What’s WILPF Middle East Committee up to?

by Lynn Sableman

Recently, my daughter asked why I spend so much time on WILPF? She continued, wouldn’t you get quicker results working on a political campaign? I am glad she asked. It spurred me to ruminate and respond. Yes, working on peace is necessarily many faceted. For example, on the WILPF Middle East issue Committee, we are trying to get our Representatives in Congress to cosign Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum HR 2590. No way to treat a child act. This act aims to put conditions on the $3.8 billion in military aid Israel receives from the U.S. annually. Several years back, I attended a program in St.Louis held by ex-Israeli soldiers who described running random stops by night, waking Palestinian families up from their beds to line up outside their homes at gun point. Sometimes the ten or thirteen year old is taken away to jail ‘ disappeared’ no contact with family for six months. They were interrogated for long hours, and kept in cages for sometimes longer than six months–without being charged. The purpose of these midnight drills? To create a feeling of hopelessness and terror. The bombs the Israelis use to destroy apartments, schools and hospitals are made in America. The military laws ration water to levels the United Nations calls insufficient to support human life, yet the illegal settlement in the occupied territory has green lawns and full swimming pools. And the sounds of children splashing can be heard down the desert valley. It’s apartheid with one dominant caste. The Palestinians are charged 300 times for water over what the occupiers pay. The military laws say a license must be obtained annually to plant fruit trees. It is illegal to use tractors.   The Palestinians to whom these military laws apply are the out caste. These oppressive military laws are just like Jim Crow laws,  “say, yes sir” at checkpoints, random requirements, enter the store through the back door, segregated public places. There are roads Palestinians are prohibited to drive on, that have no signage to that effect. These Israeli military laws remind us also of Apartheid South Africa that had color bars that segregated populations. Reminds us also of Nuremberg Laws. The Palestinians must have documents on them at all times, they have heavy travel restrictions. Gaza Strip is the largest open air refugee camp in the world. Their ancient fishing tradition is prohibited. If you want to learn more about this, I recommend a recent conference on the Middle East.

   Where is their MLK figure, their Malcom X or Black Panthers leader Fred Hampton? They have lost many,  shot by a sharp shooter with American made and trained rifles. The bill asks to stop supplying military aid until human rights are observed. Palestinians are the original Semitic people of the Levant. At the U.N. charter, Israel promised this land would continue to be home for Palestinians and that they could return to their homeland anytime. 

  The streets of Jerusalem today, on this dawning of the holy season, were filled with anti Muslim chants and rioting. What is the way forward? Same as in the US, we need to correct the injustice. South Africa had Truth and Reconciliation as did Germany. We in the United States, cane learn from them. India is developing this process too. Racism has a great cost to the fabric of society.

    It is urgent that we do our best work on the goal of changing US policy in the Middle East region. While respecting the self determination of the people most affected by the problems in the region, WILPF branches located in Lebanon and Palestine may be able to help them attain peaceful solutions, that is so important. 

   Our challenge is that US commercial media do not cover the treatment of Palestinians in the Holy Land. There is a mighty Israel lobby. Also, the Christian evangelicals in Congress have a very important mission in the Holy Land, where the Second Coming will be. At that time the Jews will die and the Christian Evangelicals will inherit the earth. This you can discuss in the halls of Congress, but not treatment of Palestinians. To learn more you can access Australian TV news on U tube called “Four Corners” and there is a Palestinian made Netflix short film called “The Presence” on how tedious life is for people who must travel through long checkpoints daily to work menial jobs and encounter huge barriers to normalcy. 

   To my daughter, I chose to work on peace. Nothing is easy about peace, but wouldn’t it be lovely?    

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