- April 4th, 2012
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In the West Bank & Israel, Again
by Paul Alexander
When you visit the Palestinian Territories and Israel once, you think you can write a book. When you visit the Palestinian Territories and Israel twice, you think maybe you can write an article. When you visit the Palestinian Territories and Israel three times, you realize it’s too complicated to say much at all. Having just returned, again, here’s what I think is clear.
1. Jewish cities should not be built on Palestinian land.
What we call “settlements” are thriving cities built on Palestinian land for Jewish citizens of Israel: 500,000 Jewish people live in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank. This is illegal, since under international law, occupying states are forbidden to move citizens into occupied territory.
This is clear: if the state of Israel wants to build cities for its Jewish Israeli citizens it should build them in the state of Israel, not in the West Bank—especially if it’s disputed territory. Not a single additional stone should be laid for Jewish housing in East Jerusalem or the West Bank.
2. The wall is built in the wrong places.
The US is building a wall along its Mexican border. While the need for or usefulness of this wall can be disputed, its legality cannot. It’s legal because it’s being built on the internationally recognized border. The wall is not being built on Mexican land. If the US built the wall inside of Mexico then the Mexican government and people could rightfully call it “illegal” and “unjust” and question whether the motive was to keep immigrants out or to confiscate Mexican land.
The wall being built by the State of Israel is not on the internationally recognized border: 88% of it is being built in the West Bank—effectively transferring thousands of acres of land and hundreds of thousands of people to the Israeli side of the wall.
This is clear: if Israel wants to build a wall, they should build it on the Green Line, the 1949 Armistice line that is the internationally recognized border. If Israel needs help tearing down the existing (mostly illegal) wall, perhaps a troop of 5,000 grandmas could take a hummus and falafel picnic to the soldiers and the grandmas could start chipping at the wall with hammers and picks. And perhaps the rest of us could eat the wall, one very tiny bite at a time, while the soldiers eat apple pie and baklava.
3. Beyond mere existence: security for a thriving Israel
Israel does not need to militarily control the West Bank nor sell its resources in order to thrive economically and be secure. The State of Israel has one of the most powerful militaries and the 14th strongest economy in the world. Israel can and will continue to do much more than simply “exist” as a state. Israel will thrive as a state and will continue to defend its borders with superior military might. The question is not at all about Israel’s “existence.” The question is about the kind of state Israel is going to be. Will the militarily and economically strong state of Israel enact policies that allow Palestinians to thrive as well?
Existence for the state of Israel? Of course. Security for the state of Israel? Of course. Approval of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, exclusively Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and the wall not built on the Green Line? No, no, and no. Further, the state of Israel can and must build its economic strength on its own resources and through trade with the Palestinian Territories, not by exploiting natural resources that don’t belong to them.
4. Criticism of violence
Rockets are fired into southern Israel from Gaza and this should be condemned. Violence begets violence. I criticize any use of violence against the state of Israel, and I will also criticize the violence of the state of Israel against Palestinians. But criticism of rockets from Gaza should always be accompanied with criticism of the occupation and illegal West Bank settlement cities.
This is clear: The few Palestinians who do fire rockets into the state of Israel need to cease and desist, and never fire another rocket of any kind into Israel (or anywhere else).
5. Criticism of the Palestinian Authority
When the Palestinian Authority enacts policies that do not uphold human and civil rights for all, Palestinians and US citizens should speak up. We can be equal opportunity criticizers of bad government policies.
On the flip side, just as we continually acknowledge the right of the state of Israel to exist, it is critical for the US, along with the state of Israel, and Israelis, and Jews, to acknowledge the right of the state of Palestine to exist. Failing on either side to do this “de-legitimizes” the other and is therefore a serious stumbling block.
This is clear: To criticize either the Palestinian Authority or the state of Israel without criticizing the other is insufficient.
6. Weariness and hope
Structural injustice wears individuals down and out. In 2005 I marched and protested against the wall’s path and settlement expansion on confiscated Palestinian land. I’ve done it numerous times since then. I did it again last month. In most cases, the State of Israel built the wall or the settlement anyway. My body and my voice, along with thousands of others, have not been enough to stop the State of Israel from building cities and walls (and roads and other infrastructure for Israelis only) in the West Bank.
But the nonviolent movement against the occupation is growing and there are 15 or so peaceful protests happening every Friday now in the West Bank. More Palestinians are finding their voices, taking nonviolent action, and being heard and seen. More US citizens are becoming aware of the injustices that the State of Israel is perpetrating against the Palestinians. More Israelis are working to end the occupation. More Israelis are marching with Palestinians and working in support of human rights and civil rights for Palestinians. More people are realizing that it is necessary to criticize the policies of the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and the USA and to advocate for better policies.
I am weary, but I am hopeful. Not hopeful enough to just trust that it will be better someday, but hopeful enough to believe that we should be resilient in our determination and increase our actions for justice.
1. Sign the Bethlehem Affirmation and tell your representatives you support peace with justice in Israel and Palestine.
2. Produce a film and help tell the story of Palestine and Israel for just $10.
3. Share this short video .
4. Read Christ at the Checkpoint.
5. Stay informed.