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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Both/And

I am not pro-Palestinian. I am not pro-Israeli. I am pro-human.

These are words that I say in the introduction of my talk on Palestine. I am certain that some people who listen to my talk don't believe me. More than once, people have told me that really, I am pro-Palestinian. 

They don't know what's in my heart.  

I'll admit that if I used hashtags, I'd probably use one that said #Palestinianlivesmatter. Surely this would be proof to some that I have higher regard for Palestinians than for Israelis. 

During my 2013 stint in Hebron, an Israeli soldier was killed. I don't like that the Israeli soldiers are in Hebron. I believe that the Occupation must end and that those soldiers must leave. 

However, I do not, nor will I ever (I hope) wish someone dead.

I grieved for that soldier who I didn't know. I felt for his family and his friends, even the ones in uniform in Hebron who made my life difficult.

I do not hope for the well-being of Palestinians at the expense of Israelis. Recent violence in Jerusalem fills me with sorrow. I want Palestinians and Israelis both to live well, in peace. In safety.

When I say " in safety," I don't mean living in restricted areas where armed guards control the comings and goings of people (as in the illegal Israeli settlements). I don't mean that people openly carry weapons to protect themselves (as some Israeli settlers do as they go about their business, like a morning jog). I don't mean that vehicles have bullet-proof windows or people wear bullet-proof vests. That is not my definition of a safe society. 

I mean people can live freely. Where people, all people, can walk in the streets late at night and be safe. Where children don't get teargassed. Where everyone has enough to eat. Where people walk with their heads held high because they know, they know, that they are precious beings and they know that everyone else knows that they are precious beings.

Last week, children in Kenya protested the seizure of their school's playground. The police teargassed them. Other Kenyans and the international community were horrified, as well they should have been. Thankfully, the outcry was so loud that not only was the private developer not allowed to steal the land, but the school got a new soccer field.

Nearly every day in Hebron, I watched children get teargassed. These are kids whose family lands may have already been taken or are under a constant threat of confiscation by Israel. Their homes may have already been demolished by Israel. If those aren't their personal experiences, they surely know someone whose house has been bulldozed or whose land has been taken. These are kids who live under a repressive military occupation. They protest, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not. Either way Israel's response is the same: violence.



Where is the international outrage about that?

Sometimes I wonder if I should stop writing about children getting teargassed. I seem to do it a lot.

Quickly I come to the knowledge that I  must write about it until it stops.

I fear I'll be writing about it for the rest of my life.

In my Palestine presentation, I offer some statistics about Israeli and Palestinian deaths and injuries since the beginning of the 2nd Intifada (in late 2000). One hundred thirty-three Israeli children and 2,060 Palestinian children have been killed in that time period.  Over 11,000 Israelis and nearly 72,000 Palestinians have been injured. All of these deaths and injuries are tragic. And yet here in the U.S. we often only learn about Palestinian violence committed against Israelis. Rarely do we hear about the daily violence against Palestinians, particularly during what Israel calls "periods of relative calm." During those "calm" times, Palestinians still suffer from Israeli violence: by the military, by settlers, by other extremists.

I work in Hebron with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) because I am trying to live by Catholic social teaching principle of the "preferential option for the poor and vulnerable." A basic description of the principle is that we who have more must care for those who are most vulnerable in our world. When I look at the statistics above, it is very clear who is more vulnerable. As I walk in the streets of Hebron, it is also very clear. I feel a particular responsibility because every day my country gives 8.5 million dollars of military aid to Israel. I've seen what that money supports. I condemn the oppressive structures that I see. I condemn violent actions (regardless of who carries them out). I don't condemn people. I believe we are all capable of great good, even if we're not acting that way right now.

My work with CPT doesn't mean that I care less for Israelis or wish them harm. I offer this analogy: If a parent has two children, one sick and one healthy, the parent gives more attention to the sick child.  This does not mean that the parent loves the sick child more. It simply means that that child is in greater need of care.

It is clear to me that my attention must go to Palestinians. It is clear that when so few people know about the wildly disproportionate use of violence by Israel against Palestinians, I must focus my talk on how #Palestinianlivesmatter, even though I also believe that #Israelilivesmatter.

The fact that I care about Palestinian lives doesn't exclude me from caring about Israeli lives. It's not an either/or.

It is both/and.

I am pro-Palestinian. I am pro-Israeli. I am pro-human.


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