by Barbara Hanst
Friends of Sabeel-Colorado Fact-Finding Trip, 2016
It was a full and somewhat discouraging day which began with a visit to the locale of a depopulated village. After the 1948 war, approximately 450 Palestinian villages were emptied of their residents to make room for the incoming Jews, largely from Europe. Thus began the refugee problem which persists to today.
From this area we went to what I believe is the only refugee camp in Jerusalem, Shufat. There are about 22,000 residents; it is crowded with few services. One of our group picked up a "spent" tear gas canister as we were entering, a sign of a clash the day before when the Israeli military had come. While a group of young boys ran toward to say "Welcome!" using their limited English, our leader, the Rev. Naim Ateek, a Palestinian himself who obviously speaks Arabic, heard a woman mutter under her breath "You are not welcome here; you represent the Western powers who have done nothing to help us in 70 years."
We next met with a man named Salim Shawamreh, who had had his house demolished 8 times because he had no permit to build. He and his wife and 6 children owned the land and he had tried to get a building permit—3 times over a period of 4 years, each application costing him $5000. Finally he proceeded to build regardless. After the 1st demolition the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), a group founded by Jeff Halper, an American Zionist Jew who had emigrated to Israel and began this group after he learned what was happening.
Volunteers with ICAHD, Israeli activists, internationals (one from Boulder Co, I believe), and Palestinians all helped him rebuild, but each time the house was aga
in demolished. He talked about the impact this had had on his family. One child, after a suc
cessive demolition, initially could not be found, but later was found curled up between two rocks in a field. "It's not just homes that are destroyed; families are destroyed also," he told us. Approximately 50,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished from 1967 to the present, largely to make room for Jewish only settlements. ICAHD has been targeted by the Israeli government and with the retirement of Jeff Halper will probably cease to exist.
Two quotes from that visit: "As Palestinians we see no light at the end of the tunnel" and "Every Palestinian is paying the price of the Occupation." After we boarded our bus to leave this visit, Naim Ateek, our leader, said "We need to be angry about the response to this non-violent struggle."
We then went to the office of Sabeel for lunch, after which we heard a presentation about a group called Military Court Watch. The focus of the group is the arrest and detention of boys and teenagers for showing some signs of resistance, often by throwing stones. What happens at the time of their arrest both to the boys themselves and to their families is too much to detail here, but culminates in a court hearing which often results in imprisonment. (Settlements are the root of the problem because of the resistance they generate.) Going to prison terrorizes the kids and they are intimidated for the rest of their lives. Look up www.militarycourtwatch.com
and an American NGO, "No way to treat a kid.org".
That's it for tonight, Saturday. Am I behind or what??? This trip is outstanding but there's little time to rest!
Salaam and shalom to you all,