I have just returned from a most moving presentation by Iyad Burnat, a Palestinian leader of the non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation of his village, Bel’in, and of his homeland. (thanks to The Union for publishing an article on Iyad and his coming to Nevada County to speak).
Iyad spoke of his personal experiences under the occupation, which began in 1990 when, at age 17, he was falsely accused and imprisoned for two years in an Israeli jail. He now has four young children and told of Israeli soldiers currently coming at night, declaring his home “a military zone,” waking up everyone (including children), searching them, threatening them and roughing them up. He spoke of the weekly protests in Bel’in (and in at least eight other villages) against the 750-meter apartheid wall (built to keep Israelis “safe”), which has divided Palestinians from their places of work, from each other and from resources, including schools, hospitals and the sea (recreation). A video showed these weekly protests and the Israeli response: tear gas canisters (made in the U.S.), skunk water cannons and rubber bullets. There are 600 checkpoints in the West Bank where Israeli soldiers can arbitrarily delay, deny or allow Palestinians entry. Finally he showed and told us the story of the illegal Israeli settlements in Bel’in (and elsewhere), where the Israeli government has built apartment houses for Jewish settlers on hills above the village. There are 50,000 living in the settlement and 1,900 Palestinians in the village below. The settlements have all the water they need, including lawns and swimming pools; the villagers are given water one day a week (one day every two weeks in the summer).
So as much as it is kept from our (U.S.) eyes or rewritten to maintain the lie that Israel is under attack by Muslim hordes, the reverse is the truth: As much as we think of Israel as a democratic state, it is not. Only Jews have full citizenship; Palestinian citizens and Christians do not. Moreover, the Israelis are following a policy of apartheid (separation) much like the Boers did in South Africa. There is the wall (“for Israeli security”). There are roads that Palestinians cannot travel. There is the ever-present menace of the army, firearms and prison.
Finally — much of this policy would not be possible if the U.S. did not give $3 billion each year to Israel for the military. Case in point: Right after the most recent Israeli attack on Gaza (November 2012) the U.S. Congress voted overwhelmingly to replenish funds for more arms for Israel.
So what can we do to end the occupation? We can educate ourselves (googling “Today in Palestine” is a good place to start). We can call our representatives to say that the U.S. should not support the Israeli military or the occupation. We can stand with the Women and Men in Black on the Broad Street Bridge every Thursday at 5:15 to 6 p.m. to protest the occupation and U.S. support for Israeli military aid.
Susan Pelican lives in Nevada City.
As much as we think of Israel as a democratic state, it is not. Only Jews have full citizenship; Palestinian citizens and Christians do not.