock. Meeting the floor to ceiling turnstile that only let’s a few people in at a time, as buzzers go off, lights flash, and you hear the clanks of the steel.  A guard from behind a glass cage yells orders at you.  You stand and wait, confused, perplexed, angry, sad, frustrated!

How can this be an everyday experience?  How do people live knowing it will take them hours to pass through the checkpoint DAILY! How can innocent human-beings be treated like convicted criminals everyday?  Is this Apartheid?  Is this really happening in 2013?  Is this Military Occupation happening on our watch? 

As I stood in that place today I couldn’t help but weep.  I felt helpless. After hearing presenters earlier in the day tell us they don’t even have the right to protest for rights.  There is no due process under military law. 

 I am completely overwhelmed at this point.  Don’t tell me what you’ve read, don’t tell me what you watched, don’t tell what somebody told you.  Come and see for yourself.  All I can say is: How long?

This report is excerpted from Ralph Watkins' blog. Click here to read in full.

Photos from inside the Qalandia Checkpoint appear in the delegation’s slideshow
Click here to view the slideshow


On the Qalandia "Terminal" crossing into Jerusalem
By Susan Bramhall

If you think the Jewish state of Israel would be sensitive about sending human beings through cattle cages to go to their jobs and schools, you would be wrong.  The closest experience I can recall to walking through the narrow chutes and clanking turnstiles of this crossing from the West Bank into East Jerusalem is when I helped with a round up on a ranch in Arizona herding cattle into a chute so they could be branded.  I found both pretty sickening.


قوة الروح (Strength of Spirit)
by Nabill Idrisi

You can colonize my land,
                busing droves of settlers,
                erecting a concrete wall,
                dividing my grandfather’s village in two.

You can colonize my body,
                imprisoning me for peaceful resistance,
                isolated from my family, with uncertain escape.

You can colonize my mind,
                exporting your narrative,
                erasing my people’s history.

But you can’t colonize my heart:
                I will pass through the checkpoint,
                                with strength and dignity.
                I will rebuild my neighbor’s house,
                                as many times that you will demolish it.
                I will tell my story,
                                even facing deaf ears and hostile mouths.

Merely my existence is resistance to your oppression;
                you cannot destroy our qawwa al-ruh


Freedom Ride
By Susan Landrum

Six young men and women walk up to a bus stop. The other people waiting see them and don’t like the way they look, the way they’re dressed and what they sound like. The crowd starts yelling ugliness, some even throw a punch at one of the young men.

Buses passing by see this and keep going but the seventh bus stops. The crowd and young protesters quickly hop on. The bus is chased down by local police and pulled over and all but the six young people are asked to get off and board a separate bus. The protesters are made to wait until dusk to minimize the scene before they’re arrested with brutal force and hauled to jail where they will be detained for up to eight days before seeing a judge.*

To us, as Americans, this might read like recent history – a defining moment in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. But this happened in 2012, as six brave, young Palestinians climbed on a bus that they are not allowed to ride because its route is on a road that they forbidden to use, connecting illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank to Jerusalem.

The story of this act of civil disobedience and the violent reaction from the Israeli police speak volumes about the current climate in Israel/Palestine and the treatment of Palestinians.

I was humbled to be in a room with one of these six Palestinian Freedom Riders who took great risks to write a chapter of civil rights history. This movement is happening right now, every day, with small and large acts of resistance by an incredible group of committed people. It is an incredible experience to meet them each day of this trip.

*(we learned that an Israeli, in contrast, would be detained for only 24 hours before seeing a judge).

This report is excerpted from the blog of the Central Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. Click here to read in full. 


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