Thursday, September 20, 2012

Maureen's presentation

Maureen from Christian Peacemakers gave a presentation to the Rebuilding Alliance team on Monday night.

The slideshow was geared toward beginners in the I/P conflict, so the information wasn't new to most of us, but I found it interesting to see someone else's format and I made some mental notes for my speaking tour. The hardest lesson an activist/advocate has to learn is how to convey hope, and offer tools for action. It takes a real deliberate effort not to get stuck in the doldrums of the occupation. If you talk about daily life and just tell stories, it becomes apparent how big the occupation, and you don't have to suck all the color out of the room to make a real impact. 

Maureen has this gentle Scottish accent (like Mrs. Doubtfire) and a flair for storytelling. One of her photos was of a group of Palestinian boys in Hebron playing volleyball and using an army roadblock gate as a net. She said she took a bunch of photos to make sure the ball was visible. Many of her photos reflected the absurdity of the situation in Hebron, and the sad necessity of an international presence there.

I was fascinated by her experience in Baghdad, which we didn't discuss very much. I keep relating the Israeli occupation to the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that Americans aren't willing to go check out our occupied territory because it's on the other side of the globe, but the Palestinian territories border Israel, so the chance to physically confront one's own military policy was right there.

That thought was a little more black and white before I had heard the story of Anne Montgomery and Plowshares. There are Americans who are confronting our military policy at home...daily.

And now here was Maureen, who had actually flown to Iraq to bear witness to the situation there. I asked how the soldiers treating her team. She told me that most of them were just dumbstruck to see them. Most of them were tired, many of them were scared. One man told them that he was a God-fearing Baptist and he would pray for them every day.

The soldiers had guns, and the Christian Peacemakers did not. They left with very different relationships with Iraqi people, and that's the connection I was interested in making. To say that you know a place, and a people, but only with a gun in between....

I have great admiration for CPT, and also EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompanier Program in Palestine/Israel), which is where Maureen will be serving next. I met a lot of EAPPI's while I was over there. They usually serve a 3-month stint, so whenever I met a new people, they'd give me their card and it would be the same phone number as the person before them. So Elsa from France would be the new Pedro from Brazil, who took over for Inga from Sweden. The folks serving in Yanoun, and witnessing the encroachment of settlers there, often came up to Al Aqaba to catch up with Haj Sami and see how the village was doing. They considered putting an EAPPI house next to Al Aqaba. Goodness knows the Tubas area needs it, but currently the settler situation in Nablus is more dire. I know Maureen will do amazing work, and I hope to see her, if I make it back in the next four months....

EAPPI's visiting the demolished road with Haj Sami in Al Aqaba