I’m now in the “home stretch” of this remarkable undertaking that began almost a year ago when I first learned about EAPPI and began to believe that this was a way in which I might make a difference. Now, with less than two weeks to go before I return home, I find myself pondering just what that means.
|Will the politicians back home believe my stories?
Part of the “gig” when we are accepted as EAs is to do “advocacy” work when we go back home. This means telling our story to any and all who will listen – from politicians to preachers friends, family and the neighbor we meet in the local grocery store. The problem is, after being here for almost three months, with all that I have seen and heard, I find myself wondering if anyone “back home” will even believe me!
Frankly, I won’t blame them – this is my third visit to the West Bank, and I still have trouble believing that what I am seeing and hearing. One of my Tulkarm teammates is still trying to find “logic” in the way things happen here – but logic and occupation are incompatible terms in a place that holds echoes of Orwell’s 1984.
The language of Occupation uses words that a lot of people don’t like to hear and don’t want to believe. Terms like “wall,” “checkpoints,” “seam zone,” and “agricultural gates” need to be explained and, even then, it is difficult to comprehend that ordinary people need to go through such extraordinary means just to go to work or to access their fields.
|All children deserve education!
Access to education is another difficult concept. Shouldn’t every child have the right to “free, compulsory and quality education”? UNICEF thinks so – but apparently the occupying force (i.e. the Israeli Army) does not. And so we monitor school gates and escort children to school – and give thanks that it is not our children and grandchildren having to endure this!
And what about the arrests of children, some as young as seven, who are taken from their homes in the middle of the night, blindfolded and held for hours, days or even months without ever being charged with a crime or allowed to see a lawyer. I wouldn’t have believed that this could happen in a country as “civilized” as most believe Israel to be if my EA colleagues hadn’t witnessed and reported on it. And, if children are brought to trial in the West Bank, it is before a military tribunal, while Israeli children (including settler children living illegally in the West Bank) who are arrested are tried in civilian courts.
|A child under arrest
And is anyone aware that adults could be arrested without charges and held indefinitely without being charged? In most of the “civilized” world, there exists a process called habeas corpus (Latin for “show us the corpse,” legalese for “what crime is this person charged with?”), and people who are arrested have to either be charged or released within a matter of days. Not here in the West Bank! As of this writing, a hunger striker is close to death in protest of this “system,” yet the world is silent and largely ignorant.
Some people will hear my stories and say, “oh, yes, but they deserve it. They are terrorists.” Or, “Well, the Israelis have to protect themselves from the suicide bombers and missile-throwers.”
Yes, there are a few “bad apples” in the Palestinian barrel. Just as there are in the US, Israel and any other place you can name. But having lived among them for the past three months, I can vouch that the Palestinians with whom I have come in contact are just ordinary people, trying to live their lives the best way they can, and wishing only for peace and a better future for their children.
The actions of the militant few (many of whom, I would add, are in Gaza, a place that I do not know and will refrain from commenting on!) embarrass and sadden the majority of their countrymen; just as the actions of people like Timothy McVeigh or Adam Lanza embarrass and sadden Americans.
So, readers – do you believe the stories I have been telling you? Do you think my audience back home (whether an individual who innocently asks, “how was your trip?” or a civic or church group that has come together specifically to hear what I say) will believe that one of the United States’ closest allies and “only friend in the Middle East” is really doing the things it is doing?