July 29, 2015
I've just returned from Israel where I spent the last 2 months! One of the reasons I went to Israel was to do my own fact-finding mission and listen to the stories of people from various backgrounds in order to discover what is really going on. With the western media saying one thing, BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement) saying another, friends making decisions of what and who to support and others directly involved in anti-Israel protests, I wanted to see for myself.
Much of my life has been spent working among the poor in areas of conflict, war zones, and closed countries alongside those who were fighting oppression on many fronts. I believed in the struggle against hatred and hostility, wherever it was found. I still do!
I now find myself fighting against the oppression of another people, and their country. The group is the Jews and the land is Israel. I know this is not the fashionable thing to do. Many of my friends from the Left and also many Christians are involved in promoting the boycott of Israel. They are puzzled and shocked that I would choose to be on the side of what some call the “oppressor” but they need to take another look.
Today we are in the midst of an increasing tide of anti-Semitism that is spreading like cancer around the world. It is playing itself out on the stages of Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. The main stage is the Middle East, the focus is Israel and the catalyst is the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
I spent time traveling throughout Israel, from Jerusalem and the Mt of Olives to the West Bank. I visited Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem, then to the Lebanon border and the Golan Heights; from Galilee to Jericho, to the Dead Sea and parts of the Negev. I talked with people on both sides of the issue, those who were trying to find pathways toward reconciliation and those filled with hatred.
Truly, many Palestinians have suffered and there is poverty but let's put it in perspective. Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group, rules Gaza. During conflict they use Palestinian civilians as human shields. They train young children to be jihadist soldiers. They have used women as suicide bombers. They fire their rockets from hospitals, playgrounds and homes. And then there is the second Palestinian area: the West Bank, which is ruled by Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. But few people know that the West Bank is really Judea and Samaria, the place where Judaism was born.
There are terrorist cell groups scattered throughout the West Bank. Let me be clear. Palestinians have been oppressed but not by Israel. Cruelty and coercion has come from the hands of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. There was no massacre in Gaza. There is no genocide going on. There is no apartheid.
Yes, in the West Bank one can find poverty, joblessness and economic despair. But at the same time I found Domino's Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Arab Fried Chicken, Disney stores, furniture stores and large hotels. There were many banks, grocery stores and car dealers, including BMW, Volvo and Mercedes. I saw beautiful homes in the “suburbs” which I found out belonged to Abbas, other government officials and foreign embassies. They looked more like palaces. I discovered that Abbas has millions of dollars and could easily build an infrastructure and all that is needed for a better life for the people of the West Bank. With all the money that is given to the leaders of the West Bank and Gaza from western countries, one does not really need to wonder where all the money is going! And whose pockets are being lined! It is clear that Abbas is simply choosing not to take care of his people.
I did find one area that some said is a refugee camp, but people are free to come and go wherever and whenever they want. They don't have to stay, they can move anywhere. Granted this is a poor area, but the Arabs told me that they like living there. Posters of Arafat can be found on the sides of buildings and inside homes and stores. There are also posters of women carrying AK-47's and children with assault rifles, smiling at the thought of killing Jews. Nothing is left to the imagination.
But people who want to blame everything on Israel will ignore inconvenient facts. For example, at the beginning of Ramadan, in an act of good will, Prime Minister Netanyahu opened the roads from Gaza and the West Bank in order for Muslims to come and pray at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Since that time, almost every day, there has been an incident in which people were assaulted, wounded or killed. In one attack the terrorist was on the ground bleeding and a Palestinian woman ran to put her arms around him. She cried, “You are a martyr, my son.” He had just stabbed an Israeli border guard in the neck. http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Stabbing-at-Jerusalems-Damascus-Gate-outside-Old-City-406658
As of this writing, ISIS is on the Syrian border near the Golan Heights in the north. ISIS is in Egypt and now in Gaza. In Jerusalem last week, flyers were found that told the Christians to get out of Jerusalem. It said they were first coming for the Jews and then for the Christian infidelsâ€¦to kill them all. The Arab world wants to obliterate Israel “from the Jordan River to the sea”.
My question for the BDS movement and those that support a boycott of all things Israel is this: The Iranian backed group, Hezbollah, who occupy Lebanon, have 100,000 rockets pointed at Israel. ISIS is on the Golan Heights border with Syria. ISIS is also in the Sinai and will probably soon attempt to move into Israel from the South. Palestinian Arabs are lighting fires in Jerusalem forests and the desecration of Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives often happens. Hamas continues to attack Israel with rockets, causing Israelis to run for shelter. All that plus the threat of a nuclear Iran and there are still those who continue to blame Israel alone for the lack of peace in the Middle East. If you were surrounded by people that wanted to annihilate you, what would you do?
I returned from my trip dismayed about why people don't take the time to learn the facts before they make assumptions about a tiny country surrounded by terrorist groups. I suggest that we take another look, weigh the options and we might just come up with a new perspective.
"If the Arabs put down their guns, there would be no more fighting. If the Israelis put down theirs, there would be no more Israel." Golda Meir