Situation in Palestine, Particularly Hebron
By Sr. Jean Fallon, M.M.
Member, Christian Peacemaker Teams*
Palestinian youths, 15 to 19, who had
broken through a fence near a settlers’ area
to look for scrap metal are detained for
4 hours by Israeli military. They were
accused by a settler woman of breaking
and entering her home.
Living in Hebron is living the reality of the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict. Although Hebron is located in the West Bank-Palestine
it is divided into three areas, none of which is autonomous within
the true meaning of that word. It is, in reality, dependent
on the Israeli Defense Forces, IDF. In Palestine this military
entity is called, IOF, Israeli Occupation Forces. That is
the reality that everyone who lives in Hebron faces everyday, twenty
four hours a day. The Israelis refer to the Palestinians as Arabs,
refusing to even acknowledge them as citizens of Palestine, thus
refusing to acknowledge Palestine itself.
Dedicated to making this a reality, are the settlers** who have
established settlements on the hills surrounding Hebron, and, right
in the middle of the Old City itself. This is where the Christian
Peacemaker Teams’ office and apartments are. We, the
Team members present at any given time, are indeed, right in the
middle of the action. We are often called to respond to the
following situations, which can literally mean standing between
Palestinians and those that would do them harm.
- The settlers** harass the Palestinians at every opportunity. They
are ready to occupy homes; physically abuse them; and order the
military to have Palestinians arrested. Facing the settlers
is far more dangerous than challenging the IOF. This is
because there are two standards of law and response by the Israeli
Forces or Israeli police in the West Bank: the law as it applies
to and protects settlers, and the law as it is applied to the
Palestinians, or anyone else living in these territories.
- Whenever any ‘incident’, i.e. suicide bombing,
rockets fired, rock throwing takes place, anywhere in the West
Bank or Gaza, check points are shut down, young men searched
and detained, families evicted, or homes invaded, shops closed… These
are just some of the collective punishments that the Palestinians
are forced to endure.
- Another is religious harassment where the Palestinian people
are either held up Fridays so as to miss their solemn prayer
time, or they are not allowed to attend the Mosque at all.
- Home Demolitions are a constant threat to farmers living in
certain areas that are coveted by nearby settlers and their settlement. These
Palestinian farmers have property rights dating back to the Ottoman
Empire when land ownership was officially recorded. This
ownership, however, dates much further back into history. The
Israeli government will issue a demolition order through the
IOF and, unless it is contested in the courts with all the costs
of lawyers and civil fees, the home will be destroyed. It
takes five minutes for US Caterpillar machines to crush a concrete
house, totally. The family is left with whatever it can
save before the demolition. The purpose of all this is
to drive them out so the settlement can take over their ‘vacant’ land.
While I was in Hebron as part of the Christian Peacemaker Teams
early 2008, there were constant crises taxing the team’s
ability to respond immediately to urgent requests. We sometimes
moved in with families or were present with them, hoping our presence
as internationals might help protect homes or families
from Israeli Defense Forces home invasions or demolitions. We
still attend actions by local Palestinians to protesting their
land being taken to build the wall. Besides
this, the Teams continued to monitor IDF detaining men and boys
and had to increase school patrols at check points where the children
were being searched despite an order to stop searching school children.
Other times we were asked to accompany Palestinians in danger areas.
These are just some of the ways the Christian Peacemaker
Teams try to ‘get in the way’ of potential
violence. It is a privilege for me to be part of this
group which has a broad ecumenical participation, and enlists
the whole church in an organized, nonviolent alternative to war. I
am deeply grateful to Maryknoll Sisters who encouraged and supported
my joining and participation in CPT.
*About Christian Peacemaker Teams: Initiated by Mennonites, Brethren
and Quakers, Christian Peacemaker Teams has broad ecumenical participation. CPT’s
ministry is Biblically-based and spiritually-centered peace-making
emphasizing: creative public witness, nonviolent direct
action, and protection of human rights.
** Amnesty International argues that Israel's
settlement policy is not only illegal, but is discriminatory and
a violation of Palestinian human rights: "As well as violating
international humanitarian law per se, the implementation of Israel's
settlement policy in the Occupied Territories violates fundamental
human rights provisions, including the prohibition of discrimination.
The seizure and appropriations of land for Israeli settlements,
bypass roads and related infrastructure and discriminatory allocation
of other vital resources, including water, have had a devastating
impact on the fundamental rights of the local Palestinian population,
including their rights to an adequate standard of living, housing,
health, education, and work, and freedom of movement within the
Sr. Jean Fallon, a Maryknoll Sister since 1947 spent 44 years in
ministry in Japan. In 2001 she became a member of the Maryknoll Office
for Global Concerns and was the Associate Representative of the Maryknoll
Sisters’ NGO at the United Nations until 2007. In late 2007 she
joined the Christian Peacemaker Teams. These teams are trained, skilled,
international teams that work to support local efforts toward nonviolent
peacemaking by “getting in the way” of injustice through
direct nonviolent intervention, public witness and reporting to the
larger world community.