Israel and Palestine: Military Occupation, Apartheid & American Responsibility
“Go back to America and tell them what you have seen here.”
At the beginning of July, I spent one week on a self-financed and self-planned trip in which I visited Israel and Palestine. Tel Aviv and Haifa in Israel, and East Jerusalem, Hebron and Bethlehem in occupied Palestine.
Tel Aviv was vibrant. Haifa was beautiful. Hebron and Bethlehem, both in the occupied West Bank, broke my heart. And Jerusalem felt both inspiring due to its historical and religious significance and oppressive due to the scale of surveillance, security and profiling of Muslims and Palestinians in East Jerusalem which is also under military occupation.
I visited a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem where generations of families have lived since the 1948 Nakba. I learned about the Israeli settlement program building towns in the West Bank which is illegal under international law and has been condemned by the United Nations. I saw the separation wall which has been built around the West Bank in the name of security which the International Court of Justice deemed illegal. And I met both Israelis and Palestinians working to build international awareness to end the military occupation. They recognize that the current system that exists is an apartheid system imposed on Palestinians by the Israeli government.
I have spent the last couple of years becoming more educated on the history and military occupation, a task which is not easy in America due to how much information on the history and current state of affairs of Palestine is obscured from our view. In case you don’t know, Palestine is recognized as a state by 138 out of 195 of the United Nations member states. The USA does not recognize Palestine as a state.
The first thing every single person I spoke to, Israeli and Palestinian, regarding how the situation could change to produce a more equitable reality for the Palestinian people mentioned foreign policy and international pressure as the #1 thing that could change policy and actions on the ground. That was followed up with more specificity — the West and the world will follow America’s lead.
As my president, Joe Biden, embarks on visits to both Israel and Palestine this week, I am going to share more of what I saw and learned first hand in Hebron, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. I will show you the brutality of what a military occupation looks like, is composed of and the impact that it has on human beings. I will share this because we should all be forced to examine it and we should all care about the role our government plays in it.
“The United Nations took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system…but we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” — Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid activist and first president of South Africa