On Tuesday this week, through the work of the Amos Trust, I was able to listen to a conversation with four people who are well aquainted with the situation in Palestine/Israel.
One of the the four was Sami Awad, who lives in Bethlehem, and lives with the situation there on a daily basis. I was very interested to hear his take on current events. Sami is an activist with a commitment to non-violence, working for transformation through helping those on different sides to engage with one another.
This is just what I took away from what I heard. I don’t pretent to have any direct experience myself, but I have confidence in what Amos Trust are doing, and in Sami and his work.
For the last two weeks, we have seen a re-igniting of the violence in Palestine/Israel, and have been saddened to witness the profound effects of rocket attacks from both sides. The media have naturally focussed on the violence, and on calls for a cease to hostilities from around the world. However, that’s not the only, or even the main message that needs to be heard.
When the rocket attacks finish, everything will go back to how it was. Nothing will have changed. Media interest will fade while injustices continue. There is a cycle of violence that erupts every three years or so, and unless there can be a focus on the underlying issues, this cycle will just carry on. It is in fact in Israel’s interests to stop the violence, as that takes the spotlight off Gaza, The West Bank and East Jerusalem, and allows things to revert to the status quo.
The key messages that I took from Sami Awad are:
* The movement for change is not against Israel as such, but against oppression.
* It is a movement of both Palestinians and Israelis who see the need for change.
* For Sami Awad, it has always been, and always will be a movement of non-violence.
* This should not be a movement that is portrayed simply as protesting the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and homes. The Occupation of homes and lands applies to a particular group of people, but the ‘Occupation of the People’ applies to all Palestinians. This is at its heart about human rights. About recognising the equal rights of all.
* The aim of the protest is not to increase Jewish fear of Palestinians, but to increase understanding of the reality of the injustice that persists. The campaigns of boycotting Israeli goods, divesting from Israeli companies, and using sanctions to apply pressure is similarly to enable people to see what is really going on.
* Whatever some might say, the situation is Apartheid (which means separation). Politically, socially, and economically Israelis have greater rights – access to water, food, travel, education, health care and all that makes for life.
* Whatever politicians say, and whatever facts are traded about who did what, and when, this is a human story, and it is the stories of everyday people that need telling.
* For Sami, the onus is on people like him, with a desire for change, to reach out to Israelis and help them see how there can be a better life for everyone
* To label Hamas as terrorists just plays into their hands, because that is their aim – to increase terror. You can disagree fundamentally with the tactics of violence used by Hamas, but at the same time understand why they are there. To demonise them only pushes the two sides further apart. The only possible hope is to engage.
I had a look at how the current situation was reported, and its hard to find an in depth look of the situation in our mass media – TV and newspapers. We need the media to tell the whole story, and to hear people like Sami because it is their lived experience, and their passion to see justice for all in the Land of The Holy One.
Grace and Peace.