Palestine Blog #5: Zionism is Racism

Wednesday, July 20th 2011

We were all tense as we entered our bus this morning.

The night before, the African Heritage delegation to Palestine held a meeting to discuss how we would cope with our scheduled meeting in the morning with a group of Israeli settlers in Hebron that are led by the notorious right-wing extremist, David Wilder.  My dad Gerald had met with one of their representatives when he saw him three years ago and he had been upfront about the fact that Jewish people would take over Hebron, even if it meant killing all the Palestinians.

We were originally scheduled to meet with Wilder himself, but he was going to be away, so we were planning on meeting with one of his spokespeople.  Our decision, as an African American delegation to meet with his spokesperson wasn’t made lightly.  Several members of our delegation had direct confrontations with the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, and in Birmingham, Alabama, among other places during the 1950s and 60s.  We felt that to meet with this Israeli settlement society that is openly racist and proud of terrorizing Palestinians, throwing them out of their homes at gun point, and spitting on their children, would be akin to sitting down with the KKK to hear why they hate Black folks.  Needless to say, we didn’t decide to go to this meeting without a lot of consideration.  We concluded that we would be stronger advocates for Palestinian rights if we had heard directly from these settlers and could explain their ideological connection to the KKK with greater vividness.

As it turns out, the spokesman we met with made a concerted attempt to hide the message that my dad had gotten before—most likely it due to the fact that we were an African American delegation and he knew from the jump that we wouldn't like anything he said. He even tried to impress us by telling us that he has an Arab friend! Even with the restraint he was showing, he couldn’t resist a few disgusting lies such as the settlers are justified in taking Palestinian land because Palestinians choose not to be citizens.  After saying his piece he quickly cut off questions before I could get anything out and told us we could go to their museum where we would be met by a guide that could answer any further questions.  I was hoping that we would get a chance to grill this guide about the settlements—but the guide never showed up.


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We then left to see the Palestinian side of the so-called H2 designated part of the city of Hebron. Every part of the Palestinian territory has a different legal designation—Zone A, B, C, H-1, and H2. When we got out of the van at the checkpoint, we were approached by a Palestinian kid, maybe four years old, who was selling bracelets.  The IDF soldiers didn’t want the kid around us and ran up to our delegation with his M-16 and told the kid to get behind the barricade.  This kid put a smile on my face as he was obviously taunting the soldiers in Arabic and running in between our legs to avoid the clutches of the IDF.

Finally, the soldier got a hold of his collar and dragged him behind the barrier.    


Next we went through the checkpoint to the Ibrahim Mosque—the same mosque where in 1994, an Israeli settler came in and shot down scores of Palestinians. In fact, later in the day we met a 19-year-old kid whose father was killed in the massacre and his family was left destitute, so he was on the street selling bracelets to tourists. While inside the Mosque, dozens of M-16 toting IDF came inside on a tour to see the tomb where Abraham is buried, not bothering to remove their shoes like everyone else in an effort to humiliate the Palestinians.


Finally, we met up with our tour guide, a man named Issa.  Issa is the leader of Students Against Settlements.  His first words to us related the story of him getting there to see us that day by crossing the check point. The IDF asked for his papers, took them and without looking at them sat back down in their station. When he complained that they had left him standing there for no reason, they came and hit him in the stomach.  Issa then got the commanding officer and complained to him, but the commander said he was lying.  Finally, they let him pass when he recited the law and threatened to contact an Israeli lawyer he knows.
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Issa began the tour by showing us how the Palestinians closed down shops in Hebron, H-2 (meaning that Israel maintains security control and control of the municipal government).  The Israeli government wants to transfer all the Palestinians in H-2 Hebron, to H-1 Where the Israelis control the security but the Palestinians maintain the municipality and the social services.

The most incredible part of the tour came when we entered a section of the shopping district in the alley-way that had metal grates over the top of the corridor.  Issa explained that the settlement we had gone to earlier that day was directly above us, and that the Palestinians work and live down below where we were standing.  It was immediately apparent why they had constructed a grate over the entire corridor: the settlers had thrown all kinds of garbage, rocks, and knifes.  We saw one section of the grating that had been destroyed by acid they had thrown down and we found out that now they urinate out of their windows down on the Palestinian shops.  

As we were leaving Hebron I saw a concrete block that someone spray painted that read, “Zionism, is Racism.”

-Jesse Hagopian