By Elizabeth for our summer zine, 2016
What is it like in Palestine today?
Palestinians on the West Bank face constant interruptions into their daily lives. To get to work and school they must frequently pass through checkpoints set up by Israel. These checkpoints are made up of metal bars keeping people in tight lines, can be hours long, and may close without notice, making routine activities and travel impossible. Checkpoints are strategically closed vindictively, such as on University exam days. Palestinians must get permission from the Israeli government to build homes, but permission is never granted. Palestinian homes are at constant threat of demolition, to make room for Israeli settlements. The settlements often appropriate land that has been used for valuable purposes, like olive farms. An apartheid wall runs throughout the West Bank making it impossible to get to family, friends, schools, hospitals, farms and jobs.
Gaza is frequently referred to as the world’s largest open air prison. Gazans are not free to leave, they have limited electricity and water, and are stopped by the Israeli blockade when trying to fish in the sea. Gazans have a 50% unemployment rate, and the blockade makes it very difficult to get goods in and out. Gazans in the refugee camps and those lucky enough to live in houses and apartments have limited access to medical care and are unable to get to hospitals in Israel and Egypt.
Throughout Palestine and Israel, Palestinians are treated as second-class citizens. Identification documents show the ethnicity of the holder, regardless of where the person lives. That ethnicity is then used to determine where a person can live, work, go to school, travel and which roads a person can use. Thus, ethnic Palestinians, even if they are Israeli citizens, live under a system of apartheid.
Those who speak out against Israeli rule are subject to imprisonment and torture. One such Palestinian activist is Rasmea Odeh, who was brutally tortured by the Israeli government in 1969 to elicit a confession to a bombing. In 1979 she was released as a part of a prisoner exchange and testified before the UN about her time in an Israeli prison. She has been living in the U.S. for forty years, and has continued to work hard on behalf of immigrant women in Chicago. Now, the US government is attempting to deport her for purportedly failing to reveal on her naturalization forms the “previous convictions” obtained by Israel through torture nearly 50 years ago. In her original trial, an expert witness was not allowed to testify about the effects of PTSD and how Rasmea had not consciously withheld information. This is a part of the desire of the US government to keep Palestinian activists down, while supporting the Israeli apartheid state.
US Aid to Israel
In 2007, President Bush signed a memorandum of understanding to give Israel 30 billion dollars in unconditional military aid over the next ten years. This is paid in 3.1 billion dollar installments annually, since, unlike other aid, it was calculated as a lump sum. Our government must therefore pay interest for not giving the whole sum to Israel in the first year. This U.S. gift to Israel represents over 10 million dollars a day and over $300 per Israeli citizen; it is over ten times the aid given to any other country. 55% of US foreign military aid goes to Israel, despite Israel having a high GDP compared to other recipients of foreign aid. Israel frequently makes special requests for additional funds, discounted weapons or other aid, and the US government quickly hands over the requested assistance. This nonsense needs to stop! US taxpayers should not be footing the bill for rockets fired into Gaza and constant military patrols of the West Bank.
Every year the US could be spending the 3.1 billion dollars on:
- 65,918 additional teacher salaries
- 265,729 children could have received free childcare
- 541,012 pell grants for college education
- 124,000 5kW solar systems
What can you do?
- Boycott goods made in Israeli settlements or from companies that are complicit in Israeli war crimes, such as Coke products, HP computers, Soda Stream, and Starbucks.
- Call your state representatives to ask for Minnesota to divest from Israeli bonds
- Ask your Senators and Representatives to stop US aid to Israel
- Post on social media and talk to your friends about what is happening in Palestine
- Follow the Anti-War Committee on Facebook and Twitter to find out about demonstrations against Israeli Apartheid.