<  Reflection Two: Colonial Contexts - Settlements and Resistance  

Olive Harvest Delegation |  October 24 - November 6, 2016  


Overview: This second collection of reflections focuses on the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land. Reflections focus primarily on the Israeli settlements and the resistance which they demand from the Palestinian communities they affect. Pam Nice, Linda Houghton, Robert Mertz, Seth Morrison, and Arlene Lundquest each discuss an element of Israeli colonization.

Pam Nice also contributes a bit of satire to this reflection; Seth Morrison writes on the delegation's visit to Susya in the South Hebron Hills; and John R. Barker wraps up this collection relating his thoughts while on a morning walk in Jerusalem.


Eyes on the Prize  |  Pam Nice  - Arlington, Virginia

At our debriefing last night, I thought of Martin Luther King as we discussed how best we can work for justice for Palestinians and be good allies in their struggle.  My first response to the Israeli policies of conquest, occupation and control is, “What the hell!  You can’t get away with this!!”  But I realize this may not be the best way to support Palestinians.  What I need is patience.

Muslims have a saying: “There are many doors to Paradise, but the one marked ‘Patience’ has the shortest line.”

It is what Palestinians need as they negotiate the many checks to movement in their lives; the Kafkaesque permit bureaucracy; as they confront the policies of silent transfer.

Patience is not acceptance.  This is was what I learned from Daoud Nassar at Tent of Nations. Patience is needed to overcome the first reactions to injustice: violence, resignation, flight.  

"Refuse to be enemies," Daoud said.  That is a tall order.  It needs strategy, and strategy needs patience.


A Blueprint for the Jewish State  |  Linda Houghton - Washington, DC

Theodor Herzl ‘s 1896 European manifesto calling for Der Judenstaat — a homeland and ethnically exclusive state for Jews — was the blueprint for the Jewish State of Israel from long before 1948 until today.  Our IFPB trip took us to three organizations that explained in clear terms the progress of this colonization of Palestine. Today, Palestine and its residents stand perilously close to Herzl’s Zionist dream: being squeezed out of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River so that the State of Israel can remain a Jewish majority.

Today, it is through legal maneuvers that the Palestinian world is being shrunk daily by Israeli State claims to land, house demolitions for state purposes, and refusal of permits for building or improvements.  Laws of the land are applied only to the Palestinians — the Absentee Property Military Order of 1948, the Absentee Property Law of 1952, and the “Present Absentee” categorization.  These result in confiscation of land brought about by confinement of travel, the Wall, legal challenges of ownership, and convoluted bureaucratic practices that deny or ignore requests for permits (required for most everything that a Palestinian wants to do and often requiring renewal every three months).

A legal scholar from the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights articulated the history of forcible displacement of Palestinians: 150,000 from 1922 to 1948 while Palestine was under the British Mandate; 750,000 in 1948, and 450,000 registered refugees after the 1967 Six Day War. 

The Jewish state provides Jews from around the world with instant citizenship, low-income housing, and tax rebates, while land appropriation and settlement building that started with David Ben Gurion continues to this day.  Badil publishes a series of working papers on this forced population displacement, loss of natural resources, the legal hurdles placed on Palestinians, and the human rights abuses that occur, not the least of which is the imprisonment of children as young as twelve-years. 

Our Badil visit was followed with a journey to the Tent of Nations in Area C of the Occupied West Bank, under Israeli control.  This is a most lovely farm perched high on a hillside from where on a clear day one can see to the Mediterranean.  Tent of Nations is not only a farm but a testament to the determination of the owners, the Nassar family, to live by the Christian principle of love: love thy neighbor; love thy enemy. 

As settlements built by the government encroach on his farm, Daoud Nassar has to deal continuously with governmental restrictions, denial of permits, threats to demolish his farm buildings, and settlers who uproot his trees.  In 2014, the Israeli military also found reason to bulldoze his large fruit orchard.  

Daoud is both resourceful and determined, fighting the destruction and the continuous military attempts to take his farm away. He has gone all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court, from whom he is still awaiting a final response. Tent of Nations hosts a two-week summer camp for refugee children from nearby areas. On speaking tours and by invitation, he has built up a coterie of international friends who volunteer their work and time on the farm.

We fear the days of the farm will be short-lived without additional international help. The government has expropriated a large track of land very close to the entrance where an enormous Yeshiva school is being built that will likely bring more right-wing individuals even closer.  Daoud’s best protections are the international visitors to the farm.

As our day at Tent of Nations ended and we walked down the road to our bus, we found that military police had come to find out who we were. They said nothing as they watched us drive off.


Modi’in  |  Robert Mertz - Bethesda, Maryland

Away from the bright lights and airport hubbub
Onto a broad pavement slicing without mercy through the heart of Palestine.
Modi'in strides triumphantly athwart the Green Line and Palestinian hopes.

Yellow phosphorous lights glare protectively over the broad Tarmac ribbon

Rough stone walls shield new settlements and segregate centuries-old Palestinian villages,
defiantly raising their green light bulbs of Islam in the darkness: "We are still here despite your hate and oppression."


Hebron  |  Seth Morrison - Las Vegas, Nevada

The most depressing thing I have seen so far in Occupied Palestine is the deserted market on Shuhada Street in the old city of occupied Hebron.  500+ stores and over 1,000 apartments were ordered shut by the Israeli military and an additional 1,300 shops and small businesses were unable to survive the market closures and numerous checkpoints that keep shoppers and residents out of the market. 

street closedWalking the deserted streets and seeing ugly barbed wire barriers closing most entrances to the market section was terrible.  I can only imagine the challenges faced by the families who lost businesses that they owned for generations.  In this ancient city with a strong tradition of families staying in place and passing the businesses on to the next generation nothing could be more catastrophic.

But it gets worse; some apartments that are still occupied are in restricted security zones.  What does that mean?  Every time you leave or return to your street you must go through full security at checkpoints operated at the whim of Israeli soldiers.  Soldier wants a break, you wait.  Security orders a shutdown – tough, find somewhere else to go tonight.  Want to invite a friend over?  Forget it, if they are not a listed resident – identified by number not name – you are not admitted. 

All of this so that 500 fanatic Israeli settlers can live in a community where they have no legal or moral right to be there.

Yet there is hope and non-violent resistance to this untenable situation.  Issa Amro, a dedicated Palestinian activist and a founder of Youth Against Settlements (YAS) showed us around this desolate scene while telling us about his organization’s commitment to non-violence and ensuring security and quality of life for all residents of Israel and Palestine.  As he said a few times, “Security is a mutual issue”. 

YAS runs programs for kids, teaches women Hebrew, makes legal challenges to restrictions in the Israeli courts and coordinates volunteers – sometimes from Israel and other countries – to help residents fix up homes or carry large deliveries to apartments cut off from vehicular traffic.

Issa forges ahead despite being indicted by the Israeli military court for speaking truth to power over the last 18 years.  In a court where more than 99% of defendants are found guilty it is hard to be optimistic, yet he is. 

Issa and his colleagues love their city and only want the freedom to live their lives in peace.  They reject violence but are deeply committed to resist the occupation.  As he said, “Our only weapons are our hearts and our cameras.”

corriesAt the end of our tour Issa had a very special surprise for us.  Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist from Olympia, Washington who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on 16 March 2003, while undertaking nonviolent direct action to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition are with us on this mission. Cindy is our phenomenal co-leader.  At an entrance to the market area there is a small coffee shop/café named, “The Rachel Corrie Restaurant & Café” celebrating the communities continued resistance to occupation.  By the time we got there the Café was closed for the day but Issa had called the owner and as we arrived they opened the Café to serve us Arab coffee and tea and to take photos with Cindy and Craig. 

Leaving Hebron I was both appalled that Israel, a nation I once admired was capable of such cruelty and uplifted by the deep commitment to non-violent resistance demonstrated by Youth Against Settlements, a few shop owners who persist in keeping their businesses open and by the committed activist who named his small business after Rachel Corrie to perpetuate her memory and send a strong signal to Hebron residents, Israel and visitors that all occupations must end.


The Law of Absent Presence*  - A Satire  |  Pam Nice - Arlington, Virginia
Recorded by Pam Nice (just kidding)

Said:    Sabah al kheir, everyone.  Okay, today there is a new law in Israel and Palestine making the occupation an absent presence.  So please, be careful about taking photos.

Arlene: What do you mean?

Said:  No pictures of soldiers, walls, demolition warnings, checkpoints or colonies.

Linda:  How can we do that? They’re everywhere.

Said:    Please aim carefully.  If you get one of these items in your photos, your cell phone will be confiscated and they will send you to a special room where you will write in a notebook, “What occupation?  Do you see an occupation??” 100 times or until your fingers become paralyzed, whichever comes first.  Then they store the book in the Israeli archives for perpetuity.

John:  They can’t make me do that!  I’m an American citizen.

Said:  If you refuse, they will either force you to leave the country immediately or make you stay indefinitely, whichever is worse.

Inge:    What are you talking about?

Said:    I don’t know.  I’m not the Israeli government.  Please, ma’am, I’m only a tour guide.

* On being told by Said of the Electronic Crimes Law to be instated as of today, October 31, by the Israeli government, through which all cell phones, tweets, emails and What’s App communications will be surveilled.


Susya   Seth Morrison - Las Vegas, Nevada

panelsSix years ago on my last visit to Israel/Palestine I visited the unrecognized Palestinian Village of Susya in the occupied West Bank.  I was impressed by the community’s commitment to maintain their culture while moving into the modern world.  Residents talked about the frustration of settlers harassing them and about trying to get a good education for their children.  They showed me documents from Ottoman times showing that they owned the land yet Israel refused to recognize their community and provide utilities and public services.

susyaI was in Susya to see the activation of a bio-gas generation system to provide heat, light and energy to a few homes in the community.  Everyone was excited to see the first gas cooking flame turned on while we were there.  Unfortunately, the bio-gas project did not work out but Susya now has solar power thanks to a grant from the EU and there is a wide-screen TV and other appliances in the tented shack we visited.  They have also added bee hives as a new source of income.

Sadly, residents are still resisting Israeli efforts to destroy their homes and their solar panels because they were constructed without permits – unobtainable by Palestinians.  They still survive on agriculture despite constant harassment by the neighboring settlement clearly trying to force them to leave.  Years of legal battles have sapped their resources but succeeded in keeping the community intact so far, but the issue is far from won, court battles continue.  The community submitted a master plan per Israeli law but of course it was denied with no explanation. 

Only intervention by the US government responding to emails and petitions from pro-Palestinian activists delayed the most recent demolition but who knows when the Israelis will try again.

Nasser, one of the communities’ leaders was just released after a week of torture and interrogation in an Israeli prison. The charge?  Plotting to harm a settler.  The reality?  When a settler harassed them, Nasser filed a police complaint. 

Susya residents have video cameras issued by B’Tselem, the Israeli civil rights group which often helps in legal defense, but in one case a settler threatened to shoot Nasser if he did not turn off the camera.  He refused.

Nasser was eventually released with no charges but he is on some form of legal notice for the next two years.  As he said, “This is the price we pay for activism”.

Susya survives for now even if the situation is only marginally better than when I visited due to the solar panels.  As activists we need to mobilize more Americans to demand that the US State Department do more to protect Susya and other Palestinian villages from Israel’s state sanctioned violence and attempts at ethnic cleansing.


On Stolen Land  |  Arlene Lundquest - Elmira, New York

The amount of land that has been “confiscated” for Israeli settlements really hit me as the scene opened up before me.  The fact that a couple of settlements even kept the same name as the demolished village was surprising.  Who would want to be reminded of how they received that opportunity to live there?  Even worse was the fact that a Jewish cemetery was built on demolished homes.  I wonder if their souls rest in peace?   Added to that, we passed a huge sign, four times bigger than the city destination signs that read, "Ariel and Muriel Sharon Farm."  What the sign said to me was, “Look what I earned from destruction and killing.”  Who would want to be known for that?


Free Time in Jerusalem  |  John R. Barker - Knoxville, Tennessee

During free time, around 8:00 am, I decided to walk about.

The first thing I looked for was Arabic coffee and it was easy to find among the street vendors.

I found myself standing beside a man while waiting at the crosswalk.  I greeted him and he responded cheerfully and asked where I was from.  When I told him American he said "Good" which I thought was kind of him and undeserved after what I have seen in the past week.  He went on to ask me "Hillary, Trump, who are you for?"  I said "Neither. They both a couple of Zionists."  He laughed aloud and wished me well and I returned the wish.

Later, the Israelis were apparently aware of my presence and decided to put on a show for me.  Just joking; but it was no joke for the Palestinian man I saw arrested.  The first thing I noticed was soldiers swarming, like bees, 8-10 of them.  Then two of them put their hands on the Palestinian and pushed him against the nearest wall.  One of the soldiers was black, Ethiopian I presume.  He stood look out as the other "white" soldier put the Palestinian through the drill, so to speak.  All the other soldiers seemed to have disappeared.  Somehow I happened to look up and there on top of a building overlooking us was what was obviously a sort of command post looking down on us and in communication with the two soldiers.  At some point they decided to "take him in."  And all of a sudden we had 8-10 soldiers returning from what I suspect was what the military would call “perimeter security” and the whole lot of them marched the poor fellow off to god knows what hell.

What struck me most was the black soldier.  Someone told me previously that Ethiopian soldiers in the Israeli army can be among the harshest, meanest, trying to prove themselves to their fellow soldiers and to Israelis generally.   But this soldier had what I took to be a nonplussed look - which was actually very fitting.



We invite delegation participants to comment on and react to the experiences they have during our Israel/Palestine delegations in written Trip Reflections

Individual delegates contribute pieces to these reflections.  As such, reflections are not comprehensive accounts of every meeting or experience, but impressions of those things that most impact individuals.  Submitted reflections may be edited for clarity or brevity. Trip reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Peace-Builders, trip leaders, or delegation partner organizations.  We hope you enjoy reading and we encourage you to share these reflections with others.

DONATE: Support IFPB in sending more trips

TRAVEL: Sign Up To Learn About Future Trips


Select a digest to view reflections: delegation home | 1 | 2 | 3 |