South African apartheid ended, Zionist apartheid continues

God is not a real estate agent” and “I remember a time when Nelson Mandela was called a terrorist” says a South African who has been living in Toronto since 2000.

Olive oil

Michael tasting olive oil at the Canaan Cooperative in Palestine

Michael Pott has been supporting efforts to expose human right violations in the Holy Land since participating in a Sabeel witness tour in October 2012.

This is his story:

South African apartheid ended, Zionist apartheid continues

As a student in South Africa during the 1970s, I was part of the movement committed to ending apartheid and Zionism.  While I am proud that Whites no longer oppress Blacks, I am sad that Jews still treat Palestinians as second rate citizens. A November 2012 Sabeel tour reminded me that Zionism has slipped on the world issues agenda. I hope that this brief article will help re-energize the people who fought to end apartheid to take up the Palestinian cause and help end Zionism.

 Many prominent South Africans, respected researchers and artists have said that the current conditions of the Palestinians are worse than those experienced by Blacks in South Africa under apartheid. I agree and hope you will get a chance to hear the speeches, read the research papers, and watch the movies on this subject.

 I find it difficult to understand the theologies of apartheid and Zionism. I could not accept that God instructed Whites to deliver Black people from their primitive conditions.  I also find it hard to believe that God is a real estate agent who gave the Jews the sole right to live in Israel. No matter how hard it is for me to understand a theology that promotes discrimination, I must remember that people who believe these theologies are made in the image of God and I must love them and promote nonviolent resistance.


 Under apartheid a Black person was denied the same rights as a White citizen of South Africa. Today a Jew anywhere in the world is entitled to full citizenship of Israel while the same rights are denied a Palestinian who has lived in Israel for generations. To justify this oppression, politicians in South Africa and Israel  created phony/dual political structures. In both countries, leaders who did not support the status quo were silenced. Not too long ago when Palestinians elected politicians that Israel did not agree with, the elected leaders were arrested as terrorists and the Gaza strip was blocked. I remember a time when Nelson Mandela was called a terrorist!


 To achieve ethnically cleansed states in Israel and South Africa, the indigenous population had to be removed and evidence of their history and culture destroyed. In South Africa, Blacks were forcibly removed from their homes to create white-only areas. To create the Jewish state, Palestinian villages, homes and land were confiscated. Settler communities continue to seize Palestinian land. Other than standing in front of a bulldozer and losing your life, how can Palestinian land be protected and their rights restored?

151111 Al Qasab Jericho House demolitions photo by Eduardo Minossi, EA

 Most people who have seen the wall the Israelis are erecting acknowledge that it is to secure access to natural resources and strategic land rather than for security. During our tour we witnessed countless examples of how the wall separates people from their land, how check points are used to demonstrate Israeli domination, how families and neighbourhoods are destroyed. While not belittling the conditions under apartheid, the wall creates conditions more brutal than in South Africa. Despite the tremendous human suffering, Israel and South Africa disregarded international law, United Nations resolutions and the local courts to maintain apartheid.


 During our tour we traveled along well maintained roads that serve Israeli settler communities in the Occupied Territories. We also traveled on neglected roads the Palestinians use.  While using these roads I remembered the differences I observed in the quality of infrastructure in South Africa upon entering a black area.  These differences serve to frustrate people, build resentment and fuel the liberation struggle.

 I remember when anyone who challenged the supremacy of the apartheid government was either banned or labeled a traitor, a communist or an agitator. Non-violent resistance to White oppression was brutally crushed. Many people have forgotten how the Sharpeville massacre resulted in the armed struggle being added to the means of achieving the liberation of South Africa.  Because of the very different levels of military power in both South Africa and Israel, the oppressed people who no longer supported nonviolence resorted to unconventional warfare (aka terrorism). During the liberation struggle in South Africa no one expected a military victory. I did not meet anyone in the Occupied Territories who thought the Israeli military would be defeated. At the same time only the naive believe that the struggle for human rights can be suppressed by firepower.

Israeli Troops Continue To Gather On Border As UN Call For Truce

 I remember the bias in my apartheid education that promoted White nationalism and demonized Blacks. Jewish children are taught to believe negative stereotypes of Palestinians (Arabs). Based on a brief visit with a Jewish family in Tel Aviv, Zionism is firmly believed and the stereotypes of Palestinians are upheld. During discussions with Palestinian groups on our tour we were told that there are currently very few programs that encourage dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims. This is unfortunate as I remember how important multiracial group discussions were about a just and peaceful South Africa. The KAIROS document for South Africa facilitated some of these discussions. I hope that the Palestinian KAIROS document will be as helpful.

 The systematic denial of people’s basic human rights did not work in South Africa, and it will not work in Israel. Nonviolent resistance, international sanctions, dialogue among South Africans and the armed struggle helped end apartheid. I look forward to the day all people in Israel/Palestine will enjoy the same basic rights in a secular country. Archbishop Tutu saw the end of apartheid in his lifetime. How long will it take to end Zionism?

Michael Pott graduated from Stellenbosch University in 1981.  He worked for much of his career for the Development Bank of Southern Africa: “Human rights and democracy are values I have always supported. For many years my partner and I worked to establish the democratic South Africa. When the democratically elected government chose to abandon the Reconstruction and Development Program, we decided we did not agree with the new strategy and immigrated to Canada.”


Never Again – unconditionally

As Jews, with our own painful history of oppression, we are compelled to speak out against human rights violations committed by the State of Israel – in our name – against the Palestinian people.

These are the first words of a group of South African Jews in their public statement in the Mail & Guardian of 14 December 2012. They recognise not only their own wounds and humanity…


…but also those of others:

The temptation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine… yet we would be less than human if we did so”

 – Nelson R. Mandela

2009 (2) Berlyn 022A Holocaust memorial site in Berlin, Germany.

Their statement continued as follows:

We note that the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) together with the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) recently met with the South African Presidency and other politicians. We also note, with great concern, that the SAJBD and SAZF’s assertion that they represent and speak on behalf of all Jewish South Africans, particularly when it comes to Palestine-Israel.


Let us be clear, the SAJBD and SAZF’s position of supporting Israel at all costs does not represent us. We also appeal to the SAJBD and SAZF to respect one of the hallmarks of Judaism: respectful debate amongst those who hold divergent viewpoints. The SAJBD and SAZF’s position on Israel, and attempts to stifle opposing voices that speak out against Israel, is morally untenable.

The Jewish community is neither homogeneous nor monolithic.  There is a growing number of Jews, in South Africa and around the world, who are organising to form alternative spaces and who unconditionally oppose Israeli policies and practices that shamefully privilege Jews over the indigenous Palestinian people.  In this vein, we support the non-violent campaign of applying Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it abides by international law and respects basic human rights [see].

We are encouraged that our South African government is joining those countries that are taking a clear stance against Israel’s violations of international law and its acts of violence against the Palestinian people [see this City Press newspaper article]. We also welcome and support our Department of Trade and Industry’s initiative to prevent the false labelling of Israeli settlement products. We hope that the ANC and the SA Government goes further and completely bans Israeli settlement products. Israeli settlements are in clear violation of international law and seriously undermine any chance of negotiations and a just peace.

Such positions as those recently taken by our government against Israeli violence and violations of international law, in fact, serve to affirm a proud Jewish tradition of respect for justice and human rights; regardless of race, religion or creed. Such positions connect us to our fellow humanity.

We humbly – and sadly – acknowledge that our voices may not be the dominant ones in our community, but neither were Dietrich Bonnhoefer’s in Nazi Germany nor Beyers Naude’s, Antjie Krog’s, Braam Fischer’s and Joe Slovo’s in Apartheid South Africa.

Our individual consciences, our Jewish tradition and our painful history compel us to declare to the SAJBD, SAZF and to the Israeli government that we will continue to speak out and take a stand for justice and human rights.  Taking such a stand is in the very interests of being Jewish. For when we proclaim “Never Again”, we should mean “Never Again”, unconditionally, and to any human being – including the Palestinians.

Issued by Alan Horwitz for StopTheJNF, a campaign initiated by a group of Jewish South Africans committed to justice and rights for the Palestinian people and Jewish Israelis.

2009 (2) Berlyn 011

I took this photo in the Jewish Museum, Berlin.  The windows reflect the harrowing, unsettling reality of Jews during World War II.

Never Again – but unconditionally.


Can Five Broken Cameras heal many hearts?

“I kept thinking – how can I produce an emotionally charged film whilst maintaining a very gentle tone?”

This is what Guy Davidi, an Israeli film producer, asked himself.


In 2012 the film “Five Broken Cameras” co-directed by Palestinian Emad Burnat and Israeli Guy Davidi became the most successful Palestinian-Israeli documentary ever. In January 2013 it won the World Cinema Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival and it was nominated for an Oscar as the best documentary feature film.

But is the world ready to see it?

The film shows the first years of life for Burnat’s baby against the backdrop of the Palestinian village Bil’in and how the local civilians resist the Israeli Wall which, together with Israeli settlers, are illegally on Palestinian land.

The thing is, the story of Emad Burnat’s family in Bil’in is not unique.  It is the story of just about every village in the West Bank of Palestine. Burnat simply filmed regular events as they unfolded.  He says that five of his cameras were smashed by the Israeli army as he documented friends and family members being shot and injured by Israeli troops.

Yet despite the acclaim and international awards, the film is not allowed in Israeli schools.  But the Israeli director in the team, Guy Davidi, finds different ways to show it to young Israelis.


Those who watched it, said the film (and the story they did not know) changed their lives.  They ask:

“What are we to do now that we know?”


The year 2013 is upon us.  Read the story behind the acclaimed film, watch the trailer and listen to what Israeli youth say after watching it:

Can Palestinian non-violent resistance make it into Israel’s education system?

For us who have already witnessed what happens in Palestine, what are we to do?

For me one thing is to talk about the Palestinians’ choice of non-violent resistance… and initiatives with them and with like-minded others such as my Jewish and Muslim friends and colleagues.  When the time is ready, I shall do so in future posts.

May we all have open hearts in the rest of 2013 – hearts that will not only receive, but also share blessings of goodwill and love.  May we co-discover ways to create a dignified peace.  And may this film remind us that all in the world deserve dignity.

Joligheid: Oktober olyfoes

Oktobermaand is olyfoestyd vir Palestyne – tradisioneel ‘n vrolike kulturele, sosiale en ekonomiese bedrywigheid.  Almal werk saam en hou tydens middagete heerlik piekniek in die koelte van die bome.

In Yanoun het ek iets hiervan beleef, maar dinge was nie algeheel idillies en sorgvry nie.  Maar tog, as almal saam werk, vuil word, sing, en eet, vergeet ‘n mens amper van die besetting.

Boere mag dikwels nie by hul boorde kom om te oes nie, en indien wel, moet hulle beskerm word.  Beskermingsbegeleiding is een van die sleuteltake van ekumeniese werkers in die WRK se EAPPI-program. (Terloops, Linda wat links sit, en Ueli wat nie op die foto is nie, het beide tydens die oes van die wankelrige houtlere afgeval – Ueli met taamlik rampspoedige gevolge vir sy rug, en albei met ‘n groot geterg van die res van ons.)

Die inwoners van ons dorp (en elders) het weke in spanning gewag om te hoor of hulle permitte sou kry om by hul (eie) boorde uit te kom – en uiteindelik mag hulle nie by al hul (weer eens eie, wettige) boorde gekom het nie.  Tydens die oes was daar weermagvoertuie wat op en af gejaag het en ons was heeltyd op die uitkyk vir setlaars wat wou amok maak.

Oktober 2011:

Ons begin soggens net na sonop.  My hande is gaar en elke stukkie van myself en my klere is stofbedek, maar dis vreeslik lekker.

 Middagete is vars taboonbrood met olyfolie, za’tar, gebakte eiervrug en soetrissies, volryp tamaties, uie, skaap- en bokmelkkaas en piekels, en dan tee met salie – absoluut heerlik!


Ek wens ek het ook handskoene hier (te ver van die winkels)

Foto deur Jan Egil Berg, Ekumeniese Begeleier, Noorweë.

Hoewel dit goed gaan in Yanoun (buiten vir die drie groepe onwettige, gewapende Israeliese setlaars wat  deur die dorp en die landerye gestap het), gaan dit moeiliker in die ander dorpe waar ons werk.

Dit neem jare voordat ‘n olyfboom begin vrugte dra.  In die eerste jaar het so ‘n boom daaglikse aandag nodig en later weekliks of maandeliks.  Teen die tyd dat die bome groot is, word hulle amper soos “kinders” beskou.  Dis hartverskeurend om dan te sien hoe die bome doelbewus beskadig en vernietig word deur setlaars.

Die olyfolie-industrie beslaan 14% van Palestyne se landbou-inkomste en verskaf inkomste aan sowat 80 000 gesinne.

Ongeveer die helfte van die besette Palestynse gebied (48%) is beplant met olyfbome waarvan die meeste in die Wesoewer–  omtrent orals waar ‘n mens kyk.

Elke stukkie word gebruik – selfs die afvalmateriaal wat oorbly nadat die olywe gepers is.  Hierdie korrelrige afvalmateriaal word weer huis toe geneem en daar gedroog vir  gebruik in die winter om vuur mee te maak (die olierigheid laat ‘n klein vuurtjie sommer goed ontvlam):

Die ontwrigting van die olyf-industrie raak die hart van die Palestyne.  Juis daarom word dit gereeld geteister deur Israeli setlaars.  Organisasies soos Rabbis for Human Rights ( en Joint Advocacy Initiative ( doen geweldig baie deur vrywilligers te reël wat in die oestyd saampluk met die mans, vrouens en kinders en ‘n teenwoordigheid handhaaf.

Maar deur die loop van die jaar moet die bome versorg word.  Dit moet gesnoei en die grond moet omgeploeg en bemes word sodat die winterreën kan indring.  As dit nie gebeur nie, is die oes klein en swak – soos ek laas jaar in Yanoun beleef het.

Israel maak dit so moeilik as moontlik vir boere:

  • Daar is 73 Israeli “hekke” waarvan die meeste (52) heeljaar gesluit is sodat boere nie by hul boorde kan kom nie buiten tydens oestyd vir ‘n beperkte aantal ure wat meestal te min is om alles te oes.
  • In 2011 is 42% van aansoeke om permitte vir toegang tot die boorde tydens die oestyd verwerp (39% in 2010).
  • Tussen Januarie en middel Oktober 2012, het Israeli setlaars in die Wesoewer sowat 7 500 bome van Palestyne beskadig of vernietig (uitgetrek, verbrand, vergif, afgekap) (dis ongeveer 2000 minder as in dien ooreenstemmende periode in 2011).
  • Volgens Yesh Din, ‘n Israeli vredesorganisasie wat Palestyne help, het net een van die 162 klagtes teen setlaaraanvalle op Palestynse bome gelei tot die aankla van ‘n beskuldigde.
  • In Gaza is 7 300 dunums boorde al langs die grens met Israel platgevee deur Israeli militêre operasies.

Foto’s Oktober 2012: Olyfoes in Hebron: vrywilligers gearresteer deur die IDF

Ek hoop om binnekort my eie twee olyfbome te plant 🙂


The Jordan Valley, a Finish film crew and two settlers

I fell in love with the sweltering Jordan Valley and all its flies during my time in the West Bank. I’m not the only one though… Israel wants it too.

The Jordan Valley is the only remaining connective tissue between the cut-up, isolated Palestinian villages surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements.  It is considered the food basket of the land.

The West Bank (where the Jordan Valley is) was previously occupied by the British and by Jordan, and before them by others, but during those times, the Palestinians could cultivate fruit and vegetables and roam their sheep and goat on their fertile land.  Under Israeli occupation, this is no longer the case.

Since the Nakba (Arabic for “The Catastrophe”) in 1948 and the 1967 war, life has become increasingly unbearable for Palestinians.

Israel denies the right of the Palestinians to make a living and systematically tries to remove them by forced evacuation.  The photo above shows an Israeli sign to keep Palestinians from their own land.

In violation of the Geneva Convention, Israel as the occupier uses the occupied Palestinian land for Israel’s economic benefit – and more specifically, for produce they export with labels calling it “Produce of Israel”:

Israel breaches applicable international law by severe water restrictions, demolitions of buildings (mosques, houses, schools, animal shelters, etc.) and the confiscation of Palestinian land.

(this photo by EA Eduardo Minossi de Oliveira from Brazil)

They use these measures to take land away from the Palestinians – supposedly for “military reasons”, but actually to cultivate that land with water they also take from the Palestinians.

Pointing to the land his family used to own when he was a child, Ghassan explained that his family had been harassed by the IDF to the point where they had feared for their lives (their tent was blown up amongst other things).  Eventually, after years of harassment, they were forced to choose between their lives and their land. So they chose to live. Today Ghassan is a taxi driver and he talks peace. The land is now used by the nearby Israeli settlement for agriculture.

In the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area, about 10 000 Israeli settlers have the same amount of water allocated to every 833 000 Palestinians.  This explains why the Israeli settlements’ gardens and  fields are lush green while the Palestinians barely have enough for washing and drinking.

The stark difference between a Palestinian farm and an illegal Israeli settlement with lots of water.

Israeli wells and boreholes literally drain the Palestinian underground water sources. Palestinians wells may be up to 90m deep, whilst Israeli wells (that pump up Palestinian water for exclusive use by Israeli settlers) are 600m deep.  Palestinians in the Jordan Valley (JV) have no electricity and have to use (expensive) gasoline to pump water.  Israeli settlers, in turn, use subsidised electricity to power their modern water infrastructure:

My EA team member Emma Idestrand (from Sweden) and I accompanied a Finish film crew who were shooting footage for two films –  one on the work of EAPPI and another on advocating for a boycott of illegal produce by Israeli settlers.  We showed them how the Israelis benefit from the water in the Jordan Valley, and how little there is available to the Palestinians:

As most of the Jordan Valley is zoned as Area C and hence under full Israeli military control, the Palestinians may not even repair or upgrade their own equipment, so this is what it looks like:

As the film crew, Emma and I got into the minibus, Ghassan was still closing the back door of the vehicle on the film equipment.  A car stopped next to us. Two people got out and immediately started to angrily harass Ghassan, asking him what he was doing there. Yes, they who live illegally in the West Bank, asked Ghassan, a legal and indigenous inhabitant, what he was doing on his own land.

Well, the film crew immediately wanted to film the incident, but we discouraged them as we knew that it would aggravate the situation, and possibly create more anger which the settlers may project onto other Palestinians.  So we simply did what we were trained to do – we provided a protective presence. When Emma and I got out of the minibus, the sight of our EAPPI vests and our steadfast presence made them backtrack – albeit very noisily.  Only then did I take a picture:

Somehow this situation reminded me or my own country’s history. And for that very reason, I have hope, for I know that this kind of attitude has changed for so  many South Africans.

It made me reread the words of Cynthia Ngewu, one of the Gugulethu mothers whose children were killed by Apartheid Security Forces during our apartheid years:

This thing called reconciliation…if I am
understanding it correctly…if it means this
perpetrator, this man who has killed…
Christopher Piet, if it means he becomes
human again, this man, so that I, so that all
of us, get our humanity back…then I agree,
then I support it all.

(as recorded by Antjie Krog, a prominent Afrikaans poet who was a journalist during South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Process.)

I also realise that our process of reconciliation in South Africa, the one of finding our own humanity and those of others, is not finished.  Not by far.


My (eertydse) mites oor Palestina en Israel

Die Jordaanvallei

Iemand het my ‘n paar vrae gevra…. wat my ’n soort “déja vu”-gevoel gegee het, omdat dit my eertydse persepsies raakvat.

My antwoorde is uiteraard nie volledig nie, maar ek probeer….


Mite 1.  Die “twee kante” van die saak (Israel/Palestina) weeg eweveel

Wat  EAPPI namens die Wêreldraad van Kerke geverifieerd waarneem en rapporteer aan die VN sedert 2002, is ‘n sistematiese en  ‘n sistemiese benadeling van die Palestyne.  Dit behels aanhoudende oortredings van menseregte en die internasionale humanitêre reg soos bepaal deur die Geneefse Konvensie, die Haagse Konvensie, VN resolusies en die Internasionale Geregshof.

Daar is vier breë temas van benadeling:

  • sluiting, kontrole oor, en beperkings op beweging (dus “checkpoints”, ompaaie (vir Palestyne) wat nie onderhou mag word nie, en pragtige paaie (vir Israeli’s);
  • huis- en ander slopings en die onteiening van landbougrond;
  • die effek van die Muur en die gepaardgaande regime; en
  • Israeli setlaargeweld en teistering (alle Israeli setlaars in die Wes-Oewer woon onwettig daar).

Daar is geweld deur ekstremiste aan beide kante, maar dis belangrik om te besef dat die Paletyne nie sistematiese en sistemiese oortredings van menseregte pleeg nie, terwyl Israel dit wel doen ten opsigte van die Arabiere in Israel én t.o.v. die Palestyne in Ghaza en die Wes-Oewer (die besette Palestynse gebied).


Bethlehem, die Muur met onthoofde olyfbome

Mite 2. Palestyne is aggressief

Ekstremiste en geweldplegers aan albei kante teiken gewone burgers.  Ek verstom my egter dat die meeste van die Palestyne (Moslems sowel as Christene) vredesgesind is.  Hulle vra bloot (dringend) dat die internasionale wette op menseregte hier nagekom moet word.  Ek is tot in my siel geruk oor die smart en lyding van hierdie mense en hul reaksie daarop – hulle weerstand is om hul gesloopte waterpompe te herstel, om weer olyfbome te plant nadat dit uit die grond geruk is, om weer huise en moskees te bou nadat dit gesloop is, om vredesboodskappe in graffitti op die Muur te skryf, om aan te hou met lewe en te hoop dat dinge eendag sal verander.

Sou ek so gereageer het?

Hulle is diep gelowige mense – dié Moslems en die Christene.  En hulle hou aan hoop. En glo dat God se wil sal geskied. En dat daardie wil vrede en gelykheid behels. Ek/ons hoor hierdie boodskappe uit mense se monde wanneer ek by hulle sit terwyl hulle olyfbome ontwortel word, hulle grond onteien  word, hulle huise gesloop word, hulle in lang toue vanaf 2:00 staan om by hul werk te kom, wanneer vieslike dinge op hul moskees geverf word en mense geskiet (en gedood) word in aanvalle deur gewapende (onwettige) Israeli setlaars. Al hierdie dinge het ons reeds saam met hulle beleef.


Die son skyn oor almal, maar net party het munisipale dienste

Mite 3. Israel streef vrede na

Israel se boodskappe na buite is gebaseer op die mantras “peace” en “truth” gekombineer met vreesaanjaende boodskappe oor “Arab terrorists”.

So reageer Allan Wolman byvoorbeeld op ‘n artikel van my in die Sunday Independent:

Ms Momberg whist you might not sleep that well under the lights you describe I can assure you that thousand more Israeli families sleep even less well due to the necessity to be vigilant against terrorist attackers who slit the throats of their children at night!

(Taalfoute Mnr Wolman se eie)

Mnr Wolman substansieer of verifieer nie wat hy sê nie.  Hy val bloot dit wat ek en my kollegas waargeneem, gefotografeer en gedokumenteer het aan met die doel om dit te diskrediteer.

Lees sy brief hier:

en my brief hier:

Na buite het Israel drie kernboodskappe:

  • We just want peace.
  • What we want is based on truth.
  • Our lives are threatened by those Arab terrorists.

Maar na binne verskerp die amptelike diskriminasie en benadeling van Palestyne en word menseregte-oortredings versnel.

Op dieselfde dag waarop Gilat Shalit vrygelaat is in 2011, lees ek in die koerante  Israeli Eerste Minister Netanyahu se aankondiging van ‘n taakgroep om onwettige buiteposte van setlaardorpe te “wettig”.  Volgens Israel is net enkele buiteposte op Palestynse grond onwettig (omdat dit nie Israeli-staatstoestemming het nie), maar volgens die internasionale gemeenskap en die Vierde Geneefse Konvensie (Art 49, par 6) is ALLE setlaardorpe en buiteposte in die besette Palestynse gebied onwettig. Netanyahu se hele toespraak op die 23e September was “peace, peace, truth, truth, truth”…  maar…. dan kondig hulle net daarna aan dat onwettige nedersettings (“settlements”) uitgebrei word – soos met die 1500 nuwe huise in Gilo by Bethlehem, maar ook in al die dorpe in die gebied waar ons werk. Dit gaan my verstand te bowe.

Watter soort vrede streef Israel na?

Sien ook:

Israel’s new settler build cuts off Bethlehem and Jerusalem:

UN: Israel’s plan for new settler district ‘unacceptable’

Ekumeniese werkers: Jan Egil Berg (Noorweë), Emma Idestrand (Swede), Erik Charpentier (Swede)

Mite 4.  EAPPI werkers se blootstelling is eensydig

EAPPI werk saam met talle Israeliese vredesgroepe, soos:

  • Rabbis for Human Rights wat al  jarelank die Palestyne in Oktober help om hul (eie) olywe te oes en weerstand te bied teen ekstremistiese setlaars wat dit probeer verhoed.
  • Women in Black in Wes-Jerusalem wat elke Vrydag in stilte betoog om hul eie landsgenote te sensitiseer vir onregte in Palestina (hulle is benoem vir die Nobel-prys);
  • Machsom Watch – vrywilligers wat diens doen by kontrolepunte;
  • Breaking the Silence, oud IDF-soldate wat nou hul ervarings in die weermag deel met hul landgenote en die res van die wêreld en help met ons opleiding;
  • Yesh Deen wat humanitêre hulp verleen aan ontheemdes;
  • B’tselem wat videos maak van menseregte-oortredings in Palestina en dit versprei;
  • New Profile wat jong Israeli’s wat nie weermag toe wil gaan nie, bystaan;
  • Peace now wat die onwettige Israeliese nedersettings en die voortgesette uitbreiding daarvan probeer stop; en
  • The Other Voice wat die gesigloosheid van die mense in Gaza probeer oorkom.

Ons was ook by die Holocaust museum in Jerusalem tydens ons opleiding en het daar weer onder die indruk van die ontsetting van WWOII gekom.  Die punt is, EAPPI werk met ALMAL wat vrede, menseregte en die handhawing van die internasionale menseregtewette voorstaan. EAPPI is gegrond in samewerking met beide partye. Ons keur alle vorme van geweld, aan albei kante af.

Op ons afdae (12 dae in die drie maande, onthou ekumeniese begeleiers werk 24/7) is ons aangemoedig om na Israel te reis en as groep het ons met Bob Lang, ‘n Israeli setlaar (oorspronklik van die VSA) gesels.

EAPPI is die enigste internasionale organisasie wat binne kontrolepunte mag werk (Machsom Watch mag nie). Ek het in Bethlehem soggens om 3:00 opgestaan om diens te doen by Checkpoint 300.  Daar onderhandel ons met die soldate om die hekke oop te hou vir mense wat moet gaan werk en by hospitale uitkom, en wanneer nodig, skakel ons die Humanitarian Hotline om hulp – ‘n afdeling van die Israeliese weermag.

Oktober is olyfoestyd

Mite 5: Die bakleiery gaan al 3000 jaar lank aan en sal altyd voortduur.

Vir eeue het Christene, Moslems en Jode in vrede hier geleef – tot en met 1947 met die aankoms van Europese Jode.  Dis belangrik om te verstaan dat die konflik nie heers tussen ALLE Christene, Moslems en Jode nie.  Baie van die Jode, hier en in die res van die wêreld, kies om nie met Sionisme te vereenselwig nie  en ook nie met die moderne staat Israel nie.

Gedurende die opkoms van Naziisme het die meeste Jode geargumenteer dat hulle in Europa moes bly en hul beywer vir gelykheid in hul eie lande.  Die Sioniste-beweging (‘n subgroep binne Judaïsme) daarenteen, het geargumenteer dat hulle ‘n eksklusiewe land vir hulself – net vir hulself – benodig.  Dis ongelukkig presies hierdie soort denke wat lei tot die uitsluiting van andere, en soms neem die uitsluiting gruwelike vorme aan soos gebeur het onder Hitler.

Die Sioniste het Palestina gekies – ‘n land wat reeds bewoon was.  Ek het lank gemeen Palestina was “a land without a people for a people without a land”. Maar dis nie so nie.  Hier was (en is) ‘n wonderlike beskawing en die Jode wat hierheen gevlug het, het geen genetiese bande met die land nie, hulle deel bloot die geloof van sommige (die minderheid) van die mense wat hier gewoon het tot en met 1948.

Sionisme was dus een van die eerste redes wat aanleiding gegee het tot die konflik. ‘n Verdere (bisarre) komplikasie was dat die Britte na die eerste WO onafhanklikheid aan beide die Palestyne en die Jode beloof het op dieselfde stuk grond. Klink die inmenging van Europa in ‘n ander land bekend? En onthou, die VSA en Brittanje het streng beperkings geplaas op die Jode wat na WOII na hul lande mog emigreer.

Na WOII het die VN die land verdeel en die meeste grond (57%) het gegaan aan die minste mense (die Jode) – dalk weens die verskrikking van die Holocaust? Wat dan van die Palestyne?  Het hulle die Holocaust veroorsaak? Die Palestyne en Arabiese lande het hulle hierteen verset en die Weste het die VN se besluit om grond van die Palestyne af te neem en vir die Jode te gee, verdedig. Die Palestyne noem 1948 se besluit en die verdere geweld deur Europese Jode die “Nakba” – die Katastrofe.  Israeliese burgers en soldate het heel dorpe (520) uit hul huise gedryf, vermoor en die meeste van die Palestyne het alles agtergelaat en vir hul lewens gevlug.  Hierdie vlugtelinge het vandag nog kaart, transport en sleutels van hul eiendom, maar daardie eiendom is alles vernietig of beset deur Israeli’s en die Palestyne woon tot vandag toe in vlugtelingskampe.

Sedertdien het die Israelis net meer en meer grond van die Palestyne afgeneem en onwettig beset. Tans het die Palestyne net sowat 22% van wat hulle in 1948 gekry het, oor.  Hiervan beset Israel ‘n verdere 60%  volledig, en ander dele gedeeltelik.

Die meeste Palestyne (7 miljoen, dws 70% van alle Palestyne wêreldwyd) is ontheem – sommige meer as eenmaal – eers in 1948 en toe weer in 1967….  en sommige vandag nogmaals wanneer hul huise gesloop word of hul grond onwettig ontheem word.

Sommige Palestyne is so moeg vir die konflik dat hulle vandag bereid is om net 22% in vrede te kry – dis in wese waaroor die voorlegging op 23 September 2011 gehandel het. Ander reken weer dat daar net een staat moet wees waar almal in vrede leef (soos in Suid-Afrika).

Die bekroonde film Occupation 101 is ook verhelderend.

Kyk die hele film gratis hier.

… of gaan leen ‘n kopie by die NGK Stellenbosch Welgelegen se kerkkantoor.


What Israel wants


My team and I report on human rights abuses for three months. We live in the ancient village of Yanoun, but also work in surrounding villages and in the Jordan Valley, all in the West Bank in the occupied territories of Palestine.

Today my breakfast consisted of grapes that we received from a Palestinian shepherd as we passed him and his flock of sheep earlier this morning plus some pomegranate seeds, raisins and almonds.

We do daily walks to monitor the roads of Yanoun. This is a pleasant task, especially now that it is no longer so sweltering hot. With our binoculars we search the hills for anything out of the ordinary such as new (illegal) structures or the presence of (often armed) Israeli settlers.

The sheep, goats, donkeys, horses and the olive, fig, almond and pomegranate trees stand by as we watch over the farming community. We, in turn, are watched from another hill by members of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) – who should ensure peace on both sides, but often collaborate with Israeli settlers.

Providing a protective presence to the Palestinian people is one of our main priorities.  Local farmers lived and worked here since the eighteenth century but today there are only 75 inhabitants left after Yanoun was nearly wiped off the face of the map in 2002. Israeli settlers invaded the village and forced everybody from their homes. According to Mayor Rashed Murrar “They came with dogs and guns, every Saturday night. They beat men in front of their children. One Saturday they said that they didn’t want to see anyone here next Saturday … the whole village left that week.”

Some families returned but only after intense international media focused on their plight and with the assistance of an Israeli peace group, Ta’ayush.  Since 2003 EAPPI members have provided a protective presence to the villagers.

However, Israeli inhabitants from the nearby Itamar settlement still harass the town. Six months ago, on the 5th of March, they polluted the water well (the only source of water for the inhabitants).

A month later, on the 27th of April they invaded the village with dogs. During the night, on the 2nd of July, settlers together with over 30 armed IDF soldiers launched a full incursion into the village to search, allegedly, for stolen sheep (which was never found, the crime never proved, the harassment never interrogated). Last month, on the 7th of August, when confronted by the EAPPI team, the armed settlers and soldiers claimed to be carrying out “research” at the Palestinian water well.

Israel has occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem since 1967. All settlements are in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Peace talks came to a standstill a year ago precisely due to Israel’s continuous expansion of settlements. Between the start of the peace talks and now, Jewish settlers in the West Bank have doubled – they now number just over half a million people, living in 121 settlements, at approximately 100 outposts and they control more than 42 percent of the West Bank.

The settlers gradually, piece by piece, confiscate land in the West Bank and cultivate it with water at Israeli State subsidized rates. All this while Palestinian houses, roads, wells and clinics are demolished and they themselves are denied building permits and free access to roads, churches, mosques, hospitals and schools.

Many of the Israeli settlers come from different parts of the world and have no immediate genetic affiliation with the land.  Yet they claim: “This is the land of our fathers and grandfathersThis is the land of Israel” – these are slogans on posters placed by Israelis on the main road between Hebron and Jerusalem, in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Since my arrival in the West Bank two weeks ago, I have witnessed many forms of humiliation and oppression. In fact, on my third day here, I attended the funeral of a young Palestinian man who was shot in a nearby village after Israeli settlers damaged the olive groves for a third time in three weeks, during prayer-time on Friday.

I write this as I sit outside the community center with the mayor of the village.  We are waiting for a delegation from Ramallah to discuss the construction of a road on Palestinian soil that settlers began work on early this morning. He has already contacted the Palestinian District Co-ordination Office but they in turn need to ask the Israeli authorities to intervene.  There was no response from the Israeli authorities. “Maybe the Red Cross would help,” the mayor said, “maybe.”

We both watch the settlers and their tractors work on their new road that snakes downhill. We need no binoculars to do so, they are so close. I do not know what to say to the mayor.  I am thinking of the shepherd who gave us grapes, the women from whom we buy almonds, yoghurt, cheese and eggs, the children who play in front of our house at night.

Tonight we shall sleep under the bright security spotlights that light up the houses and gravel roads. I do not sleep well here.

(as published in the Sunday Independent of 2 October, 2011 by Marthie Momberg)


On Saturday, 7 July 2012 at approximately 3:00PM (GMT+2) Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement of Itamar approached three Palestinian farmers in Yanoun who were harvesting their wheat and grazing their sheep. The settlers were armed with knives and killed three of the farmers’ sheep.

A clash then ensued, in which the settlers and farmers began throwing stones at one-another. When EAs arrived to the scene, three fires were ablaze in the fields, but it was unknown whether the flames were intentionally lit by the settlers or were started by teargas canisters that the Israeli military fired at the farmers. Nonetheless, two wheat fields and one olive grove were burnt, and when other Palestinian farmers arrived at the scene to turn out the flames, Israeli soldiers and police prevented them from reaching the fields by firing more teargas at them.

In total six Palestinians were injured, and five were hospitalized:

  • Jawdat Bani Jaber (Hospitalized): was beaten and stabbed multiple times by settlers, then shot in the face and foot by Israeli soldiers. He was then handcuffed by Israeli soldiers and attacked again by the settlers while the soldiers pursued other Palestinian farmers. After being attacked, the military did not allow a present ambulance take him to a hospital or care for him for approximately 3-hours.
  • Ibrahim Bani Jaber (Hospitalized): was beaten by a soldier on his head with the butt-stock of an M16 rifle, causing damage to his eye, and was later beaten by settlers while handcuffed.
  • Hakimun Bani Jaber (Hospitalized): was shot in the arm at close range by a soldier.
  • Adwan Bani Jaber (Hospitalized): was beaten by settlers with clubs.
  • Ashraf Bani Jaber: was beaten by a soldier with a club.
  • Jawdat Ibrahim (Hospitalized): was handcuffed, beaten by Israeli soldiers and then released for the settlers to attack as they watched. He was then tied up by the settlers and left on his land; he was found the next morning (Sunday, 8 July 2012).

Rashid, Mayor of Yanoun and long-time EAPPI local contact (pictured above), expressed fear that settlers initiated the clash to enforce new invisible boundaries, which would de facto confiscate much of the area’s wheat fields to the Itamar Settlement.

What the International Humanitarian Law says:

The International Court of Justice has stated that the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilian persons in Times of War applies to the occupied Palestinian territory.

All Israeli settlements are illegal according to Article 49 the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

Article 4 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states, “Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.” Thus, according to International Humanitarian Law, Israel has the duty as an occupying power to protect Palestinians from settler attacks.

Report from Rabbis for Human Rights on the settler attack.

READ MORE: Why this village needs constant protection

Scientific proof: Praying and the sharing of thoughts really work – but under which circumstances?

What do we when we know that others suffer and we are far from them?  When we advocate and mobilise, but still, the terrible violations of human rights continue relentlessly, day after day?

According to the Geneva Convention(art 49, par. 6) the occupier (Israel) must protect the interests of the occupied party (Palestine and its people) and it may not settle parts of its own civil population there. But the government of Israel does not respect this law.

Moreover, the illegal inhabitants of the West Bank (Israeli settlers), the Israeli Civil Administration (a military body despite its name) and the Israel Defense Force (IDF) often join forces in the violation of human rights – and now  to flatten two rural Palestinian villages where the civilians, none with criminal records – mothers, fathers, teenagers and children all with faces, hearts and dreams, have every right to live.

Here is a link to how it all fits together:

“Civil Administration” and Settlers Join Forces to Destroy Palestinian Susya. Did the Court Wink and Nod?.

Does this leave us helpless?  Absolutely not.

We CAN DO something.  We can PRAY.  This is an action.

How do we know that prayer works?

According to Dr Larry Dossey (a physician of internal medicine) consciousness is capable of things that brains are incapable of.  He refers to a 1988 controlled study of the San Fransisco General Hospital which involved nearly 400 people, all of them in the coronary care unit.

The group that was prayed for appeared to do much, much better than the group which received no prayer.  I went to the medical literature to see if there had been any previous studies involving prayer to support this.  I was astonished to discover over 130 studies in this general area.

The thing is, the people who were prayed for, did not even know about the prayers.  Dossey continues to say that:

One of the common features of prayerfulness that really makes a difference in the world is empathy, caring, compassion, love and so on.  this has been demonstrated in the laboratory.  It is clear that the experiments don’ work very well if a person does not have empathy, love, compassion and caring for the object or subject they are trying to influence.  The experiments work so much better if there is an emphatic connection, a unity, a caring bond.

(Dossey, L. 1996. in Di Carlo, R.E. Towards a New World View. Epic Publishing: Erie.)

I think we should pray for both the Palestinians and those on the Israeli side – so that all can retain (or remember) their humanity.

(photo by Linda Baily from Whales)

My friend and EAPPI colleague Jan McIntyre organised a prayer vigil in Manitoba, Canada in light of the impending demolitions. This is her prayer:

Almighty and eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we give thanks for your presence.  You are our refuge in this troubled world.

In the birth of your son Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, you became one of us, sharing and understanding our humanity, our suffering and our problems.

We thank you that you took refuge in Egypt, identifying yourself with all who are refugees and victims of political power.

We thank you that you were crucified in Jerusalem, identifying yourself with every person who suffers and lives under occupation and injustice.

Loving God, we come before you now with all the troubles and pains experienced by your people in the Middle East.

We pray for all the victims of injustice and violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.   We pray for the people of Gaza and the West Bank who face daily injustice, hardship and cruelty.  We pray for those who have experienced recent demolition of their homes and community buildings, and for those whose villages are at imminent risk of demolition.  In particular, today we pray for the people of Susiya and Wadi J’Hesh.  Give them courage to walk through these difficult days, and maintain in them a continued commitment to the principles and practice of non-violent resistance, even in the face of violence towards themselves.

As we pray for the residents of Susiya and Wadi J’Hesh, we pray also for the residents of other Palestinian villages throughout the South Hebron Hills and the entire West Bank who are facing significant demolition orders against their villages. Grant them the peace of knowing that whatever happens, you are with them.  That the words “Allah Kareeem” –  “God is generous and will see us through this”, may offer strength and sustenance in this time of trial.

We pray for the people of these villages, people like all of us.  Mothers, fathers, children, aunts, uncles, friends.  Ordinary folk….  Rural people who provide care for their sheep, their goats and their chickens.  Farmers who tend to their crops.  Children with school classes and homework.  People  – each one of them with hearts and faces and dreams.

We pray also for those who are responsible for injustices and all forms of violence.   We pray for political and military leaders, and we pray for the young Israeli soldiers who, in following military orders, are required to participate as perpetrators in these horrific demolitions.

We pray for the Israeli settlers, that they might open their hearts to the ways of justice and peace with their neighbours.

We pray for the Israeli activists who work steadfastly towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict.  Guide them as they share their desire and quest for peace with their fellow citizens.

We pray for the many internationals who work towards a just peace in this Holy Land, a just peace for both peoples.

We pray for the Israeli government and the Israeli people, that they may turn from this illegal military occupation and work towards a genuine peace with their Palestinian neighbours.

We pray that the Palestinian people will be open to working with the Israeli people towards a just peace for both.

We pray that fear on both sides may be overcome by trust and a mutual desire for the true well being of each other.

We pray that all involved may come to a place of respect and honour for the human dignity of one another.  That each may recognize their shared humanity with the other, and their shared place within Creation.

We pray that you will open the eyes of the world towards justice and reconciliation in this place of conflict.  Help us all to see that the security and freedom of one people is dependent upon the security and freedom of the other.

We pray for politicians around the world, but especially in Israel and Palestine, that they may realize that the security and peace we all long for will not come by the use of arms and force, but by living a mutual path of justice so that the two peoples together can work towards an equitable and peaceable shared future.

We give thanks today for those from around the world who are praying with us now as we pray,  offering with us prayers for all those affected by the military occupation of Palestine, with special concern for the people of the South Hebron Hills villages of Wadi J’Hesh and Susiya.   For those known to us, and for those unknown, we offer thanks as together we raise our prayers to you, O Holy One.

Holy Spirit, giver of life and new beginnings, help us to faithfully respond to God’s call to open ourselves to the pains of injustice of people wherever they may be, and to stand in solidarity with those who are hurting. May we, with our sisters and brothers around the world, open our hearts and confess our part in past injustices and find ways to build a just and secure future for all. Give us wisdom and courage in this difficult task.  And when the pressures of the situation leave us in despair, come with your Light to show us the way and to renew our strength and hope.

We ask these, and all our prayers, in the name of Jesus, the Christ,   Amen.

More information:
May Palestinians live on their own land? and
an article by Associated Press: Susiya AP Article June 21 2012

May Palestinians live on their own land?

Clearly not according to the Israeli Government’s logic.  Take for instance the crisis faced by the inhabitants of Susiya.

This village in South Hebron Hills in the West Bank is situated very close to an Israeli settlement, which according to international law, was built illegally on Palestinian land. But these settlers want more and so they filed a petition to the Israeli High Court. The State indicated in March 2012 that it plans to demolish 70% of Susiya.

No alternatives or compensation are offered to the inhabitants. It is still icy cold in Palestine. They will loose everything. To us who worked in the West Bank, they are not faceless people. They are not “Arab terrorists.”  They are people with families, who love and live and have dreams for their children. They live legally on the land of their forefathers, the land allotted to them by the United Nations in 1948. International law protects their human rights…. or does it?

Most of that land allocated to the Palestinians has already been taken by Israel in illegal ways. Palestinians have only 22% left of what was given to them in 1948, and of this 22%, Israel occupies (in the West Bank) a further 60%

Information from a fact sheet by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Territories of Palestine (UNOCHA otP):

Susiya families, who have lived in the community since before 1948, face some of the worst living conditions in Area C. Residents, who own the land in the  community, used to live in houses, but these were destroyed by the Israeli authorities. They now live in tents and tin shelters. Residents, who rely on agriculture and herding for their livelihood, depend on rainwater cisterns, as the community is not connected to the water network and there are no nearby filling points.

A demolished house in Jericho. Here too Israel claimed it was necessary to protect an archaeological site, but is this the real reason?

KEY FACTS (from an UNOCHA fact sheet, March 2012):
  • Susiya has a population of some 350 people, including 120 children.
  • In 1986, the main residential area of the community was declared an archaeological site by the Israeli authorities and approximately 60 families were forcibly displaced, without any compensation according to residents; an Israeli settlement outpost, Suseya Synagogue, was subsequently established in the same area.
  • The Israeli settlement of Suseya, est. 1983, and the outpost, est. 2002, control land that is ten times larger than the built-up area of both Israeli settlements, much of which is privately-owned Palestinian land. (source: Rabbis for Human Rights)
  • Susiya residents now have access to less than one-third of the approximately 6,000 dunums of land that were previously available to them for residential, agricultural and herding purposes.
  • In 2001, all structures in the community were demolished and the residents forcibly displaced again.
  • In 2011, the Israeli authorities carried out four waves of demolitions, targeting 41 structures, including 31 residential tents or shacks and two water cisterns, repeatedly displacing 37 people (including 20 children) and affecting another 70.
  • At least 70 percent of the existing structures in the community, including the school, have pending demolition orders.
  • Residents pay 25 NIS per cubic meter of tankered water, five times more than the nearby illegal Israeli settlement, which is served by the national network, and spend up to 1/3 of their income on water.
  • Water consumption is 28 litres/capita/day (l/c/d), significantly less than the 70 l/c/d consumed by an average Palestinian and well below the World Health Organisation standard of 100 l/c/d. (WASH cluster)

There is a clear pattern of discrimination between Susiya and the nearby Israeli settlements, particularly regarding planning and zoning. The illegal Israeli Suseya settlement has an approved plan that allows construction. While the structures in the nearby Israeli outpost lack a building permit, the Israeli Civil Authority (which is actually a military body) has carried out no demolitions here and to discriminate even further, the illegal Israeli outpost is connected to the water and electricity networks.

Susiya residents are exposed to systematic intimidation and abuse from settlers, in an attempt to forcefully displace them…..  to have no home in one’s own land. The cases recorded include physical assaults, verbal harassment and prevention of access to their land and hence their livelihood. Of course these ongoing abuses damage people on a psycho-social level…. particularly children who have not yet developed coping strategies.

This seems to be a deliberate Israeli strategy.  For if Palestinian communities in Area C my not build or live on their land and if there is no freeze on demolitions, the situation in these communities will continue to deteriorate, increasing their risk of forced displacement and hence undermining Palestinian presence in Area C of the West Bank.  This seems to be what Israel wants. The ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements counter to international humanitarian law, and together with that the persistent settler violence which the Israeli authorities consistently fail to investigate, make matters worse and all of this play into the forceful removal of locals.

Article 23 of The Hague Convention of 1907:

it is especially forbidden (for the occupier) to destroy or seize the enemy’s property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.”

Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949:

“any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”

The case of Susiya is unfortunately not unique. See also my post on Al ‘Aqaba where 97% of the village is under threat of demolition by Israel.

May Israelis live in Palestine?

According to international law, the civilians of an occupier may not live in the territory it occupies (see Article 46 of The Hague Convention, Article 49, par 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, UN Security Council Resolution 465, and the 9 July 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.)

But what happens in reality? 

Israel has an active and official policy of settling Jews from all over the world (read this as people with NO genetic links to the Holy Land) in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank. More than 650 000 Israeli settlers live illegally in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.  Yet this illegal occupation in Palestine continues with the world seemingly standing by.

What is the role of these illegal Israeli settlers? 

Take for example, the case of Asira:

The inhabitants of Asira, one of the Palestinian villages south of Nablus in the West Bank,  suffer regular and serious harassment from the outposts of the Israeli Yitzhar settlement.  Since 2008, crops were burnt, Molotov cocktails were thrown, houses were demolished, cars were destroyed, and olive trees were cut down.  In 2011 settlers also started to throw paint bombs at the houses.

My team (EAPPI Team 41, Yanoun group) visited Nahla (37) and her children at their house in September 2011.  Nahla’s husband is a taxi driver, and in fact he once drove us from Ramallah to Za’tara when we left Jerusalem to go to our placements.  He leaves home early in the morning and return late in the evenings.  Their house is somewhat isolated from the rest of the town.  There are beautiful red roses in the garden.

Nahla and two of her children, note the mesh to protect the window

On average, settlers harasses this family three times a week, but sometimes it is more.  The star of David and the word SAM are sprayed all over their house’s exterior walls… there are also fire marks… the windows are all protected by mesh… in many, many places stonework are damaged by bullets…

Nahla talked to us with a weary smile. She gave us cool drinks, and later, some coffee.

The family took a loan for a fence to safeguard their house.  Now they need an additional 5000 NIS (about R10 000) to get a permit to build the fence around the house.

As I listened to her, I felt weary too…

All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are in complete violation of international law.

What about Christians?

Christians across the world often confuse the Israel of the Bible with the current state of Israel.  And so uninformed Christians uphold a theology of exclusivity and deny Palestinians the land given to them by the United Nations in 1948. Such Christians forget that Palestinians had absolutely nothing to do with the terrible Holocaust. They view Palestinians as faceless terrorists and turn a blind eye when Israel takes more and more of this land. We forget that there are Christians too in Palestine. We think it is fine if the Palestinians have only 22% left of what was given to them in 1948. We agree that Israel may occupy, in multiple, institutionalised, degrading ways, a further 60% of the 22% in the West Bank. Ghaza too is like a open air prison since Israel controls the air space, the sea fare and access on land.

We use the Bible to justify suppression.  Through us, the unthinkable becomes normal. Because we cannot imagine Israel being guilty of crimes against humanity – it simply feels wrong.  Weren’t they at the receiving side of crimes during the terrible Holocaust?

The thing is, we cannot make judgements based on feelings only. We should also apply our minds and take facts into account.  How can we simply ignore, for example, the alarming statistics on the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ website?

Let me return to the issue of Israeli settlements in Palestine:

A 1993 agreement signed by PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin set out a plan for Palestinian self-rule, which was never fully implemented. Israel has continued to expand settlements in the West Bank. Building permits are refused, houses and roads are demolished and military checkpoints prevent citizens to go to churches, mosques, schools and hospitals.

Peace talks came to a standstill precisely due to Israel’s continuous expansion of settlements. Between the start of the peace talks and September 2011, Jewish settlers in the West Bank have doubled:

  • according to the latest figures, there are about 500 000 illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem,
  • living in 121 (but ever expanding) settlements,
  • with approximately 100 outposts and they control more than 42 percent of the West Bank.

Many of the Israeli settlers come from different parts of the world (the USA, Canada, Australia, Europe, Russia, Marrocco, South Africa, etc.) and have absolutely no genetic affiliation with the land that dates back to the times of the Old Testament.  They don’t have to understand Hebrew, they just have to be adherents of the Jewish faith tradition. Yet on posters with anti-Arab slogans on the main road between Hebron and Jerusalem hung by settlers on Sunday 26 September 2011,  they claim “This is the land of our fathers and grandfathers” and “This is the land of Israel”.

How can we allow this to happen?  What kind of theology do we choose? Do we want to exclude, or embrace? Why do so many Jews, some of them Israelis and others not, choose to stand up for a free and just Palestine? Is the Israel of the Bible the same place than the modern state of Israel?  By which terms may any religious tradition suppress another people and deny them basic human rights?

May Israelis live in Palestine? 

No, according to international law, Israeli civilians may not live in Palestine. Hence all settlements and all of the more than 500 000 Israeli civilians in Palestine are illegal.

Yet many, many Palestinians I spoke with, reminded me that Jews, Muslims and Christians used to live as neighbours, like brothers and sisters, in peace together for more than a thousand years on the land that was known as Palestine before the state of Israel was declared. Therefore many of these people prefer a one-state solution where there is freedom, equality, dignity and peace for all.

There is so much to say… If you want to know more, do read, for example, Mark Braverman’s excellent book on Christians, Jews and the search for peace in the Holy Land: Fatal Embrace (2010). Mark is an American Jew and one of those who advocate for freedom and justice in Palestine. His book explains his own journey of insight and contains personal and theological reflections.