Thursday, June 19, 2003

Exporting A Legacy Of Hate?

From my e-mail;

Dear Friends,

Two African Americans are currently serving with the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron. Below are two of their recent reflections.


Rev. Sandra Olewine
United Methodist Liaison - Jerusalem

By Chris Brown

I've had some funny cards and letters sent to me over the years. Some I keep and some I throw away. But the one that has been written for me recently...Well, it's unique and I don't think I'll be throwing it away anytime soon.

One of the rooms in the men's apartment looks out over a street that is used by settlers only. I decided to clean it because it was getting a bit messy. While I washed down the window ledge I happened to look out the window and saw some graffiti on a green steel door. I just glanced at it because I assumed that it would be in Hebrew. But on closer inspection I noticed it was in English and what I saw brought it all home to me: WHITE POWER KILL NIGGERS.

Well here it goes, I thought. Now they've decided to make it personal. My very own greeting card, compliments of the settlers. I asked other team members if they had noticed the sign before, maybe I had missed it. Maybe it was here long before I arrived. No one remembered seeing it before. Of course I could write it off as a reference to settler hatred toward Palestinians. But I've seen the venom reserved for Palestinians, usually the word "Sand" is thrown in for added emphasis. There wasn't anything of that sort here. No, this was just for me.

How thoughtful of them.

As CPTers, settlers call us Nazis all the time. It's really nothing new. I always laugh when they call me that. It's so foreign to me. But not the message I saw on the green steel doors. That message is one I've dealt with all my life and its one I'll deal with till the day I die.

I wish I could toss out this card. It would be nice to walk over to those green doors and paint right over that note. But I know, as I've always known, that it's going to take a lot more than paint to make those feelings go away.

Reflection: It's No Fun Being Black in Hebron

by Paul D. Pierce

Christian Peacemaker Team- Hebron

14 June 2003

Today, I learned what it's like to be Black in Hebron. Not that I didn't know what it's like to be Black before, but this was a new experience. Having been born Black in the USA, I am painfully aware of the racism, stereotypes and brutality that, we, African-Americans face everyday. But experiencing it in Hebron is a whole other story!

It all started this morning when three of us from the Christian Peacemaker Teams headed for Jerusalem to attend church on Sunday. We have to start out on Saturday, because there is curfew on all of Hebron, and nobody is permitted to be out on the streets. Shops are closed. Schools are shut. Whole families are forced to stay indoors. You can't even get to the hospital if you're sick!

So, Kathy Kamphoefner, Chris Brown, and I walked to where we thought we might be able to find a taxi to take us to the outskirts of town, so we could transfer to other taxis that could travel By-pass Road 60 to Jerusalem. We have to take at least two taxis because Palestinian taxis, with green license plates, can't travel the Israeli-only by-pass road to Jerusalem. We have to find a taxi with (Israeli) yellow plates that are allowed by the military to go to the holy city of Jerusalem.

We found a local taxi and told him where we needed to go, and he started off. Our driver was informed that the army was up ahead so we took another route. We saw an Israeli army jeep going down the road ahead of us, and we switched streets. After we had switched routes for the third time, we headed down the new road only to see an army jeep on the street perpendicular to ours. Our driver sped up and passed two other cars to avoid the army jeep, but as the siren wailed behind us, we looked up to see another jeep blocking the intersection ahead. We came to a halt.

Soldiers with M-16's ran toward our taxi, while another half-dozen behind us jumped out of the jeep and encircled us. They began yelling at us in Hebrew and English, and one told us to get out of the car." One soldier yanked the back door of the taxi open and roughly tried to pull me out of the car, thinking I was Palestinian. When they realized I wasn't, four or five of his colleagues surrounded the Palestinian taxi driver and began berating him for driving his taxi, and demanded that the driver accompany them.

"What do you think you're doing?" I hollered. The soldier let me go, obviously perplexed that I was speaking to him in English rather than Arabic.

"Do you speak English?" he yelled. "Where are you from?"

"English, yes, and I'm from America," I stated.

"Let me see your passport," he demanded. Chris and I handed him our passports, as we exited the vehicle, and he walked off. The other soldier, holding his gun on us, shouted,

"You can't be out, Curfew is on."

"We're going to Jerusalem," Kathy said. She stayed in the car and dialed the team on her phone, so they would know the soldiers had stopped us.

"You can't be out! Curfew is on," he yelled. "Go home," said the soldier. "Get out of the car, and go home," he demanded.

"We can't walk that far," I said. "It's many miles."

"It's too far to walk," Kathy said. "We have to take the taxi."

The soldiers were talking in Hebrew and told us they were planning to take the taxi and the driver away with them. Kathy was not asked for her passport. Chris and I decided to get back in the car, to protect the taxi driver and his car from being taken away to an unknown fate. The soldier looked at our passports and threw them on the hood of the car.

"Thanks for being so polite," said Chris.

"Go home," the officer said.

The taxi driver turned the car around, and we headed back the way we came. He asked us where we wanted to go. We said wherever was best for him, but he insisted on taking us home and tried to refuse payment for his effort.

Obviously, we were not going to Jerusalem today. We conveyed our thanks to the driver, and when Kathy translated that Chris and I thought the experience was like being black Americans, mistreated by police in the USA. He laughed and said, "Welcome to Hebron."

We would have fared much worse if Kathy had not been white, and Chris and I had actually been Palestinian. We, along with the driver, would have gotten the usual beating, harassment and arrest that Palestinians experience every day in their encounters with the Israeli military. We were fortunate that they didn't shoot first, and find out who we were afterward. In short, we were very lucky.

I've talked to many Palestinians, seen them mistreated on the streets, and read hundreds of accounts of beatings, torture and killings by the Israeli military. Now, I've experienced their "hands on" attention for myself. It was an eye opening experience for me. Now I've had a taste of what Palestinians in the Occupied Territories deal with everyday. Just a taste-a small taste. But it's enough. Being Black in America is bad enough. Being Palestinian in the West Back is even worse.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. To learn more about CPT's peacemaking work, please visit our website. Photos of our projects may be viewed here. Login as:

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