Changes I See

by Tom Malthaner

September 29, 1997

As I'm writing this I just heard a gun shot in the background. Shots from Israeli soldiers have been heard intermittently throughout the day in response to Palestinian youth throwing stones. The situation seems more hopeless today than last year when I spent two months with the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Hebron, West Bank. Since I've returned, the big question on my mind was what changes have occurred and what the feelings of the Palestinians are since my last trip..

After arriving in Hebron I visited the Pottery Factory where I had close friends and purchased most of my souveniers. The factory owner Nadar and my friend Radi gave me a warm welcome with an embrace. We quickly shared with each other events that happened over the year; then Radi talked to me in private.

He told me one night back in March he was taken by Israeli soldiers. He was put in solitary confinement in a three- by six-foot cell for 20 consecutive days, interrogated and beaten. He was in prison for a total of three months under administrative detention with no charges and no trial (under Israeli law a Palestinian can be held under administrative detention for six months and then can be renewed for another six months without charges made or a trial).

The reason he was given for imprisonment was that he threw stones seven years ago during the Intifada (Palestinian uprising).

I couldn't believe my ears. Radi, my friend, gentle and kind, put in prison, beaten -- how could that happen? I couldn't hold back my emotions, anger riveted through my body and then a deep sadness for Radi as I looked into his gentle eyes. I asked him if he was angry at the soldiers. He said, "Of course, what can I do? I think the Israeli government is trying to hurt each one of us Palestinians." What ran through my mind was, "Is Radi going to be permanently hurt psychologically from the trauma of the beatings and the solitary confinement?" Tears again came to my eyes.

The evils of the occupation are growing like a cancer; the supression and humiliation especially of the youth, the increasing demolitions of Palestinian homes and confiscation of lands and the depression of the economy due to border closures.

The Palestinian people are running out of places to turn for support; their own Palestinian Authority have a record of human right abuses and corruption, the other Arab countries do not really stand up for them and the U.S. has shown more and more that it sides with Israel. I talked to an American today who was the project manager from USAID in charge of building a road in front of the Jewish settlement of Beit Hadassah. He told me the only answer is for the U.S. to bring all the congress representatives to Hebron and let them see with their own eyes what is happening. Then perhaps U.S. policy will change.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative among Mennonite and Church of the Brethren congregations and Friends Meetings that supports violence reduction efforts around the world. CPT P. O. Box 6508 Chicago, IL 60680 tel 312-455-1199 FAX 312-666-2677 email WEB

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