Evergreen State College Senior and TESC Divest! member Elissa Goss recently returned from a delegation with Interfaith Peacebuilders to Israel/Palestine led by Cindy Corrie in which she assisted Palestinians with the Fall olive harvest. The following article will be published in Evergreen's campus newspaper The Cooper Point Journal in the coming weeks. Read more of Elissa's thoughts at her blog Acts of Humanity. If you’d like to hear more first hand accounts, check out the blog of Evergreen alum Maya Amber Harris
Elissa is eager to keep giving presentations about the delegation and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to get together and chat or set-up a presentation with a group or program.
Continuing Thoughts on Israel/Palestine
By Elissa Goss
I was asked to write some final thoughts after my trip to the West Bank and Israel, to round out the blog posts that were printed the past few issues. I realized however, that I don’t have “final” thoughts. The occupation is still happening, and now that I understand better U.S. complicity in human rights abuses in the region, I can’t stop thinking about it….and trying to do what I can here in the U.S. and more importantly, here on campus and in the community.
So what’s the best thing I could say at this moment? I feel that it is this: supporting Palestinians rights to self-determination doesn't mean you are signing yourself up on a list for the destruction of Israel and greater harm to Israelis. What was deeply moving about our time in the West Bank, was witnessing the majority of Palestinians engaged in non-violence through demonstrations, legal battles, and resistance through existence. The fault of media is to only draw our attention to external forms of violence and ignore the structural violence that is afflicted on Palestinians on a daily basis in the occupation.
What does this structural violence look like? Imagine you are a farmer. You had a profitable olive orchard, but the separation wall built in 2003 cut your land in half and now you are barely able to keep food on the table. Settler children from a nearby settlement ( mini-neighborhoods ranging from a couple hundred to a couple thousands Israeli citizens illegally on Palestinian land) throw rocks at your and your family when you are trying to harvest what is left of your land. The Israeli court struck down your appeal for a permit to access your olive orchard on the other side of the wall. You are not allowed to build on your property, because of “security measures” and the majority of your money goes to buying water from the Israeli water company because Israel controls all of the aquifers. You have to pass through a military checkpoint to get to next major urban area and you are delayed about 2-5 hours each time because of long lines. No one in your area is involved in violent protests. You or your family have never fought back yet you find yourself subjected to humiliation from soldiers and neighbors, who never once stop to consider your own humanity. Your partner wants you to move, they is tired of the harassment, but you cannot afford the trip and this land has been in your family since the late 1800s. It is your home, these olive trees are like children, and you want your children to inherit this. You want to live in peace.
Structural violence means that every part of your life is impacted by a barrier of some sort: denied equal access to education, land, water, food, political representation, cultural expression….it creates a life struggling to survive in a cage.
I ask that we continue to search for facts on the ground. That we listen to those struggling to have their voices heard because Palestinians are systematically shut-out and forced to subject themselves to U.S./Israel conditions for “peace”. What makes Palestinians needs for peace and justice any less important than Israel’s?
Israel inflicts a violent occupation that seeps through Palestinian life like a virus, killing them one by one, sometimes in small groups, sometimes in large bombs. It kills them through shooting at protests when children throw rocks, when farmers try and harvest their recently confiscated fields, kills their children’s ability to graduate into a thriving economy by crushing Palestinians ability to even build one, it kills them through covering their dreams of ever being able to go to the ocean, telling children and their families that they are threats before they are 5. The occupation kills by preventing access and control of important resources like water and farmland. The occupation essentially silently suffocates daily Palestinian life and growth.
Israel has an imbalance of economical, political and military power in the region and has the responsibility to end the occupation if peace can ever be possible. But it is daily and it is constant. We must recognize the human rights abuses and as a U.S. citizen, I must recognize, speak out and try to end the financial support we provide for these daily, silent attacks.
I also must connect their struggle for self-determination with voices for justice such as Jewish Voices for Peace, working to end the occupation and follow the threads of power. I must connect their struggle with the struggle of self-determination for people all over the word, resisting against white supremacy, imperialism, aggressive capitalism and other systems that dehumanize people and erases their history. I must connect their struggle with home. I must, and we must, not only look outside our border at injustice, but work to end injustice here. We must work together to understand the connections all of our struggles, find the axes of accumulated power and transform them.
I honored and humble from witnessing such strength to just survive….both there, and here in the U.S. This experience has shown me that injustice is never too complicated to understand, and justice is not impossible achieve. I understand that I have a responsibility to be apart of dismantling systems of power that favors some over others because I have had the privilege to be on the receiving end of a world superpower…at the expense of millions around the world. I am also understanding that with this responsibility, comes great joy as well, the joy of being fully human by being apart of making justice happen.
On one of the days in the delegation, we tackled a field of olive trees trying to help finish the harvest with our host families but were unable to finish. I felt embarrassed and ashamed that we were leaving so soon. One of the aunts saw that I had gotten very quiet and after I replied to her question as to why I was upset, she smiled and told me, “ Oh, we will get the harvest done. It takes all of us, but we will do it. And it will take all of you, doing the work you’re doing, to truly help us.”
She is right. Justice will take all of us if we want peace to be more than lip-service and if there is a community that I trust to do that with, it is ours here at Evergreen.