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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

Signs of the (Wrong) Time

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | March 18th, 2007 | Comments 3 Comments »

I joined the Jewish college students on a tour through 3 Palestinian villages the Israeli Army invaded and destroyed in 1967. More than 7,000 Palestinians fled Amuas, Beit Nuba and Yallu as Israeli soldiers burned each community to the ground. The land is now a popular, forested park with cheery picnic spots and archaeological ruins dating back to the Byzantine period. Signs throughout Canada Park describe the Byzantine ruins – but not the recent history of displaced Palestinians.sign
Eitan Bornstein, director of the group Zochrot, told us of the epic legal effort to place signs explaining the park’s more recent history. After a year-long struggle that went all the way to the Supreme Court, signs with sketchy information were finally erected. Within weeks, they were vandalized and, now, more than a year later, they have still not been replaced.

(Photos of 1967’s violent displacement are at PalestineRemembered.com.)
Palestinians’ indignities run deeper than these excavated ruins at Canada Park:

Education: Palestinians must send their children to Arab schools, which have substandard books and a less challenging curriculum than Jewish schools, making it harder for Arab kids to pass college entrance exams.

Travel: Palestinians from the West Bank cannot leave Israel without losing their ability to return. In fact, some Israeli groups will actively assist Palestinians who want to relocate by buying their homes and providing other economic assistance. One Palestinian told me it is not unusual to receive regular phone solicitation calls offering such relocation assistance.

Business: Israelis are offered a variety of government loans and other support for new business ventures. Palestinians’ applications languish – often for years.

Housing: Palestinians who own agricultural land are being denied permits to build needed housing on their own land, forcing them to live in crowded quarters.

Home Ownership: Some communities require prospective homeowners to indicate whether or not they have served in the Israeli military, which automatically screens out Palestinian buyers. A recent lawsuit in Lod, near the Ben Gurion Airport, struck down this discriminatory law after years of struggle.

“Even our history gets erased,” said Rita Boulos, program director of Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam. “Jews are taught that Israel was swampland before 1947. They are taught in school that they built the roads, the infrastructure. My father told one of my Jewish friends once, ‘That road was here, you just widened it a little.’ My friend was surprised.”

So the struggle for signs at Canada Park is more than symbolic. It’s more than a way for Palestinians to reclaim their history. It’s a way for a new Jewish generation to be educated about their own recent, unpleasant history.

“If we acknowledge what we have done, then don’t we have to do something?” demands Louise Hader, a thoughtful 34-year-old psychology student at Rupin College who is voluntarily participating in Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam’s School for Peace program.
louise.jpg

“I had no idea about this history,” said Louise, herself conflicted. “I’ve come here a lot with my family to celebrate Independence Day. I thought these trees had been here for years.

“I want to know how the Palestinians who were here feel. I’m sure they are angry and resentful.”

Next time she picnics here, celebrating an Independence Day that marked historic tragedy for the Palestinians, will she tell her 10- and 7-year-old daughters about this park’s recent history?

“Now, it is a little bit less of a threat for us. We are here, period. It’s easier to talk about things.”

Louise pauses for a long time. “Yes, I believe I will.”

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3 Responses to “Signs of the (Wrong) Time”

  1. Mike Macey Says:

    Hi kelly,
    I said that I would write!
    We passed a lot of war jetsam on the road to the airport. It seems to be painted fairly newly and is a reminder of where a lot of the battles were fought close to NSWAS. Maybe a covert piece of psychology?
    Our taxi driver was stopped at the checkpoint to the airpport for maybe 15 minutes. I got out and was quizzed by the policeman for several minutes. Most cars were just waved through. Our driver was a lovely man but a palestinian christian from Jerusalem so he always will be stopped.
    He had been to the West bankk the previous day with journalists and previously with a very senior UN person.
    I wanted to say something to the soldiers that stopped us but felt that it might only make things worse for the driver.
    I can give you his name etc if you like - perhaps by phone.
    My home phone is 02084406181

    Regards
    Mike

  2. David Pisarra Says:

    I guess the old saw about “history is written by the victors” is sometimes true, but in reverse. How a society can ignore recent history is just as important powerful as casting it in terms they like.

    Sounds like you’re learning a great deal.

    DP

  3. steven koeppe Says:

    Hi Kelly -

    You sure take of some tough causes, this one among the most intractable.

    If Israelis and Palestinians were somehow able to bury the hatchet and work together, no doubt they’d represent the most educated, vibrant and successful relationship in the Middle East.
    Unfortunately, so many seem unable to get around the ghosts of past, present and future.

    I don’t see how things can change unless those that exploit and embrace the status quo have lost influence and left power. As devastaing as this conflict for most, too many remain who still manage to profit from this conflict.

    There will always be fanatics on both sides, in uniform or not, who do battle with suicide bombs or assassination or use air power or tanks or infantry. They call each other terrorists. The call themselves patriots and freedom fighters. I call the whole thing an endless tragedy. Too bad it’s not just a play.

    - Steven

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