December 3, 2012
AL-KHALIL REFLECTION: A New Dawn?
I rose before dawn to watch women in the Palestinian
village of Susya baking bread in the traditional way, using an underground
taboon oven. The rising sun painted the clouds in pinks, oranges and reds. It
also shed its rays on the Israeli settlement of Susya, which has electricity,
running water and a swimming pool.
Every structure in the village, built by people who
have deeds dating from the Ottoman period, has a demolition order: the school, the
clinic, solar panels and people’s homes. The residents are not Bedouins; they
live in tents out of worry that Israel could demolish their homes any day. Two
days before our visit, the Israeli military demolished a small tent near the
village. Our host told us his five-year-old son had inquired, “Dad, are
the soldiers here to destroy our house?” The child lives in this fear every
Villagers who attempt to farm their land near the
settlements face intimidation and violence from settlers and arrest by
soldiers, all in the name of security for Israel. Yet during our visit a group of
settlers accompanied by soldiers casually walked through Palestinian ploughed
and planted fields passing very close to the villagers’ tents.
When I witness the discrimination and abuse that Palestinians
face, I am ashamed that my government abstained in the UN vote to make
Palestine a non-member state and did not vote ‘yes’. How many more villages
will have to be demolished, how many more Palestinians beaten up and arrested?
How many more children will have to live in fear of losing their homes and
schools, before the UK stands up and supports Palestinians’ right to
After the beautiful sunrise I went to our hosts’ tent.
From their solar panel-powered TV emanated sounds and images of celebration.
The new dawn saw Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank sharing in the success
of recognition. Following as it does the release of Fatah prisoners by Hamas,
and Hamas prisoners by Fatah, rather than merely boosting morale, could this moment
unite Palestinians into a stronger nation and country?
In Christian Peacemaker Teams, we often speak of the
importance of loving the enemy. It happens here every day. My government issued
the Balfour Declaration and even now they will not support Palestine without
making ridiculous preconditions. Yet Palestinians, knowing I am British, still
offer me exceptional hospitality and welcome. Yesterday a Hebron shopkeeper offered
me a fresh piece of shortbread to celebrate the first step towards Palestinian
The U.S. and the UK criticized Abbas for
unilaterally approaching the UN and not negotiating directly with Israel. The
U.S. goes as far as to say it damages the way to peace! How does Israel respond?
By promising to build 3000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem and the West
Bank, which will be very damaging to the way to peace. My government did
criticize this decision. But this is not enough. Every day I have been in
Palestine I have seen people brutalized and humiliated by the occupation.
Enough is enough! The new dawn must see Europe and the world saying ‘no’ to Israeli
abuses that contravene International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.