Last night 100 progressive people, almost all Jewish (one wore Muslim head covering), crowded the Village Temple in New York to learn about conditions in the Occupied Territories. The speakers were a former Israeli soldier and a former Palestinian resistance fighter. They said the following:
—There are 530 checkpoints in the West Bank. Only 30 are on the Green Line between the West Bank and Israel. Yes; some of those have stopped suicide bombers. The purpose of the other 500 has nothing to do with security. “The strategy there is to destroy Palestinian society, to prevent any joint organized struggle [against the occupation],” said the Israeli.
—The Israeli P.M. recently promised the Palestinian President that the checkpoints would be relaxed. They have not been. “The army receives these instructions and… does not take the instructions,” the Israeli said, citing Israel’s leading newspaper. Thus the army acts on its own as a repressive force (Israeli generals have long defied civilian supervision).
—The Palestinian, his brother, and his father have spent 25 years in Israeli jails, much of that time without due process, for such offenses as graffiti and other statements opposing the occupation. The man’s family has lost many acres of its land to Jewish settlers, in a village outside Bethlehem.
—Arbitrary laws prevent Israelis from carrying Palestinians in their cars in the Occupied Territories. The intention, says the Israeli, is to keep the two sides from talking.
The situation these men describe is worse than apartheid. “Three and a half million people live without any rights,” said the Israeli, whose own sister was killed by a suicide bomber. “You want to stop these people [suicide bombers], you should give them a reason to live.”
The campaign by the U.S. Jewish leadership to smear Jimmy Carter will one day be taught in history books, as an effort by a privileged elite to suppress the truth. Slavery and segregation also had powerful defenders who misrepresented those conditions. Despite all their well-connected efforts, these people will lose for two simple reasons: the facts are against them, and a movement has begun to discover those facts. The progressive Jews jamming the temple last night are the evidence.
The Brit Tzedek tour by these two former combatants in the Occupied Territories continues across our country over the next month. It is aimed at one thing: to open Jews’ eyes and ears. Let us pray.