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The Situation in Palestine, Particularly Hebron

By Sr. Jean Fallon, M.M.
Member, Christian Peacemaker Teams*

Palestine Arrests
Six 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 Occupied Territories.

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.

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