Wednesday, December 16, 2015

JUSTICE FOR PALESTINE!

JUSTICE FOR PALESTINE
©Wendell Griffen, 2015

            I recently spent eight days visiting Israel and Palestine—the place called “the Holy Land”—as part of a group that included progressive faith leaders from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, activists from the Dream Defenders human rights movement, progressive-minded religious scholars, and a journalism professor. 

Our group enjoyed sunny days, visits to sacred sites on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Shiloh, a visit to a small community of activists struggling to preserve their religious community in Iqrit, and stops alongside the Mediterranean Sea in Haifa and Tel Aviv. 

We traveled through fertile agricultural land.  We enjoyed delicious meals in popular restaurants in Haifa, Jaffa, and elsewhere.  We shared meals and listened as Israeli citizens and Palestinians in various locations people gave us eye-witness insights about life beyond the customary religious tour group destinations. 

We watched Israeli military forces shoot tear gas at young people in Bethlehem.  Our eyes burned not only from the tear gas, but also from remembering how peaceful protestors and journalists were similarly attacked in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 after Michael Brown, Jr. was killed by former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. 

We met and spoke with a young veteran of the Israeli military who told us about how Israeli military occupation of Palestine (commonly known as “the West Bank”) is producing deep emotional and moral wounds to members of the military and to Palestinians.   We listened as he talked about being ordered to protect illegal Jewish settlements and attack Palestinians who dared to even approach settlements, but was not authorized to take action against settlers who attacked and terrorized Palestinian farmers.

We took a field visit to Shiloh Valley, viewed an illegal Jewish settler outpost, and heard settlers speak of their community as a “homeland” for Jewish returnees while they stereotyped Palestinians as a group as “terrorists.”  After one settler had the audacity to declare that there has never been a Christian religious terrorist organization in the United States, I politely told him that his assertion somehow managed to ignore or trivialize the hateful and deadly history of the Ku Klux Klan.

We met with village leaders and family members who face ongoing harassment, violence, and threats of violence because of the illegal settlements condoned by the Israeli government and defended by the Israeli military.

We spoke with visionary-minded and determined physicians, entrepreneurs, educators, lawyers, mental health professionals, and community organizers and learned about their efforts to resist despair in the face of ongoing injustice from the Israeli military and civilian regime.

We spoke with parents whose children have been detained for days without being allowed to see their relatives.  We saw a military court order a young Palestinian man who had been detained for several days without being charged with any crime to continue being detained.

We met and spoke with the grieving father of an unarmed Bedouin teenager who was shot to death last year by Israeli police.  The cop who killed the man’s son is back on the job and has not been charged with committing a crime. 

We listened as women told about trying to protect their families from abusive and homicidal conduct by Jewish settlers, Israeli military personnel, and Israeli police.  We met boys who had been detained for days on suspicion that they had thrown stones at Israeli security forces.

We toured Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts & Culture and met with Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb who told us about the challenges he and his colleagues are facing and determined to overcome.  We saw how the spirit of resistance is honored, portrayed, and courageously affirmed by people from various generations, locations, and ethnic backgrounds.

           We saw Bedouin communities and met a Bedouin family affected by decades of Israeli policies aimed at displacing Bedouin people from the land they have lived on for generations and pushed into "unrecognized" villages not served by municipal services.  Meanwhile, the Israeli government funnels money, resources, and military protection to Jewish settlements in the Negev.

These and other experiences have left me with the following impressions. 

First, the Israeli government is plainly carrying out a systematic, calculated, and oppressive program that smacks of all the vestiges of the immoral regime of apartheid in South Africa and the equally wicked history of Jim Crow segregation and genocidal manifest destiny perpetrated against Africans and indigenous native people in the United States. 

Second, that program of injustice is financed by U.S. tax dollars.  It is carried out by people armed with weapons supplied by the United States.  Even as I write these words (and you read them) the candidates who aspire to become the next President of the United States are trying to out-do each other in pledging continued and greater support for this program of injustice.  Yes, that includes whoever may be your favorite (or disfavored) candidate. 

Third, a well-financed and multi-faceted Zionist propaganda program now targets black and Latino communities.  It involves recruiting students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and indoctrinating them to support Zionist claims.  It involves lobbying and financing Holy Land tours for black and Latino faith leaders and their congregants.  Zionist notions of manifest destiny are contributing to flawed theology, principles of Biblical interpretation (hermeneutics), and ethics being preached from black and Latino pulpits and other evangelical positions of influence. 

Fourth, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, like other tyrants of manifest destiny, segregation, apartheid, fascism, racism, and genocide before him, is leading a government that deserves to be condemned as unjust, not supported and defended. 

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, although the moral arc of the universe is wide, it always bends towards justice.  My pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine inspires me to declare that the wickedness the world witnessed surrounding the killing of Michael Brown, Jr. and the ensuing injustice in Ferguson, Missouri does not become sanctified when Arabs and others are killed and otherwise mistreated by government sanctioned actors in what is commonly called “the Holy Land.”   

I am a survivor of the U.S. version of such wicked policies and practices.  In the name of all that is just, honorable, true, noble, and hopeful—and inspired by the courageous people we encountered over the course of eight busy December days—I will use whatever strength and moral authority I can summon to join the people I met in denouncing the wickedness I saw during my trip to “the Holy Land.”  


We shall overcome.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this straightforward statement documenting the reality of Israel as an Apartheid state. I am attempting to move my representatives in Congress, Senators Cardin and Mikulski and Rep. Cummings, to see more clearly the reality you describe, and vote accordingly.

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