Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Yesterday we arrived at the beautiful, lush paradise of Kibbutz Parod in Northern Israel. Leaving Jerusalem, we took the highway through the disputed land of the West Bank, where we were able to see some of the Arab and Israeli settlements that are often used to make the argument that Israel is an ‘apartheid’ state. To pretend that the relationship between these communities is not hostile would be misleading. Travelling past one Arab settlement a sign warned Israelis from entering, deeming that the doing so is “Forbidden, Dangerous to your Lives”. However, the explanation for this hostility is not a simple one; a complete understanding requires somewhat of a history lesson, which we were fortunate enough to get this morning from Inon, an Israeli activist and Pro-Israel speaker.
It is helpful to look at some events that led up to the West Bank we drove through yesterday. After the Israeli victory in the Independence War of 1948, Arabs fled the region due to their leadership’s commands and when they were unable to return, became refugees. A border was made to distinguish the land that was part of Israel, but more importantly to act as security. The victory of the war was still an open wound, and Israel wanted to limit its vulnerability. However, this border was problematic because it separated many villages and communities, some Arab and some even directly down the center. In the case of Arab communities, those who found themselves in Israel’s territory were now considered ‘Israeli-Arabs’ and were given equal citizenship as to those already in Israel. Thus, the open wound began to fester; Israeli-Arabs were both distrusted by native Israelis and thought to be traitors to their Arab comrades. This distrust continued even after the Six Day War of 1967 when the border was removed and communities could be reunited. The pus around the wound had already hardened.As we drove through the West Bank, the effects of this wound were visible. We were able to see some of the security border that has been built recently to counter the terrorism that occurred during the Second Intifadah. Today, this border 95% fence, while the remaining 5% that truly is a wall protects suburban Jewish homes. Furthermore, before condemning this fence as a method of apartheid, one should look at the history. It is important to understand where the idea came from, which is not racial segregation and discrimination. Instead, this fence was born from a violent and emotional history, which has created a deep injury that has yet to heal.