Wednesday, November 29, 2006

 
It has been two weeks since we returned from the 12-dayPeace Making Journey to the Israel/Palestinian Territories. All of us felt that we have gone through a deep transformation.

Here I would like to share one particular visit which had a profound impact on myself as well as the group: B'Tselem (www.btselem.org), which is "The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories". On Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006,we met Eitan Diamond, a young Israeli Jewish lawyer working on researching human rights violations in the Occupied Territories. He began the meeting by reading the verses in Genesis:

"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.' "

With this deep religeous conviction, he committed himself to exposing the human rights violations occurring in the Occupied Territories. He believed that if human rights violations were exposed, people will not allow them to continue. The major violation to human rights he sited "was the limitation of freedom of movement. Since 2000 (the launch of the second intifada), Palestinian freedom of movement was significantly reduced. Few Palestinian jobs were allowed. Many thousands of Palestinians have no place to work, and limitation of the movement of goods severely damaged the economy. While Settlements were illegal under International Law, Palestinians were forbidden to be near settlements. Palestinians were not allowed to use the roads in the Territories; where they were allowed, there were many blocades; access to health care, schools were limited. Many families were split due to severe limitations on Palestinians entering the West Bank. Settlements were treated as 'neighborhoods of Israel'. Most Israelis who lived in the East Jeruselem settlements were treated as from Israel. Walls were built within the Territories. Israeli soldiers would open fire when people came near the wall. Construction of walls on the Territories not belonging to Israel was against International Law. Yet these walls were done to establish facts on the ground. Walls were often placed at the lowest point (i.e. the weakest point); clearly not done for security reasons, but for financial interest for massive expansion plans. Private Palestinian land was confiscated for military needs. Gradually they became for civilian use (settlements). New public land was conficated and used for construction of roads and settlement. More recently, there were cumulative house demolitions. The inhabitants of the demolished homes did not have connections to suicide bombings, but was a punitive measure. Since B'Selem's work, the number of punitive demolitions has reduced (225 punitive demolitions in 2003, compared with 177 in 2004. But there were still many houses and trees demolished for other reasons - such as houses built without permit. There were simply not enough houses to keep up with population growth. Demolition measures were there to discourage Palestinians living in East Jarusalem, done for the expansion of settlement and demogratphic considerations, to keep down the number of Palestinians in Israel. The Greater Jerusalem (including many settlements in occupied Territories) took up as much land as possible. Meanwhile, the Palestinian regions were not provided with services, even though they paid taxes. There were 200,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Israeli soldiers often detained Palestinians and they were severely abused."

I recorded these passages so as to pay trubute to the courage and integrity of this young Israeli Jewish Lawyer. There were many other such courageous people, Israeli Jews, Israeli Palestinian Christians, Israeli Palestinian Muslims, Palestinian Christians, and Palestinian Muslims. Their collective voice to use non-violent approaches to expose these abuses, and to advocate reconcillation reflects God's will that freedom and justice will prevail.

Comments:
Hello Linda!
I enjoyed your comments about the trip. There is certainly a major disconnect between what the media reports about the Israel-Palestine conflict and seeing it in person. Witness how Jimmy Carter has been vilified for his frank portrayal of conditions in the occupied territories. Hope you are well - I was in your group at Bell Labs in Holmdel 20 years ago.
Bob Bingham
 
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