Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Plight of Israeli Peace Groups

Recently I read Popular Protest in Palestine: The Uncertain Future of Unarmed Resistance, a book discussing protest rallies by Palestinians in the West Bank against Israeli occupation. The authors went to the Holy Land in 2011-3 to discuss and research the state of the situation there.

One disappointing thing I read in this book is that apparently there is widespread ignorance and apathy within Israeli society about what happens in the West Bank and Gaza and about what the Palestinians demand from the Israeli authorities. Chapter 7 discusses Israeli peace groups and how difficult it is for them to reach out to the Israeli public.

Here is what one Israeli activist said to the authors of this book stating that many Israelis are not aware that the West Bank is not legally regarded as a part of the State of Israel.
He prefaced his remarks by observing that Israeli society had no idea about the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories]. Sometime prior to our interview he had made a presentation to a class of former soldiers, he had been shocked that half of them thought the OPT was part of Israel. (Marwan Darweish and Andrew Rigby, Popular Protest in Palestine, 2015, Chapter 7.)
In several Palestinian villages in the West Bank the Palestinians there have held weekly protests on Friday against the Israeli occupation and opposing the construction of the Wall. But they are little discussed in Israeli society. Here is what one Israeli Jew who participates in these protests said about how Israeli media covered those protests.
It is not so much that the protest actions are delegitimised, it is that they are virtually non-existant for the Israeli public. There is no reporting of the Friday protests [by Israeli media.]
Here is what one woman associated with Machsom Watch had to say about apathy among the Israeli public.
There was the second intifada - nothing came out of that and the buses being blown up. Now the buses are not being blown up and still nothing comes out of it. Israelis are comfortable with the situation. ... People look the other way - it tears me to pieces seeing the conditions in the West Bank and then going into a shopping mall in Tel Aviv ... I can get so angry. I bug people ... people live with it.
Somehow I had never before imagined that Israeli Jews viewed the situation in this way.

Darweish and Rigby also mention that the Palestinians of the West Bank are quite fearful of the Israeli settlers. They quote one Palestinian activist mentioning that adults accompany Palestinian children to school when their path should happen to be near the settlements.
Our aim is to reopen roads, encourage work in agriculture, and accompany children to schools and shepherds to the fields. (Chapter 5.)
It was sad to see that the Palestinians are so fearful and afraid of the settlers. Accompanying children to school because of fear of settlers is not a sign of anti-Semitic hatred, but of genuine fear.

We must always that the current situation is not inevitable and it can be corrected. Today in fact. We cannot wait until Christ returns. Appropriate decisions to make peace need to be made now. We need peace now.

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