Friday, May 11, 2007

Pursuing Injustice - Restricting Movement - Part 3

Pursuing Injustice - Restricting Movement - Part 3
"Can You Really Not See?"

Today is Day 14,272 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Rabbi Akiva - “ ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18 - this is the major principle of the Torah.”

Sometimes you read an article from a newspaper so powerful you store it in a folder for safekeeping. Usually, of course, it has appeared in Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, not one here in the United States. As you read this, imagine the outcry and charges of anti-Semitism if this was written by a Boston Globe reporter and the ensuing march and protest in front of the office of the newspaper.

August 30, 2006 edition of Haaretz
Can you really not see?
Amira Hass

Let us leave aside those Israelis whose ideology supports the dispossession of the Palestinian people because "God chose us." Leave aside the judges who whitewash every military policy of killing and destruction. Leave aside the military commanders who knowingly jail an entire nation in pens surrounded by walls, fortified observation towers, machine guns, barbed wire and blinding projectors. Leave aside the ministers. All of these are not counted among the collaborators. These are the architects, the planners, the designers, the executioners.

But there are others. Historians and mathematicians, senior editors, media stars, psychologists and family doctors, lawyers who do not support Gush Emunim and Kadima, teachers and educators, lovers of hiking trails and sing-alongs, high-tech wizards. Where are you? And what about you, researchers of Nazism, the Holocaust and Soviet gulags? Could you all be in favor of systematic discriminating laws? Laws stating that the Arabs of the Galilee will not even be compensated for the damages of the war by the same sums their Jewish neighbors are entitled to (Aryeh Dayan, Haaretz , August 21).

Could it be that you are all in favor of a racist Citizenship Law that forbids an Israeli Arab from living with his family in his own home? That you side with further expropriation of lands and the demolishing of additional orchards, for another settler neighborhood and another exclusively Jewish road? That you all back the shelling and missile fire killing the old and the young in the Gaza Strip?

Could it be that you all agree that a third of the West Bank (the Jordan Valley) should be off limits to Palestinians? That you all side with an Israeli policy that prevents tens of thousands of Palestinians who have obtained foreign citizenship from returning to their families in the occupied territories? Could your mind really be so washed with the security excuse, used to forbid Gaza students from studying occupational therapy at Bethlehem and medicine at Abu Dis, and preventing sick people from Rafah from receiving medical treatment in Ramallah? Will also you find it easy to hide behind the explanation "we had no idea": we had no idea that the discrimination practiced in the distribution of water - which is solely controlled by Israel - leaves thousands of Palestinian households without water during the hot summer months; we had no idea that when the IDF blocks the entrance to villages, it also blocks their access to springs or water tanks.

But it cannot be that you don't see the iron gates along route 344 in the West Bank, blocking access to it from the Palestinian villages it passes by. It cannot be that you support preventing the access of thousands of farmers to their land and plantations, that you support the quarantine on Gaza which prevents the entry of medicine for hospitals, the disruption of electricity and water supply to 1.4 million human beings, closing their only outlet to the world for months.

Could it be that you do not know what is happening 15 minutes from your faculties and offices? Is it plausible that you support the system in which Hebrew soldiers, at checkpoints in the heart of the West Bank, are letting tens of thousands of people wait everyday for hours upon hours under the blazing sun, while selecting: residents of Nablus and Tul Karm are not allowed through, 35-year-olds and under - yallah, back to Jenin, residents of the Salem village are not even allowed to be here, a sick woman who skipped the line must learn a lesson and will be purposefully detained for hours. Machsom Watch's site is available for all; in it are countless such testimonies and worse, a day by day routine. But it cannot be that those who are appalled over every swastika painted on a Jewish grave in France and over every anti-Semitic headline in a Spanish local newspaper will not know how to reach this information, and will not be appalled and outraged.

As Jews we all enjoy the privilege Israel gives us, what makes us all collaborators. The question is what does every one of us do in an active and direct daily manner to minimize cooperation with a dispossessing, suppressing regime that never has its fill? Signing a petition and tutting will not do. Israel is a democracy for its Jews. We are not in danger of our lives, we will not be jailed in concentration camps, our livelihood will not be damaged and recreation in the countryside or abroad will not be denied to us. Therefore, the burden of collaboration and direct responsibility is immeasurably heavy.

Maybe this article is not as appropriate for those in the Jewish community in Boston, New York or Los Angeles. After all, how many of us can see "the iron gates along route 344 in the West Bank"? Wait a minute!! What about the many "missions" sponsored by the Jewish Federations, temples and other Jewish institutions? What about the extensive programs that subsidize trips of high school students like the local "Youth to Israel" program and the well-financed Birthright project? From what I read about these programs locally, the trips do not appear to have segments or times devoted to visiting Palestinian villages in the West Bank or discussing whether the occupation and the settlements are illegal and immoral. With that in mind it IS appropriate for them to be asked if they really cannot see. And even for those members of the Jewish community who have never been to Israel, there is no reason for them not to be aware of what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza. Certainly, many who have never been there recently have read extensively on the tragedy in Dafur and, in the past, were active in fighting apartheid in South Africa. We can all be asked to respond to the question "Can You Really Not See?"

The question this raises for me is not whether those in the Jewish community are so supportive of Israel that they are insensitive to the suffering of the Palestinians. My question is to what extent there is support for Israel. Often during the 17 years I was a member of the study group discussing aspects of the Israel/Palestine conflict, someone would say "I wonder what the other study groups on the North Shore think about this issue." The comment was made with tongue firmly in cheek because we assumed that there was no other such group. The irony of this is that the North Shore Jewish community has a well-known reputation for speaking out strongly in support of any action that was taken by the GOI. And yet, while in years past there were numerous speakers and presentations promoting the positive aspects of Israel, there seem to have been fewer and fewer during the last decade. I have thought about this often think back to one night 1996 when I was attending a board meeting of our local Jewish Federation. Someone came in and told us that and the stunning news that Benjamin Netanyahu had been elected Prime Minister of Israel in a surprise upset victory over the favorite, Shimon Peres, which had been held after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. I was somewhat surprised at the silence that greeted that announcement and during the entire meeting there was no reference (no joy, no disappointment, no comments) to the election. I continue to believe that the election of Benjamin Netanyahu to some extent reduced the fervor of the vocal support of the government of Israel. Yes, there are still celebrations (Independence Day and the Day of Remebrance) where those who continue to think that they speak for the Jewish community are able to convince a reasonable number to come out for the program but day-to-day, there is little evidence of concern in this Jewish community for what is happening to the Jewish people in Israel let alone the Palestinians.

I would be interested in hearing from others whether this is consistent with what is happening in your local community.

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.

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