< Report Six:  Departing the Dystopia (Final Thoughts)

An Honest Broker? The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Delegation to Palestine/Israel
June 10, 2013

Travel Documents
By Susan Bramhall

As we prepared to leave and travel out of Israel, travel documents and restrictions were on my mind.  Israeli policies create a maze of bureaucracy in its tangled and twisted requirements for different people based on where they were born and what their ethnicity is. Consider travel documents.

One of delegation member was born in the United States of non-Jewish Palestinian parents.  She is a US citizen and travels on a US passport but to avoid extended interrogation at Ben Gurion airport she must enter and exit through Amman, Jordan.  

Another delegation member is also an US citizen, born in the USA to a Jewish Palestinian parent.  His father was born in Palestine in 1944.  Because of this heritage he is required by the Israeli government to travel in and out of Israel using an Israeli travel document and not his US passport.  While he is in Israel the laws that apply to him are those that apply to Jewish citizens of Israel.  This includes a prohibition on entering “Area A” of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  

We, as US tourists traveling with US passports are, at this time, free to travel in both official Israel borders (inside the “green line” drawn by the 1948 armistice) and in the West Bank.  Some are concerned that Israel has future plans to restrict tourist travelers from visiting West Bank areas as well.

Our local guide has lived his entire life in Jerusalem, where he was born.  The part of the city where he was born was in Jordan at the time.  After the 1967 war, he became a resident of East Jerusalem but is not a citizen of any country. He has travel permission because of his East Jerusalem resident status.  If, however, he lives outside Jerusalem for more than 3 years he will permanently lose this status and become a "West Banker".  To travel abroad he uses both Israeli travel documents and a current Jordanian(!) passport.

Palestinian citizens who are not Jewish carry an identity card that labels them with a nationality other than Jewish.  They have different rights and access restrictions from Jewish citizens of Israel who carry an identity card declaring their nationality as Jewish.

"West Bankers" are Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories and have no citizenship at all.  They are subject to Israeli military law, not civil law as Israeli citizens and residents are.  They have no human or civil rights other than those governed by international law.  West Bankers are restricted from travel anywhere outside of the occupied territories without a special permit - including visiting Palestinian family and friends who live in Jerusalem.

Why has Israel created such a Byzantine system of ethnic identification?  Can these policies lead to a moral and ethical Jewish state?  I am afraid it is much too like Apartheid to provide the basis for a democratic state. 


Know What You Fear
By Nabill Idrisi

On our last day, we heard from Reverend Naim Ateek of Sabeel, who discussed how theological ties to this land is often used by Jewish settlers to confiscate Palestinian land, exterminating the previous inhabitants along the way. 

In response to textual-based claims to the land, Reverend Ateek also responds with textual evidence, but of a more inclusive nature: God said to Ezekial, "You have to live together on the land. And you have to share it."

In the post-9/11 Western world, the media often portrays Muslims and Arabs as a violently-inclined, religiously-extremist people who are unable to make peace with their neighbors or each other.  Through my interactions with Palestinians coming from many backgrounds, however, I know first-hand this to be untrue. 

Instead, I see a peaceful people who seek the freedom to live their life as anyone else of any faith.  The exaggeration of fear here is similar to what I experience in the US, and which also caused the Israeli security to hold me (the only Muslim delegate) for 3-hours of questioning upon my arrival.

Issa of Hebron's Youth Against Settlements - whose name means "Jesus" in Arabic - also noted that Westerners need to dispel their perception that this conflict is caused by stereotypical notions of Muslim fanatics or terrorists.  He didn't deny that violence didn't happen, but he implored us to ask ourselves why it happens.

His observation reminded me of an apt quote by Israeli journalist Amira Hass in the film Occupation 101: "Any violence by a large population is not because the people [are] more violent than any other . . . it's a signal that something is wrong in the treatment of this population."

VIDEOS: Voices of Palestinian Christians
By Ralph Watkins

Ralph posted these two videos featuring prominent members of the Palestinian Christian community whom the group met during their last few days on the ground. Click here for all the video posted during this delegation.

The first video features Father Jamal Khader of the KAIROS Palestine committee:

The second video features Reverend Naim Ateek, a founder of Sabeel: The Palestinian Center for Liberation Theology:


Seeing with One Eye
 By Ralph Watkins

As a photographer/videographer I spend my time on the road taking pictures and making video by looking through a viewfinder. The viewfinder is that little thing you look through with one eye to compose the picture/frame.  To look through the viewfinder demands that you close the other eye while simultaneously squinting the right eye to see through the viewfinder.  As you frame the shot you are making an intentional decision to see some things and not see others. The shot is intentionally discriminating. You are trying to compose the shot in such away as to make it interesting or at least to what interest you (the one doing the framing). 

What does all this photography talk have to do with my trip to Palestine/Israel?  When we come on journeys like this we are looking through the viewfinder.  We can only see so much in the time we have on the ground.  Our viewfinder finds us in conversation with some and not having a hearing with others.  There is so much of the land we can see, touch and feel.

I leave here knowing I have framed the shot, conversation and interaction. I have literally lived in a viewfinder for these past two weeks. I only know in part.  The part I know is my experience. 

I know what I felt; I know when I cried; I know when it was clear in my viewfinder that injustice was in the frame.  I say to all of my friends, please come and see.  See for yourself. 

What is in your viewfinder?  What have you chosen (consciously or unconsciously) to see and not see?

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


Wishing for Peace, Praying for Justice
By Susan Landrum

One of the highlights of this trip has been spending time with Viola, our youngest delegate. She is vibrant, intelligent and a shock of energy to our group. Viola is four years wise and her insights into this conflicted place are invaluable to my experience.

We spent the night in Bil’in last week, the town featured in the documentary Five Broken Cameras (watch it if you haven’t yet!). While walking along their section of the wall, where brave men protest week after week with acts of non-violent resistance, Viola picked up a rock that quickly became a magical wishing rock. As she and I strolled together with a few of our other friends, she taught us the wishing ritual to activate the rock. We took turns stroking the rock, rubbing it in our hands, tossing it gently into the air and after these imperative steps, were ready to make wishes. Viola gave us clear instructions that our wishes had to be “about stopping the occupation or peace.” So, I wished that the wall that divides Palestinians from one another, from land that they have cultivated for generations, come tumbling down. Viola, with deep conviction and passion, wished “for the occupation to stop and for Palestinians to be free.”

Later that night, while sitting on the porch of a beautiful home in Bil’in, we celebrated the birthday of our hosts’ son, Muhammad. He was turning eleven years old and surrounded by his parents, siblings, grandmother, cousins and many homemade treats, we all sang him “Happy Birthday.” His baby cousin was also turning one so we sang to her as well. There weren’t any candles or any wishes, like our tradition here at home, but the voices lifting up to wish them a happy birthday felt like a wish for their future.

As I pack my bags to return to Atlanta, I am not full of wishes but heavy with prayer – prayers for peace, for collective strength, for people on all sides of this conflict, prayers of gratitude for the loving-kindness we have witnessed, the hospitality we have received and prayers for profound, transforming justice that will break down walls, eradicate checkpoints, remove road blocks and unite divided communities.

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


Playground Tour of Palestine
By Ilise Cohen

Our four year old Viola also participated in the delegation to Israel/Palestine. At some point early on she asked me, "Mommy, are you really mad? I am really mad at the Israeli government and what they are doing!"

Viola had her own delegation experience through the eyes of child and shared some of the experiences she was having with us. 

When we visited the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, several children approached Viola and immediately started to interact with her. Viola asked them "Shu Ismeek" in Arabic to find out their names and replied in Arabic to share her own name. They held her hands and hugged and kissed her throughout the walk through the camp. At some point one of the little girls invited us to come to their house for her birthday the next day. Since we were on a schedule it would not have been possible.

At some point when the group was far ahead of us and we had to say goodbye to the children, Viola burst out crying saying “these are my new friends, I am sad I may never get to see them again.”

At that moment, I realized that not only was the situation for Palestinians challenged by the ongoing oppression of separation and occupation, but also of the impossibility of the developing of relationships because of how difficult the wall and separation create. Her tears were real; for her it made no sense as to why we could not stay or come back for a birthday party. The children were so sweet and welcoming, and this is something that Viola longs for. 

The next day we went to Bil'in. Viola had met Iyad Burnat, one of the nonviolent resistant leaders, when he came on tour to the US and stayed with us in Atlanta. When Iyad was at our home, he skyped with his family and viola had the opportunity to meet his wife T'sheel and his daughter Mayar online. Viola for months has been excited about meeting them at their home in Bil'in. When she saw Iyad she immediately grabbed his hand and wanted to walk with him.

Viola stood where the old wall used to be in Bil'in; the one the villagers along with internationals, Palestinians and Israelis used nonviolent demonstrations and strategies to get moved. The wall was moved and this time it was a concrete wall.

There was a playground the village had built not far from the new wall. Viola was very excited to play there. When Viola heard that there were demolition orders to the playground, she was very upset. She could not understand why they would want to destroy a playground, especially when she believes that instead of building walls and demolishing homes and playgrounds, they should be building playgrounds and parks. When she had an opportunity to play there again, it seemed like the whole village of Bil’in kids were there. They asked her name, her age, and Viola was happy also to interact with them. The form of resistance to build a playground in the space that most represents continued oppression was brilliant. 

Two soldiers heads popped up over the cement wall when Viola, my husband Dan, and I were walking to meet with the rest of the group at a lookout point to the settlement that is built on the land of Bil'in. Viola called out to the soldiers, "I don't like this wall" and they said, "We don't like it either." So viola says, "Well, tear it down!"

Though I had to repeat her words so the soldiers could hear, I was proud of her calling out something that makes much more sense than any of the craziness we were seeing.  At the same time, you can hear the relentless tapping of the construction taking place as the nearest settlement continues to grow from early morning until night.

To say the least, viola was very upset about leaving the Burnat house the next morning because she had a wonderful time with the whole family. Everyone was so warm and welcoming and happy for her to visit. Tsheel said, “Leave Viola here and come back for her in a few days.”  All I could think was how the wall again separated the possibility for Viola to just stay.

Because we were both on the move and the challenges of movement, we could not say, “Okay, we will come get her later.”  She is four and has not spent time away from us, so even though she may have been interested, we were not about to try it now for a few days. It made me sad that what would be a 'normal' possibility in other situations was much more challenging here. 

Viola got to play also with Naomi, granddaughter of a Mizrahi feminist activist in Ashdod. The playground was enormous, there were no visible walls, but the peripheralizing of the Mizrahi community was a reminder of how difficult and how far they are from the center physically and in decision making. After a profound talk by Reuven Aberjiel (a former Israeli Black Panther) about the Mizrahi tragedy in Israel, we got up to leave again, making our way back to Jerusalem. 

In Hebron, we had a meeting with the spokesperson for the Israeli  settlement community in the core of the city center. Right inside the settlement was a playground surrounded by Beit Hadassah and setter housing.  There were no children there for her to play with but a quiet empty setting. She had access to this playground but the Palestinian children did not. This was only for the Israeli settler children. From the settler’s playground, you could look down through a fence and see the old city market in Hebron. 

Issa, our Palestinian guide, took us on a tour through the old city market, showing the spaces taken over by settlers: the settlements in the old city.  Viola asked "Why do the Israelis throw their trash on the Palestinian market?" she was commenting on the chicken wire that is lined over the top of the market to catch what the Israeli settlers throw. 

We ended up in a plaza area that settlers had tried to take over many times. However it is now a public open space with a playground and place to eat for Palestinians. Viola played there with some of the Palestinian children. Even though Viola cannot really communicate with them in a shared language, they immediately welcomed her to play, to spin, and crawl through tunnels and she knew no difference other than they were children who were also were overjoyed at the chance to play. 

There was not a place where she, our Jewish child, was not fully and totally welcomed to play in Palestinian areas, or even in Jewish areas. But inevitably, viola was exposed to some of the most painful segregation, separation and witness to oppression that Palestinians face, moreso than most Jewish adults who take their Birthright or Jewish Agency trips to Israel.

How is it that our daughter at four years old, has a deeper and more compassionate understanding of the situation here than the majority of the US Jewish community? How might this make a difference in real and ethical responses and calls for an end to the occupation if Jewish folks and others could imagine their outrage and disgust at such oppressive policies if it were their own children who were being oppressed? 


By Larry Hendel

Of all the places we visited, Hebron felt, to me, like the craziest and saddest. In the other West Bank cities we saw, the Israeli settlements are built on the hillsides surrounding the Palestinian towns. When Palestinians look towards the horizon, they often see thousands of settler apartments, carefully planned suburban communities, with green lawns, pools, and plenty of water and space, while they struggle under apartheid conditions.  This is bad enough.  But in Hebron the settlers are right on top of the Palestinian residents.

To protect the settlers, who are among the nastiest and most aggressive, the Israeli government has taken a piece of the center city, called “H2”, where they run the show. Literally. Even though under the Oslo Peace Accords, the Palestinian Authority is supposed to have civil authority in the big cities, in Hebron there is this special arrangement, and the Israeli government runs everything in H2,  protecting the several hundred settlers who have moved in.

The UN, Christian Peace-Maker Teams, B’Tselem, and other humanitarian organizations, often list Hebron as a place where the occupation has been the most starkly devastating to the political and economic rights of the Palestinian people.    Just google Hebron and you can find a ton of information on this.

In H2, you can feel the occupation maybe more than any of the other places we visited. In what’s left of the “Gold Market”(hundreds of years old), Israeli settlers live in apartments above the narrow streets and armed Israeli soldiers with walkie-talkies brazenly watch your movements from rooftops less than 30 feet above.  The settlers like to drop things from their windows onto the people below, everything from trash, to pieces of plywood, 2 X 4’s, chairs, bricks, you name it, so much so that the Palestinians have had to build  wire mesh canopies over the street to protect themselves (and visitors) from being injured from the discarded projectiles. The Israelis have forcibly closed many of the stalls in the market, welding shut the doors. Barbed wire is everywhere.

Unlike a lot of the settlers in the West Bank who are there because the government provides subsidized housing, Hebron settlers are the poster children of the ideologically driven.   Bibles in hand, they are on a mission to expand Jewish interests throughout Palestine. They have built a museum and shrine to their movement, and we met there with their representative, David Wilder. About 60, he is from New Jersey, and could be a commentator for Fox News. However, unlike Sean Kennedy or his ilk, Wilder wears a yarmulke, tsitsis under his shirt, and a revolver attached to his belt at all times, even when he was speaking to our delegation.  As a joke he said we were free to raise whatever points we wanted, and if he disagreed, well that’s why he was carrying a gun. Ha ha.  

In the middle of the city, and one of the focal points of antagonism, sits the Tomb of the Patriarchs. This is where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their wives, Sara, Lea and Rebecca are supposedly buried (Rachel, the remaining matriarch, is supposedly buried in Bethlehem).  Some say Joseph is buried there as well. Much of the conflict in Hebron between Arabs and Jews for the past hundred years has been connected to this holy site.

The most recent atrocity was in 1994 when an American settler named Baruch Goldstein entered the mosque on the Jewish holiday of Purim, killing dozens and wounding hundreds.  Wilder claimed Goldstein was just a guy who snapped. But some Palestinians told us they have evidence that the Jewish authorities knew what was going to happen, and turned a blind eye towards it. Goldstein’s gravesite has been treated as a shrine by some Israeli settlers who clearly do not see his actions as those of a “lone wolf” who went nuts, but as a hero.

At the tomb itself, heavily armed Israeli soldiers are everywhere.  There are two entrances, one for Jews and one for Muslims. Christians can access either.   It’s ridiculous.  If Abraham, the presumed father of all three religions, is truly buried there he must be turning in his grave at the failure of his children to live in peace, at the insanity of people of faith not being able to enter his tomb side by side.   But don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say, like many Americans and Israelis do, that there is blame equally on both sides.  The 45 year old military and civil occupation, the Israeli imposition of martial law onto millions of Palestinians, and the deprivation of their rights, is by far the greatest impediment to peace, and it must end today.


Day Ten: Hebron
By Noura Erakat

Hebron is the harshest site of structural and physical violence against Palestinians.

Settlers began to colonize Hebron in 1967 in what they regard as their "homecoming." They are ideologically motivated and are more committed to being on the land - which they believe belongs to them by divine decree - than they are to the State of Israel. Their nonsensical conception of divine real estate is upheld by the presence of three Israeli soldiers and a brandished weapon for each settler together with complete impunity for their systematic attacks on Palestinians.

Unlike other settlements that are built on Palestinian hilltops to facilitate the surveillance and control of Palestinians, the settler community in Hebron is built in the middle of the city forming a donut hole that geographically, socially, and economically fragments the entire city. There is nothing holy about Hebron today.

David Wilder, head of the Hebron Settlement Council and a US-born Jewish man, explained that whereas Hebron was off-limits to non-Muslims from 1260-1967, today it is accessible to anyone and everyone. He does not mention that as a result of 600 settlers in the middle of Hebron, the city's 200,000 Palestinians have lost 1,000 homes, have had 1,800 of their businesses closed and confiscated, and that they must pass through a series of 20 checkpoints within their own city.

Issa Amro, a Palestinian born and raised in Hebron and a leader of Hebron Youth Against Settlements, knows David very well. Issa read us a letter that David sent to the Israeli Army in which he urges Israeli military forces to administratively detain the youth activist "for his own good." That is a euphemism for indefinite detention without charge or trial.

David wrote the letter after Issa led a march of Palestinians and Israelis wearing face masks of Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. on the day that Obama landed in Tel Aviv in March 2012. As Obama disembarked his plane, military forces beat and arrested Issa for his peaceful appeal for a just solution.

Issa believes he will be placed under administrative detention soon. The Army arrested him for incitement after he gave an interview to Al Jazeera Arabic where he described his group's nonviolent approach and activism. He protests the systemic confiscation of Hebron lands, the criminalization of its Palestinian population, and the policies aimed at forcing its residents to leave.

The Old City, for example, has been all but closed. Palestinians must enter through revolving metal gates common to prisons to enter its narrow streets. Atop the destitute businesses that persevere in the Old City, settlers steadily colonize the rooftops. Those settlers throw garbage, stones, and even acid onto the Palestinians below in an overt effort to drive them out.

In response to a question about Baruch Goldstein, the Israeli settler who killed 29 Palestinians as they prayed in the Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994, David explained "You can count on one or two hands the Jews who have used violence that was not in self-defense."

Another delegate asked him about the culture of fear within Israeli society. David, who wore a pistol on his hip, responded, "We don't live in a culture of fear. Everywhere we go we're marked because someone wants to kill us . . . there are people who still want to wipe us out and we cannot depend on anyone else to protect us."

He proposes that parents of Palestinian children who throw stones be deported to Lebanon.

Issa, like all other Palestinians does not have anyone - a state, an international force, a pistol, or his own self - to protect him. Settlers physically assault, spit on, and expose themselves to Palestinians in Hebron as Israeli soldiers watch. The Army only intervenes if a Palestinian reacts in any way; then, the soldier detains the Palestinian. Issa explains, "I am a non-violent activist but I believe in defending myself. The problem is that I cannot."

Under military law, Issa explains, he is guilty until he can prove otherwise while the Israeli settlers are innocent until proven guilty.

In the Orwellian and Apartheid reality of Hebron, even self-defense is an ethnically-based category

This report is an excerpt of a post which originally appeared on Noura's facebook page. 


Hebron’s Dystopian Reality
By Stephanie Simpson

In a once bustling city marketplace the shops are welded shut. The street that once housed the meat sellers, the fruit sellers and the artisans are blocked off, and the most beautiful of all, the Gold Market, is now filled with refuse. The older generation remembers a time when people would travel great distances to purchase the textiles, glass and pottery produced in his city, but not anymore.

Today, members of a different faction of society build rooms on top of existing structures, reigning garbage and stones from above to intimidate their neighbors into leaving.  Today, there are soldiers patrolling from the roofs of the buildings, watching everything and governing all of those unlucky enough to live below under strict military law. Tensions are high and as the summer begins and water is scarce for the people on the ground, anything is possible.

Sound like the intro to a new, bestselling dystopian fiction novel that will sweep stores this summer? Is it perhaps the first of a new trilogy of books following a ragtag group of characters that warm your heart? This intro is close to reality in Hebron. Spending the day there, this is much of what I saw in the Palestinian area of the city.

Our delegation spoke with two men who remembered growing up in a bustling city full of commerce, whose current reality includes non-violent protests and constant danger of incarceration or worse as they try to protect their homes while living under military law.

As I looked around, I found their situation to seem more and more like the dystopian novels that I love, where the oppressed protagonists struggle against their oppressors only to pull through for a dramatic, unlikely victory in the end. The problem is: this bestselling novel still needs a happy ending.


When All You Have is a Rock!
By Ralph Watkins 

We started our day by hearing a settler make his case for settlements . . .  As David Wilder gave us a tour of the museum in the Israeli settlement in downtown Hebron he was brandishing his gun on his waist like all of the armed settlers.  As we ended the tour and he began to engage us in dialogue I concluded that ideologues on both ends of the continuum are very difficult to learn from because they don’t give ground to other side. 

Let’s get back to my rock issue.  One of the things that has gotten my attention the most while being here has been stories about little boys who are put in jail for throwing rocks.  What does this have to do with David Wilder?  While David Wilder was brandishing his gun on his hip in response to a question from our delegation about rock throwing and kids being put in jail he basically responded, “We have to do what we have to do to protect ourselves.”

My response to David Wilder: “Kids who throw rocks aren’t protecting themselves but rather they are trying to liberate themselves.  They are intent in finding some way to make this system listen.”  A system that denies them the right of peaceful protest and nonviolent resistance.   They have no due process rights?  No rights to an attorney?  No marinade rights . . . What’s left? I guess all they have are rocks.  

When you leave people no choice what do you expect?  Should you expect them to throw rocks?  I am bringing a rock home, not as a souvenir but as a reminder.  What do you do when all you have is a rock?

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


Tel Aviv’s Underbelly
By Noura Erakat

. . . Within Israeli society there is a stark hierarchical order that privileges Ashkenazi - or European white Jews - above all others, namely Mizrahim (Middle Eastern) and Sephardim (Spanish), non-Jewish Russians, Ethiopian Jews, and well below the last rung on this racial ladder - Palestinians are steadfast.

The non-white Jewish population is a majority in Israel but white Ashkenazi Jews control government, capital, and the highest military posts. As put by one of the founders of Windows, a Hebrew-Arab youth magazine, "To be accepted in Israeli society, you must be racist . . . the government convinces us that the only way that we can survive is by controlling others."

We saw yet another dimension of this racism in Levinsky Park this morning. Located in south Tel Aviv, the park has become an open air homeless non-shelter for African refugees who have been granted entry, but not absorbed into Israel. In its effort to whitewash its colonial racism, Israel has admitted entry to nearly 40,000 Sudanese and Ethiopian refugees. It will not, however, consider them for asylum. Instead, it pours the non-Jewish asylum seekers into south Tel Aviv which has been turned into a slum and is waiting for the right opportunity to return the refugees from whence they came.

Israel is a party to the Refugee Convention and assuming that it has given these persons temporary protection, it should provide them with shelter, education, health care, food aid, and the opportunity to work even if they are not eligible for asylum. Instead, this destitute African population can be penalized for working; though their employers are not punished for employing them. 

The neighborhood we walked through lacked a single urinal making every available corner into a site of public relief. As we left, one of the delegates lamented that we did not see Tel Aviv - I explained, this is Tel Aviv, just not the one Israel wants you to see, like much of the ugly face that it masks.

We were only a few miles away from Yaffa, one of the oldest cities of the world on par with Jericho and historically a beautiful Palestinian sea port. In early 1948, Yaffa was home to 80-120,000 Palestinians, as a result of war and an ethnic cleansing project, only 3,000 - 4,000 Palestinians remained after Israel's establishment. We met a descendant of one of those few thousand Palestinians who did not flee - a 25-year old leader of the Yaffa Youth Movement: a movement that aims to empower Palestinian youth and to resist their criminalization and erasure. He explained to us that Israelis have criminalized Palestinians for merely existing and "youth wear Reeboks so that they can easily run from the police when they need to."

Elsewhere in Yaffa, Palestinian landmarks are being supplanted with yuppy consumerist delights. The port, which no longer profits its original fisherman and where farmers no longer sell their infamous oranges, is the site of a series of Israeli artisan shops and exhibits.

Every site of Palestinian existence is meticulously covered, in Yaffa it is an art exhibit, in the Negev, it will be a forest, in most other places the State erects settlements. But when you travel with a standard tour guide to Palestine, hearing these stories is nearly impossible. Only until very recently were Jerusalemite Palestinians eligible for a tour guide license. The Israeli Ministry of Tourism excluded them because of the danger their memory posed to the Zionist project and narrative. Today there of the 9,000 licensed tour guides in Israel, only 180 are from Jerusalemite Palestinians and they are monitored the most closely.

Dangerous minds, indeed.

This report is an excerpt of a post which originally appeared on Noura's facebook page. 


The Words of the People We Have Met
By Leslie Leonard

. . .  I have learned more than I ever thought I could learn about this region and its struggles, to the point of oversaturation. I've been taking notes fairly dutifully during our meetings and collecting a lot of publications, so I have a wealth of information to bring back with me. I hope I will be able to use this in constructive ways. One thing is certain: I will come back changed. You can't come here and see/hear/learn/eat what we have seen/heard/learned/eaten and NOT be changed . . .

So. Without over-dramatizing the situation (it speaks for itself), I'd like you to consider these last thoughts, in the words of the people we have met (a sample of Palestinians and Israelis, secular and religious):

"Palestinians have to pay [literally] for their own oppression."

"[In the Israeli military], I understood we weren't just there to protect the settlements, but to support and expand them."

"Apartheid is defined as systematic, institutionalized, legalized racism."

"During the summer in Ramallah, we have water for only 6 hours a week. People in the settlement up there are watering their lawns and swimming in pools."

"Evil on this scale can't live forever."

"The law isn't a friend of the oppressed."

"In the absence of political will there are no human rights."

"It's not easy to be a Christian in the Holy Land. Because always you have to forgive. Love your neighbor. Refuse to be enemies."

"My neighbor has a swimming pool and I am not allowed to collect the rainfall."

"There is a lot of sympathy, which turns into support, and sometimes unconditional support for Israel because of the Bible."

"The entire Israeli economy is implicated in the occupation."

"If you're making loud statements, you want them to be correct."

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