Occupation hurts the occupied and the occupier

For many years Canadian Friends have had a concern for all people living in Palestine and Israel. In 2009, Quakers adopted a position that, among other things, calls for a nonviolent path that recognizes the dignity of all. In 2014, Canadian Friends approved an Addendum to the 2009 Israel/Palestine position. The Addendum notes that “Our hearts are full of compassion for Israelis and Palestinians, all of whom are suffering from the effects of the occupation.” (These statements are available in full on CFSC’s website.)

In 2014, I had a leading to join a delegation to Palestine/Israel. I was excited to join this Sabeel-led delegation because we were going to visit 20 peace groups: Palestinians and Israelis working nonviolently for Palestinian human rights.

“For me, it was a life changing experience.”

I was very thankful for a Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC) individual grant, and one from Vancouver Island Monthly Meeting. This financial and emotional support enabled me to go and witness what was happening to Palestinians living under on-going occupation. For me, it was a life changing experience.

Before I went, I didn’t fully understand how the occupation was hurting the occupier. I had to be there to learn that Israeli children are taught in school how, as one person told me, “Everyone in the world is out to kill them, and they are shown different times in history where this is true.”

This leads to the belief among Israeli children that they absolutely must do their military service once they turn 18. I also learned how during their service these conscripts are asked to do things that are contrary to their sense of morality and religion, so they too suffer their own form of trauma.

According to Jennifer Shifrin, a psychotherapist who also served in the Israeli military, “These young conscripts suffer from moral injury and Post Traumatic Stress.”

I confess that before I went on this delegation, I had little sympathy for the Israeli military personnel, but that has changed for me. I am happy to know that CFSC has been supporting the Israeli refusers organization Mesarvot since 2017.

Since my trip, I have had a strong leading to work on the Israel/Palestine issue. One of the things requested by most of the Palestinian and Israeli peace groups that I visited was that our delegation members work on our own governments, to get them to speak out about Israel’s violations of international law.

To that end, I have been working with a cross-Canada interfaith campaign called “Canada, Stand Up for Palestinian Children’s Human Rights.” We are requesting that the Canadian government appoint a special envoy to go to the West Bank to monitor violations of the human rights of Palestinian children by the Israeli military. CFSC is one of the founding members of this Coalition.

The situation we’re working on is indeed dire. In June of this year, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East released a report entitled Heartbreaking Disparity: Child Detainees in Canada vs. Israel. The report highlights the systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the West Bank vs. how Israeli settler children living in the same area are treated. The report then compares the treatment of these youngsters in the West Bank to how Canadian children are treated in Canada’s justice system. For me, seeing these differences is eye-opening.

If, like I was, you feel curious and moved to learn more about Palestinians’ daily lived experiences and what lies behind the injustices and human rights violations, you’re in luck. A delegation organized by Sabeel Liberation Theology Centre is going to Israel/Palestine from October 15th to 26th. This delegation is based on a commitment to nonviolence and being inclusive of all. They intend to meet people from various organizations, Palestinian Muslims, Palestinian Christians, and Jewish Israelis, all of whom are working to support human rights.

The delegation plans to visit Bethlehem, Jerusalem, the Old City, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Vad Yashem (the Holocaust Museum), and more. Plus you will enjoy delicious food and hospitable people.

The delegation leaders are Rev. Marianna Harris, and retired lawyer George Bartlett. Both have led many delegations. If you would like to know more please e-mail them with your questions. Some financial support for participating may be available upon discussion with Marianna or George. Also Quakers can contact CFSC about individual grants. I did and it changed my life.

Linda Taffs (Cowichan Valley Meeting), is a member of CFSC’s Israel/Palestine Working Group and past clerk of CFSC’s Peace Committee. She has the pleasure of living next door to two of her grandchildren on Vancouver Island. CFSC does not run and has no affiliation with the witness trip Linda describes above. As such CFSC is unable to accept responsibility for security risks if you choose to participate.