<  Reflection Three:  Past and Present Colliding

July-August 2015 Delegation to Palestine/Israel



Overview: This next installment of trip digests includes more on the affecting visit to Lydd, with Jacob Pace reflecting on the ways Israeli policies often resemble each other in Israel proper and the occupied territory. Liz Gary writes about settlers and settlements in the wake of recent settler violence.  Cindy Tanner writes of Lydd also, and the people she’s meeting working for justice.  Rebecca Katherine Hirsch draws several experiences into her narrative – the Holocaust museum, a tour of East Jerusalem – and considers how to make links between struggles.  Finally, Joy Dworkin paints a portrait of the types of people the delegation is meeting and some of the bureaucratic absurdities delegates are learning more about.


(Where) Does Military Occupation End? | Jacob Pace

One of the interesting things we discovered on our trip to Lydd and Jaffa yesterday was the way that Israeli policies in Jerusalem and other parts of the occupied West Bank mimic Israeli policies practiced inside Israel proper.

Lydd and Jaffa are both mixed towns deep within the Green Line (Israel’s internationally recognized border).  However, the Palestinian communities in both towns face many of the same policies that target Palestinian communities living under Israeli military occupation.  Palestinians in Lydd and Jaffa cannot get building permits to expand their homes or build new homes, they live under poverty, suffer from unequal investment in infrastructure, education, and other basic services, and are targeted by Israeli police because of their race.  At the same time, permits are granted to Jewish Israelis living in the same neighborhood; their schools are funded; infrastructure is built.  There is even a wall running through Lydd separating the upper-middle class Jewish Moshav from the Palestinian neighborhood next to it.

We met Tamer Nafar in Lydd and his tour helped us understand the ways that Israeli policies in Israel impact the Palestinian community.  Tamer is a hip-hop artists and was one of the first people in the Middle East to write and produce rap music in Arabic.  A couple delegates captured video of his tour, including a short verse he spit before we left him on our way to Jaffa.

 Support for Settlers | Liz Gary

A  Palestinian child was burned to death by an act of arson committed by Jewish settlers (Jewish supremacists) in the West Bank.  His parents suffered severe burns and are in critical condition. 

I've heard people in the United States distinguish Israel from the settlers; they are extremists who can't be controlled.  Israel, too, promotes this distinction - Israel condemned this recent act of arson as terrorism.  But of all the injustices I've witnessed on this trip - the humiliation imposed on Palestinian commuters at checkpoints, the unbelievable police and military presence in East Jerusalem in anticipation of protests, the disparity in essential services like education and waste management between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, not to mention the utter lack of equal rights of Palestinians - perhaps the most jarring has been the undeniable support of Jewish supremacists by the Israeli government at the expense of Palestinian communities. 

Micha Kurz of Grassroots Al Quds gave us a tour of a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem where the governmental support provided to Jewish settlers is readily apparent.  The modest Palestinian homes stood in stark contrast to the government subsidized, multi-story, reinforced, gated settlements, adorned with Israeli flags and security cameras.  Palestinian homes have a black water tank on the roof, which contains contingency water for the inevitable periods when the water is shut off.  For Jewish settlers, there is no need to plan for this contingency.  Palestinians are denied permits required for expanding their houses, which forces growing families to leave or expand illegally and risk demolition of the entire home.  On the tour, we pass Jewish settlements undergoing construction of new additions.  We saw a fair amount of litter and garbage waiting to be collected on streets of Palestinian houses.  Micha explained that the municipal budgets provide for garbage collection in this Palestinian neighborhood about once every three weeks (compared to three times a week in the rest of Jerusalem).  In front of the settlement, though, there is not only a station for trash but also recycling collection. Waste collection in front of the settlement is made possible by the paved road which leads directly to the settlement.  This same road allows a bus route to include a stop immediately outside the settlement before turning around and leaving the neighborhood.  This bus does not service Palestinians.  As if the support of the Israeli government for this settlement was not already clear, Micha explains that the Mayor of Jerusalem and the man who is now the President of Israel attended the ribbon cutting ceremony when the settlement opened some years ago.

This disparity is not exclusive to East Jerusalem.  In fact, East Jerusalem is probably the most benign example of Israeli support for settlers compared to other areas of the West Bank, like Hebron (more on that in my next post).

When Jewish supremacists commit acts of violence - like burning a child - so shocking that they gain the attention and tug on the heart strings of the international community, they are condemned by Israel.  Short of that, Jewish settlers are wholly enabled by the Israeli government.  The Settlers carry out precisely what Israel desires but cannot explicitly pursue without international backlash: the Judaization of Palestine. 

 A Journey to Lydd | Cindy Tanner

As I reflect upon the vast amount of information that I have received over the past few days I am humbled. The people that we have met are dedicated to improving the lives of the Palestinians who live in constant fear of being displaced.

Yesterday we spent an hour on a tour of Lydd, a city inside Israel. The Hip Hop artist Tamer Nafar said the city is divided into three parts: 1) Arab Palestinian, 2) mixed Arab Palestinian and poor Jewish Israeli, and 3) middle-class Jewish Israeli. Approximately 60 per cent of the homes in the Arab neighborhood are in danger of being demolished for such things as adding on a room. The residents make improvements out of necessity and without permits. Permits are rarely granted to Arab Palestinians.

Lydd was formerly 98 percent Arab Palestinian. It is now 75 percent Jewish. This is just another example of what I have learned of the Palestinian plight I am glad to have this opportunity to share.


 Making Connections! | Rebecca Katherine Hirsch

Today! What a day! Many started out the day with an early morning tour of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Aesthetically and morally shocking, I remember it being the last time I saw it several years ago. OR IS IT. I spoke with Vegans Against the Occupation members who had some very interesting angles on how to draw parallels between oppressions of Jews past and Palestinians present while remaining sensitive and countering baseless claims of anti-Semitism to calls for justice for Palestinians. A responsible sense of context seems useful here.

We spent the bulk of the day with only one organization - unusual for our group so far which has buzzed around from office to office, city to city with the freedom of movement only a tour bus with yellow Israeli license plates can command.

Micha Kurz of Grassroots Al Quds gave the loveliest, most high-speed history of 20th century Palestine-to-Israel followed by a walking and bus tour of East Jerusalem. Topics of interest included Israeli psychosis and willful ignorance, contextual ideas of place and the uses of borders, mainstream Zionism not just as Jewish nationalism or an existential idea of a Jewish homeland but the very particular manifestation of an homogeneously Jewish state in historic Palestine (itself a historically multicultural place), relationships between the Israeli government and Israeli settlers and the power/purpose of language in mirroring Israeli ideologies or challenging them via neologizing with new terms.

I'm pretty fascinated by claims, ideas and realities and indigeneity and what happens when narratives become reified and codified in public policy (if not law). Past and present collided in the wake of last night's stabbings at Jerusalem Pride by an ultra-rightist Jewish group and the settler attack on a family in Nablus with confrontations between Israeli border police and Palestinian youths. 

We concluded the day with Priya (a member of our group) screening a video about protest graffiti in Oakland (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_J85_f3-WI) and talked about how we, as delegates, could make links between our lives in the US and what's going on in Palestine in order to communicate the interconnected struggles when we get back home. Examples include:  militarized societies and mentalities; disparate infrastructure and discrimination in neighborhood services, and physical bypass roads (which bypass others' realities, hence enabling psychological bypasses to empathy!).  We talked about how many US cities' police forces are trained by Israel and how racial profiling exists amongst communities worldwide.

Making connections here over on IFPB.

 Point of Reference | Joy Dworkin

A personal point of reference for me has been the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Despite my best intentions, when I knew Soviet and Eastern European dissident authors and activists in the 1980’s, it was a challenge not to romanticize them and see them—because of their courage, resilience, analytical intelligence, broad cultural perspective, and obvious education—as larger than life, representations of ideals, more than “just” people.  I’m experiencing a similar challenge on this trip. 

That series of positive qualities—courage, resilience, analytical intelligence, broad cultural perspective, and obvious education—applies just as much to the Palestinians we’ve been meeting.  Of course, these people are not defined by the horrible circumstances they endure.  Tamer Nafar, the hip hop artist with whom we met, doesn’t want to be seen in terms of geography, to have his art identified only with the Israeli occupation.   Our guide, Said, is not brilliant and knowledgeable BECAUSE he couldn’t practice his profession for 26 years due to the Kafkaesque absurdities of Israeli life.  (We don’t allow you to serve in the military, but how can we certify you for this job if you didn’t serve in the military?)  Real people cannot be defined by the tragic and the absurd.

But there sure are plenty of bureaucratic absurdities….   Another example:  you can’t get a permit for construction on the home that you need to expand in order to accommodate your family, but how dare you expand without a permit!  Your home will be demolished, but first we will fine you each month for building without the permit that we won’t give you, and when we demolish your home (basically without warning), we will charge you for the expense of the demolition.  Some families demolish their own homes, because it’s cheaper that way.   (In Lydd, 60% of the homes are listed to be demolished.)  I realize that many in the U.S. may find these absurdities difficult to believe.  Again, I’m reminded of my experience with Eastern European dissidents….

Another absurdity that strikes hard:  the fact that, when you say “Palestinian” to many people in the U.S., they hear “terrorist” as the next “logical” word. 


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