it seems that the report I wrote about the two months that I spent in Palestine this year caused Frank Selch distress. I have great sympathy for the need for the Jewish people to have a homeland, but I went to the West Bank so that I could see for myself what was happening there.
You mention in the second paragraph of your letter that I should have noticed the “hate propaganda being manufactured against the Israelis” Many of the Palestinians – both Arabs and Christians wanted me to tell the world that they only wanted to live in peace. I had no access to a Palestinian state source of information and relied on what I saw and experienced myself. I am sorry to say that I found more hate in your letter than I did amongst the Palestinians that I met in the West Bank.
You go on to talk about the “rockets and stones and shootings that happen apart from the protests”. Yes, I did say that in the 15 protests against the occupation which I took part in I did not witness one stone being thrown at the occupation soldiers or Jewish settlers. Of course I know that stones are thrown, and I continue to be puzzled by the fact that young people are able to contain themselves when they know that their lives are controlled by the Occupation Forces. So much is made of the rockets which have been shot into Israeli territory. When one compares the level of violence against the Palestinians, backed up by a superior Israeli propaganda apparatus one is left with a profound dissatisfaction which can only be resolved by a personal visit. The comparison of what the Israeli Occupation Force does in Palestine and the feeble attempt of the Palestinians to mount some sort of resistance is outrageous.
I have always been puzzled by the fact that many people show by their words and actions that they believe that an Israeli Jewish life is worth more than an Arab life. Your statement “They (the Palestinians) have been educated in hatred and how best to propagate outright lies” is very offensive to people who want to bring understanding to a situation.
I did not mention Yasser Arafat in my report because I wanted to write about the things which I experienced. I did find some of your historical references puzzling and wonder how you can authenticate your claim, eg “hundreds of Palestinians tortured and executed by the PA simply for wanting to be friends with Israelis” and also your statements “The Arabs have an absolutely dismal human rights record”…….”The Muslims are responsible for virtually every terror attack in the world…”
In my 82 years I have found that no nation is guiltless when it comes to respecting human rights.
For the record, you might be interested in 10 of the things which I found most offensive in the West Bank.
The separation or apartheid wall: Construction on this wall started in 2002. It will be on 12% of what’s left of Palestinian land and in some places extends as far as 20 kms from the Green Line into the Occupied Territories: it will be four times as long as the Berlin Wall was and twice as high. The Green Line or the 1949 Armistice or demarcation line gave 78% of land to Israel and 22% of land to the Occupied Territories (now the West Bank and Gaza).
The construction of other barriers: dirt piles, concrete blocks, boulders, trenches, iron gates, electric fences. There are now more than 600 closures/barriers in the West Bank, not only to keep Palestinians away from Israeli land, but to keep them from moving freely in the West Bank.
The building of illegal settlements: there are around 200 settlements in the West Bank. Some villages are surrounded by settlements. Village and farming land is taken by the Israeli authorities to establish the settlements and the Palestinians can do nothing to stop this.
The demolition of Palestinian homes: often there are no eviction warnings and after the destruction of their homes there is no place for families to go. They become exiles. The Tent of Nations, a Christian centre south of Bethlehem that brings people together and has been in the Palestinian family since 1916 is under constant threat of being destroyed. There is a sign on the property which reads “We refuse to be enemies”. It is surrounded by Jewish settlements, all built on Palestinian land.
The theft of Palestinian land and water: this deprives farmers and workers of their livelihood. A friend of mine who had a beautiful ½ dunum farm had the water for his land turned off when the temperature this summer was over 40%. He was not given permission by the Israeli authorities to dig a well. You can imagine the death of his farm.
The increase in the number of Jewish settlers: there are now more than 400,000 settlers living in the West Bank and yet Palestinian refugees can’t return to their homes.
The intimidation of the Palestinians: Palestinians are under constant surveillance by the Israeli Defence Force and the border police. They enter homes at any time without permits. I asked an elderly man who lives near the Israeli Observation Tower at the entrance to one village and often has soldiers searching his home if he was ever afraid. His answer: “I don’t afraid. Only from my God.”
The intrusion of the Israeli Defence Force: The Israeli Defence Force and Israeli police can enter Palestinian homes without permits and take people to jail without charging them with an offence. At 3 am over 30 soldiers broke into the home of a friend of mine and took the 17 year old son to jail for the third time. No permit, no reason. The parents are not allowed to contact their son for two weeks and his mother told me that this time they would keep him for over a year. If there is any resistance by families tear gas canisters are shot into the house. A 7 month old baby died because of the tear gas. I taught in the school in which the baby’s brother was a student.
The use of weapons by the IDF: The Israeli Defence Force and the border police fire tear gas, stun grenades, sound grenades, rubber bullets, and sometimes metal bullets at unarmed protesters, whether they be Palestinians or internationals, and now added to these others are journalists who are covering the non-violent protests. The IDF also uses helicopter gun ships supplied by the United States.
The increasing application of “closed amilitary zones”: The IDF can declare any area in the West Bank “a closed military zone” at a moment’s notice and arrest people who are there. More than 18% of the West Bank is now designated a “closed military zone”.
I think that of all the directives laid down by the Israeli government the most pernicious is the refusal to allow exiled Palestinians the prospect of return – a dictum designed to operate forever.
I note that you are the Director of The Olivetree Connection. I would hope that your organisation would try to bring justice and fairness to every situation.
Perhaps you should go to the West Bank and see for yourself what the situation is. If you have not done this, your right of criticism dissolves.