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The Hazards of Speaking Up for Palestine

Security Barrier between Israel and West Bank/...

Security Barrier between Israel and West Bank/Palestine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve told my story before, how I grew up unreservedly Christian in the United States and accepted the importance of Israel in our (Christian) lineage and prophecy.

When I met a Nazi prison camp survivor during my college years, I was overcome with emotion. He was sitting across from me at a “dish-to-pass” we held each week at the Messianic congregation I attended in Philadelphia.

These were the years when the JDL (Jewish Defense League) was threatening to attack Messianic congregations in Philadelphia. Each Sunday, as we worshiped in our little storefront building on Chestnut Street, danger was palpable.  Heads would cautiously turn towards the front door each time it opened during the sermon, wondering what to expect.

I counted it a privilege and honor to be a part of my Jewish friends’ suffering for their rights to worship as they wished.

For years, I never questioned my high view of Israel. Meeting a Jewish person was, for me, like meeting a celebrity, because they were “God’s Chosen”.

The first time I realized others in the world didn’t support Israel in the same way that Americans did was in Indonesia. A good friend asked us why America always sided politically with Israel against the Arab world.

I hadn’t realized there were sides.

This was the first step in my education which continued as we traveled across the world and then returned home to host international students who held very different opinions from traditional American views.

This was especially clear as we discussed international issues with our Arab students, especially the one from Palestine.

We selected Ahmed because he listed his home as the “West Bank“, and we wanted to learn about him.

His stories were wildly different from the beatific scenes we associated with Israel. Were they possibly true? We began to read up on this area and ask questions. One book was unforgettable, “Blood Brothers”, by Brother Elias Chacour.   http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Brothers-Dramatic-Palestinian-Christian/dp/0800793218

Blogs were written about life in Israel contrasting it with the very poor conditions behind a wall separating it from the West Bank/Palestine.

I wanted to see for myself, so Jon and I took several trips to visit our Palestinian students, and then met Palestinian Christians who told the same stories about Israeli abuses.

When one is meeting a diverse (Christian, Muslim, educated, working class) group of people and all writers from that area are telling similar stories you cannot afford to dismiss their story lines as fantasy.

So, I resolved to return home as an advocate for the Palestinians to tell their stories. I am not

Bantustans, Palestine 2006

Bantustans, Palestine 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

anti-Israeli, but I will not cover up what they do.

It hasn’t been popular to speak up for Palestinians, but I’ve had it easy.

Others, like Steven Sizer, who has a prominent place in the UK, has his way of life threatened.

Read on:

Stephen Sizer: Craig Murray Responds to anti-Semitism Allegations.

4 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on My Blog and commented:
    New and very meaningful comments!

  2. In the first line of my response above, I failed to say I lived in a Jewish/Christian area of Israel. Sorry about that.

  3. I speak as an Ethics professor and as someone who studied and lived in a Jewish/Christian area for four months. While I am in support of the Jewish community having their homeland there, as was agreed by the United Nations. I am also a human rights activist, and was deeply disappointed by the way the Palestinians were and continue to be treated there. I am against the brutal and continual human rights violations that are taking place against the Palestinian people, and this being funding of this by the U.S. government. I speak out, as a loyal supporter of the U.S. and our President, but as a human rights activist accountable to a higher law over any human law.

    To witness this brutality myself was like seeing civil rights films of the times in the U.S., back in the 60’s, when we watched African Americans and other Blacks pushed with water hoses and beaten in the streets.

    I personally witnessed a shop owner being beaten after I had talked with him in his shop in the town of Nablus (Schechem) where I went to visit the well where Jesus was talking with the women in scripture. The man I spoke with was punished for talking with me. I tried to intervene on his behalf and it made it worse. The Israeli soldier pulled him out into the street and beat him with the butt of his gun in front of his wife and child, and pulled down the man’s shop door closing it for the day. He was unjustly treated, and his rights were ignored.

    I saw the tiny American flags on the guns of the Israeli soldiers all around me. I saw our flag on the planes up above, and this was more than 20 years ago. This has not only continued, but grown. I was ashamed and confused, which is still the case. But, I will not remain silent any longer.

    I believe all human beings are of equal value and should have their human rights respected. There is no excuse for treating anyone in an inhumane way.

    I do not excuse or see the violence against Israel or America, as acceptable either. I am not in support of terrorist actions, and am not a supporter of sympathizers with terrorists. I believe in non-violent resistance and protecting human rights, all rights. I am opposed to war and violence as a resolution of conflicts, and I recognize that once we contribute to violence against a people…we are contributing toward retaliation against us.

    We should find a way to both support the protection of the Jews and their homeland, and to respect the Palestinian people and their land that has been passed down for generations. They are Christian and Muslim, but most importantly….they are human. We are all related.

    Something interesting that I witnessed in Jerusalem, and heard the Elders and long-time residents of Israel/Palestine speak of, was that those moving there from the U.S. were the ones protesting in the streets and rousting up trouble. Those who lived there lifelong, and were from there, had learned to live together and had made great progress toward peace. It seemed then, and continues to seem that the level of U.S. intervention, and emigration there, has contributed to an imbalance that has not really been helpful to either group in the long run. Who wants war and constant conflict in their country?

    The original purpose of setting up that land base has been largely lost. It was never meant to create more violence and oppression, simply changing hands from one group of oppressed people to another. It was not supposed to be a place for people to go who already had a safe and good place to be, like the U.S. where they were free to worship as they pleased. It was not meant to cause displacement of a people and disrespect of a whole population of Indigenous people from that region. It was not meant to be a growing land base with no boundaries.

    It was not meant to be a conflict raising place that created more wars and more inhumane treatment. It was meant to be a place where Jews could live in peace, a refuge from prejudice, and a place that made some amends for the grave injustices suffered in the camps in Germany.

    My father was in one of those camps. I know the horrors from his stories. The Natzis not only imprisoned and murdered Jews, but Ukranian Catholics. I abhor what was done.

    For this reason, I am all the stronger that oppression should not be done again human beings under the auspices of national security for the U.S., or whatever excuse is made.

    Most people want peace and long for this for their children and their happiness. I hope the U.S. will re-think it’s policies. How can we afford to be financing Israel and its war so much, when we can barely cover our own domestic costs and problems.

    If what we really want and need is an outpost in that region, there are better ways to negotiate this.

    It is unpopular to speak this view, as all human rights activists are unpopular. If it was easy to fight for what is right, more people would be doing it. What is popular and “normal” is not necessarily right. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered for speaking the truth. Ghandi was, as well. They are great examples of the need to speak the truth, as one day those who suffer from our silence may be freed.

    Those of us who remain silent, and afraid, are participating in the violence.

    Thank you for speaking the unpopular truth. Peace.

    • Dear Maria,
      My heart bursts with sorrow and yet, joy. That someone like you who has lived the full story can affirm what I have only seen from a distance is so encouraging to me. I had about given up blogging, because hardly anyone has commented on my writing lately, and almost no one ever comments on my blogs about the Palestinians.
      I felt like I was writing into empty space. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Truly yesterday, before I read your letter, I had to return to the hospital for a cancer recheck, and I wondered if God was finished with me here on earth. That’s how discouraged I was about my blog, and it’s failure.
      If you are on Facebook and wouldn’t mind, could you go to the link, Connectingthadots, and “like” it?
      Thanks again for bearing witness!

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