Mar 15, 2012

Christ at Checkpoint

Israel has been paranoid about people finding out the truth of what it is doing. In an example of this, 55 Harvard students were expelled from Al-Walaja earlier this week (see 1 below). On several occasions when we took delegations to visit Al-Walaja we were harassed.  This included the times when I took a group of Israeli Jews, evangelical Christians, and even diplomatic staff to Al-Walaja.  Some who were sympathetic to Israel did change their views and started to see this as the apartheid system h it is (by International legal definition).  Just today I took some of my Palestinian students to see Al-Walaja and talk to villagers and even do their research projects on the village.  More Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals should come to these struggling villages and see reality. We are happy to show people around and/or put them in touch with the right people and not those who are profiteering from claiming they represent popular resistance.

I do see signs of hope here every day. For example, last week over 600 people (most Christian Evangelicals including renowned evangelical leaders) attended the Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem.  “Christ at the Checkpoint,” addressed the issue of how to find hope in the midst of conflict and in short "what would Jesus do?". The conference exceeded all expectations (2).  I was honored to connect with friends but even more encouraged to meet many more new "converts": those who now see that "Christian Zionism" is an oxymoron because one cannot be a true Christian (or Jew for that matter) and be a Zionist(3). Palestinian Christians of various denominations usually do not agree on things (like who gets to clean what part of the Church of Nativity).  But in an unprecedented show of unity all of us agreed on a document called Kairos Palestine (4). This generated a huge outpouring of support from churches throughout the world and now has an Islamic response to it (5).

We also see the hope in the determined spirit of most of my students (at three universities) to go beyond the misery and difficulty of the occupation and colonization.  They challenge their own minds and begin to see that it is only they who can shape their own future despite incredible odds. We saw it in the play by Al-Rowwad theater group in Aida refugee camp, a play called Handala after the inspiring cartoon character of Naji Al-Ali (6).

Meanwhile life here goes in sometimes mundane things and sometimes dramatic issues.  In the mundane for example one could count spending two and a half hour on the checkpoint coming back from teaching at Al-Quds University. We could count the incident where freelance photographer Mati Milstein videotaped Israeli border police tossing a tear gas canister at Palestinian women who were just enjoying a late afternoon chat outside their home.  Mati said "There was no violence in this area, no stone throwing or any kind of organizing by demonstrators. Border Policemen were driving around the area and suddenly on one of their patrols the commander decided to toss a tear gas grenade at the people, for no apparent reason, at least as far as I could see". (7)

In the intermediate level we saw it in the demonstrations in Beit Dajan area where villagers were trying to open the road to the village that was closed by the Israeli occupation army 10 years ago (8). And we see the struggle to allow our people to keep solar panels for their electric use (9).

And in the other end of the spectrum we saw a massacre of 26 Palestinians in four days in Israeli illegal attacks on Gaza.  We also see the life of Palestinian political prisoner Hana Shalabi in danger as she is in her 29th day of hunger strike to protest the policy of administrative detention.

Final Quote from Zionists who pushed for the $3 trillion war on Iraq as they now try to repeat that episode on Iran: "A critical challenge for this policy option is that, absent a clear Iranian act of aggression, American airstrikes against Iran would be unpopular in the region and throughout the world" (10)

We must maintain our hope and our energy and move towards justice, freedom, and equality and that redemption called for so brilliantly by young South African Mbuyiseni Ndlozi speaking on Palestine (11).

4) see the Palestinian Christian call "A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering"

5) See for example United Methodist response. and The Justice Committee of the General Assembly Mission Council (of the Presbyterian Church) voted to approve a recommendation to the General Assembly for divestiture

8) See "After much injustice, Beit Dajan debuts its peaceful resistance" and see photos here

9) See Palestinians prepare to lose the solar panels that provide a lifeline

10) Kenneth Pollack, et al, Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran, pp. 84-85. Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, June 2009 

11) Mbuyiseni Ndlozi - Israeli Apartheid Week, London. 22.2.12

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