Palestine Update 318
“We came and saw”
Recaping the brutality of Israeli Apartheid
A Sri Lankan and a Kenyan reflect on their ‘Kairos’ experiences in Palestine
Marisa de Silva, an activist from Sri Lanka, works on issues pertaining
to the war affected communities in the North, such as land occupation,
militarization, enforced disappearances, freedom of expression and religion,
and violence against women.
Alex Chege Kanyigi is the Coordinator of SCM Kenya based in Nairobi. He is 23 years old and a student of International Relations and Diplomacy
This Holy Land: The Chosen People?
By Marisa de Silva
I grew up watching horrific, graphic movies about the Holocaust.
The inhumane ethnic cleansing of the Jewish people.
The brutal killings, and sand pits piled with corpses.
The stripping of your clothes, homes, precious possessions and dignity.
The sewing on of serial numbers and the Star of David to your striped uniforms.
The utter humiliation and subjugation of an entire people.
The trains packed with your women, men and children sent like lambs to slaughter.
‘The Selection’ where Nazi guards would determine your ‘healthiness’
The endless queues of your people marching towards the infernal gas chambers…
These images will forever be seared in my memory.
All this, driven by one supremacist, nationalist ideology to create a “pure race”.
I stepped out of Yad Vashem, with a sick, deeply disturbed feeling in my gut.
Of course sick from the absolute inhumanity of it all,
much the same way I felt as a child, after having watched those movies.
But, deeply disturbed as an adult,
as I simply could not comprehend how a people so unmercifully persecuted,
could now persecute another, all in pursuit of a promised land.
You claim yours is a ‘holy land’.
You claim to be God’s ‘chosen people’.
How though is it holy to steal and plunder another’s land?
How is it holy to herd workers through check-points as though they were cattle?
How is it holy to incarcerate and shackle a child?
How is it holy to erase the entire Palestinian nation?
All in the name of a religion that preaches unconditional love, justice and peace?
How is it holy to invoke scripture to justify a brutal occupation?
This is no holy land.
God has long forsaken this land you call yours.
Amid rubber bullets, dispossession and an apartheid Wall-
Palestinians cling to hope and love
By Alex Chege
As a student of International Relations and Diplomacy with keen interest on the world geo politics I must admit that this article has been a challenge for me to put down. Struggling with words to use trying to restrict myself from using strong words as well as very strong emotions from what I experienced recently in Palestine. Through the World Student Christian Federation I got a chance to visit Palestine for the Kairos Palestine 10th anniversary international conference as a SCMer. This trip would have me visit Bethlehem and the larger part of the West bank. I have been following and reading on the occupation for close to a year now and the opportunity to visit and experience the situation first hand was big for me since I come from a region where most ecumenical movements have no idea or have little information as to what is happening and most churches are Zionists in nature. However, what I saw is truly heartbreaking and inhumane from what I have read to the say the least and it took me a while to try and come up with this write up without being emotive.
My entry into Israel was a real hustle having waited for close to six hours to get clearance at the border control despite having a visa. Initially I thought these were just security measures and clearances but when it took two hours without a word or any information for that matter from the agents I got concerned and asked around only to find out that getting into the West Bank had brought me all this trouble. At some point in my six hour wait I even contemplated booking my ticket back home but a group we were waiting with gave me hope to wait out. Finally I got called into the office and was questioned thoroughly, they did give me a one week permit eventually despite having a three month visa but I recall saying to myself, good riddance if this gets me out of this place I’ll take it. My experience at the airport was terrible having landed at 8; 15 PM and getting cleared at 1; 45 AM and this for me was the beginning of the red flag but all the same I was glad it was over.
My airport transfer had left at this point and I had to wait for them to come pick me up again. On my trip to Bethlehem I had conversations with the taxi driver and his friend and told them of the terrible experience I had had at the airport. I remember telling them that I would not be coming back to Israel ever again and one of them truly empathized and apologized in a way that was truly heartwarming yet they had no hand in it. One of them even promised to be the one to come pick me up at the airport in my next trip. At this point I was surprised by the kindness of these gentlemen who were Palestinian. These are people oppressed but here they are comforting me, at some point I even felt guilty. In our conversations with the driver I learnt that there are designated lanes for Palestinians and Israelis on the highway that must be strictly adhered to and failure to do so gets them into trouble with the authorities. They even cameras monitoring the traffic flow.
Listening to the challenges and frustrations of the Palestinian people was very difficult, emotive and even angering. Seeing all the atrocities committed on the people was nothing compared to what I had been reading. It was nothing compared to what I saw and heard in my stay in the West Bank, from the mistreatment of the people and massive abuse of human rights to the degradation of human dignity.
The situation in Hebron was particularly disturbing and heartbreaking. While driving into the town we came across signs erected by the roadside reading that it is illegal for Jewish people to go beyond that zone under Israeli law yet somehow we found Jewish people not only moving around but also living in the settlements and with the protection of the Israeli army. How is it that they blatantly managed to break their own rule and the zones agreement by moving in and establishing settlements? Where are Palestinians supposed to go when their homes are grabbed and stolen from them with Jewish families moving into them under military protection? Children and old people being kicked out of their homes through military force, natural resources such as water being controlled and rationed to them three times a week this despite the fact that the Jewish settlements have water running all through.
At the separation wall we saw rubber bullets littered on the streets, I have never seen rubber bullets this big before and I could only imagine the impact they have on the protestors who are guaranteed to be hurt by them. Moving around the market in Hebron we noticed erected shields above the shops to protect the Palestinian traders from objects thrown at them from the occupied settlements. Unfortunately the shields cannot protect them from liquid substances thrown at them all when the military watches from their towers and do nothing about it. How a people once humiliated and mistreated before then come and commit such heinous acts on other is appalling.
At the numerous checkpoints we crossed, the hatred and detest for the Palestinians by the Israelis was evident in the aggressive and inhumane manner they handled them. More shocking was the fact that some Palestinians had to go through checkpoints just to get to their homes that are theirs by right yet somehow that right is restricted and controlled for them. It is heartbreaking that at this time century such hatred and apartheid is going on while the world watches and even worse some groups such as the Zionists back home actually validating the occupation and other atrocities. The Palestinians are treated so badly and in bad taste as if to dehumanize them so that they can finally give up and leave but they live on in hope and faith. But where would they be leaving to yet this has been their land, born and raised in it. At what point does denying basic human rights such as access to water, separating lanes in roads that they have specific users, denial of free of movement, illegal control and seizure of natural resources belonging to a people become normalized? All these questions lingered in my head as I listened and watched the devastating situations in the West Bank.
Despite all these atrocities of going through hatred, denial and abuse of their human rights, being stateless among others, the many Palestinians I met and engaged with were very warm at heart and hospitable. They have no hatred for their oppressors and only ask and hope that someday they will be treated as human beings and will be accorded their rights and have their land back. To the many friends I made and the Palestinian people hope remains that things will change for you at the end of it all. It is our imperative as human beings to spread love and be compassionate for one another and treat all with dignity and respect irrespective of our race, religion, nationality or identity for it does not cost anything to be kind to others. As the scripture teaches us, let us always do unto others what you would have them do unto you.