LETTER: Tours in Israel revealed its atrocities
Stints as a peacekeeper in Palestine proved SA-style apartheid remains the root cause of the huge problems this country faces
It is said that the British invented apartheid in Ireland, exported it to SA and “perfected” it in Palestine. Apartheid proved a disaster in SA and remains a root cause of the huge problems this country faces. After eight centuries of British colonialism and apartheid, Irish reunification is at last on the horizon. Over the past 2,000 years Palestinians have survived Roman, Crusader, Ottoman, British and now Israeli colonialism.
In his book, War Against The People, my Israeli friend and author Jeff Halper asks: “How does Israel get away with it?” His answer: Israel does the “dirty work” for the Americans by destabilising countries in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, and when the US empire collapses so will the Jewish apartheid state of Israel. The reality is that Palestine (like Ireland) is one country — “from the river to the sea”. As graffiti on the apartheid wall in Bethlehem proclaims: “Nothing lasts forever”.
In his recent letter, Allan Wolman challenged my knowledge of Palestinian geography and questions when I last visited Israel/Palestine ( “Lies about Israel must stop”, May 6). It was 2017. I visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus and Tel Aviv. I had previously spent six months in Jerusalem and Bethlehem in 2009/2010 as a peacekeeper monitoring the Qalandiya and Bethlehem checkpoints, while also travelling to the Golan Heights in the north and to Eilat in the south. In short, I probably have greater experience of Palestinian geography than Wolman, living as he does in his Tel Aviv bubble.
Wolman claims “no Jews are permitted to live in Palestinian territories”. The reality is that 700,000 illegal Israeli settlers live on stolen Palestinian land, in violation of international law. But true enough, as in apartheid SA, large notices hysterically proclaim: “This road leads to Area A under Palestinian Authority. Entry for Israeli citizens is forbidden, Dangerous to your lives, and is against Israeli law”. In reality, even late at night our team (both male and female, some of whom happened to be diaspora Jews) felt perfectly safe in Palestinian areas of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Our task at the checkpoints from 4am to 7.30am was to monitor Israeli soldiers, and to intervene when abuses of Palestinians became excessive. I was present and witnessed Israeli thugs in October 2009 when, with Israeli police protection, they invaded the Sheikh Jarrah area of East Jerusalem. These 28 houses were allocated by the UN in 1956 to Palestinians refugees until such time as they could return to their homes — to which Israel agreed in 1948 but still in 2022 refuses to implement. As Mr Al Kurd told me: “I would be happy to go back to my house in Jaffa that was stolen by Israelis but, of course, the ‘right of return’ doesn’t apply for Palestinians.”
I have several times visited the so-called “City of David” in Silwan just outside the Old City, where Palestinian homes are demolished in a bizarre but futile effort to prove the existence of King David. Yet, as my Israeli archaeologist tour guide told me: “King David is a biblical myth.” I have many times visited Yad Vashem, which depicts the barbarities of the Holocaust, but also illustrates how easily the war business brainwashes people and deliberately fans fear and paranoia among Israelis.
The parallels of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and Israeli war crimes in Gaza are glaring, but of course Wolman would never be able to acknowledge or concede the comparison. Yes, I have also twice been to Sderot, and even stayed two nights in David Ben-Gurion’s kibbutz, Sde Boker, where I visited his retirement home/museum.
The assignment in Bethlehem also included monitoring 12 Palestinian villages that are repeatedly attacked by Israeli settlers, who burn down olive trees and contaminate water supplies. I have been several times to Hebron, where Palestinians are prohibited even from walking down Al Shuhada Street.
Terry Crawford-Browne, World Beyond War SA
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