Friday, February 03, 2006

Visit Palestine

Departing Israel/Palestine has been such sweet sorrow. I am so profoundly altered by all the things I saw and experienced. I am moved by the generosity and hospitality of all my hosts, I am inspired by the ways in which they have encouraged and enabled me to pursue social justice and the truth. This is a place, a conflict, a struggle, a state of mind I will return to again and again.

I am excited to move on to the next phase of my journey, I have much ahead of me, the Olympics should be thrilling. However, I am caught up in what I just came from. I watched yesterday from an internet cafe in Roma, live news feeds of Israeli soldiers corralling and battling with settlers illegally squatting (I believe it was outside of Hebron). I am struck by how emotionally fragile my Israeli experience has left me. Watching these terrible confrontations between soldiers, who are just kids younger than myself, angry for having to be there in the first place dealing with crazed racist settlers. And settlers who have been invigorated by a false sense of security provided them by the government. Footage of Israeli forces on horseback trampling hordes of fanatical occupiers, just a frightening sight.

The problem is the more I process it, the more unjust it seems. Palestinians incurring similar forms of resistance would assuredly meet the wrath of live ammunition. Bloodshed in such circumstances is a guarantee.

Of course the settlers are not trying to kill Israeli soldiers, but they pelt them with the same stones that the Palestinians do, seriously injuring the soldiers. We make light of the situation by minimizing it to a case of Palestinians have rocks and Israeli soldiers have guns. These are not small stones, they are dropped or thrown with great force behind them. Just imagine what it would be like to be a scared 19 year-old boy surrounded by mobs of lunatics literally stoning you. You've got an automatic machine gun, and your life to protect, what do you do?

These are serious displays of violence and should be dealt with sternly. That the Israeli government tolerates such acts of internal unrest without legally prosecuting each and every one of the perpetrators further undermines the legitimacy of Israeli rule. This is in addition to the ways in which the Israeli authorities undermine themselves by dealing with the same acts of resistance on a sliding scale of racially prejudicial enforcement.

So Israel, Palestine, whatever exclusion or amalgamation of the two you want to call it, remains an enigma to me. And I now feel more deeply connected to the place than ever before, I think at least this much is good. Forget the labels, people want to know where I stand, I stand for peace (true peace, mind you), equality, and reconciliation. It's just that simple. I will not rest until I see an improvement in the quality of life for both Jews and Muslims, and a cessation of violence between the factions in the holy land.

So visit Palestine. Come to the holy land, and cross the lines. Pass beyond the walls both figurative and tangible. Come to understand that Arabs don’t hate you, and that it is not dangerous to be an American in the West Bank. And at the same time understand how dangerous Israelis and Palestinians have made life for themselves and each other. Understand that if we continue on the current course we are taking in Iraq that we will create a similar circumstance for ourselves. It will only continue to become more dangerous in America, our actions in Iraq are not making us safer. George Bush and his cronies are lying through their teeth. They don’t even believe the lies they tell.

Ask yourself whether you are committed establishing international American hegemony, or whether you would rather just be a citizen of the world. And then visit Palestine.

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