Thursday, October 7, 2010

wein bidna aruhu?

...where will we go?

Holy moley. I just watched a documentary that the Campaign against the Israeli Occupation sent me last year. It surfaced in my pile of moving stuff, so instead of starting my 5-day weekend off watching a few episodes of 1970's SNL like was the plan, I popped in Occupation 101.

For any medium that attempts to boil down the history of the Israel-Palestinian conflict into an hour and a half, this film is nothing to scoff at. It features prominent scholars and human rights activists, most of whom are Israeli. In fact, the only two Palestinians interviewed were the director of Birzeit University (who I'm going to try to meet in December) and Rashid (freakin) Khalidi. Israeli and Jewish voices included founders of peace and solidarity movements, historians, journalists, and professors Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe.

A snippet from the statistics section:

From 1949-1996, the United States gave as much money to Israel as it did to the Carribean, South America, and Sub-Saharan Africa combined. The same amount of money to a country with 5.5 million people as to dozens of countries with over a billion. That puts our spending per Israeli at over $10,000 and spending per person from the Carribean, South America or Sub-Saharan Africa at $59. With the money earmarked in 2003 (10 billion dollars), millions of American children could receive health care or be put through Head Start early education programs. Can we really afford to be ignorant about this "special relationship" considering the current economic crisis?

I wasn't really planning on summarizing the entire film, but I found an interview that pretty much nails it. Anna Baltzer is a Jewish-American woman who joined the International Women's Peace Service in the West Bank and is now a leading human rights activist. She recently shared her views on the Daily Show, then gave this interview:

Palestinians Come Second at Peace Talks

You have been traveling to Israel-Palestine for years now. Based on your experience and observations, what are the biggest myths about the occupation? What are the myths and what have you learned?

Myth 1: “This is an age-old conflict based on religion and mutual hatred.” This is a conflict about land and human rights, not about religion. Prior to the Zionist movement, Jews were better treated in the Arab world than they were in much of the Christian West. There is nothing inherently incompatible about Jews, Muslims, and Christians, but with the introduction of the Zionist movement seeking to–and eventually succeeding to–annex Palestine for European Jews and one segment of the indigenous population while excluding and discriminating against the other segments of the population, you saw the emergence of violence. Israel was created and is maintained at the expense of Muslims and Christians in the area, who are denied their land and their human rights simply because they are not Jewish. This ongoing discriminatory system perpetuates the conflict today and until it is addressed we can expect no just or enduring peace.

Myth 2: “The occupation may be ugly, but it’s for security” (note the switch from the previous narrative that “there is no occupation”).
The majority of the institutions of Israel’s occupation simply cannot be justified by security. Israel pays its citizens to move from Israel to the West Bank to live amidst the so-called “enemy”–does that make them safer? Israel has never declared its own borders, rather it expands them onto more and more of someone else’s land–does that make Israel safer? Israel denies Palestinians sufficient water from their own water sources–Does that make Israelis safer? Although the narrative of “security” as motivation is accepted without question in mainstream media, it simply doesn’t make sense when you look at the situation on the ground. Cutting Palestinians off from their families, schools, hospitals, and livelihoods will never make Israelis safer. If Israel is serious about ending Palestinian violence, it must acknowledge the roots of that violence.

Myth 3: “Israel has no partner for peace.” On the contrary, Palestinians have no partner for peace. No Israeli offer has ever come close to fulfilling Palestinian human rights. Camp David II in 2000, often referred to as former prime minister Ehud Barak’s “Generous Offer,” would have annexed 10% of the West Bank into Israel, including some of most fertile and water rich areas, home to 80,000 Palestinians. The 10% was spread around the West Bank, separating the “future Palestinian state” into a nonviable archipelago of isolated cantons, separating Palestinians from their land and each other. Finally, the proposal maintained Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem (and some control by Palestinians under that sovereignty) and ignored the human rights of the Palestinian refugees, who represent the vast majority of the Palestinian population.

That's a lot to digest. I think I'll put this one to bed for now. I'm getting closer to being able to buy my plane ticket to Tel Aviv, so insh'allah, in the near future, this blog will be about what I see and not just what I read. Bear with me.

And check out Occupation 101.