Greenfield Recorder, February 1, 2023
By SHERRILL HOGEN
I was in Palestine last October.
It had been three COVID years since I had seen my adoptive family there. I prepared for the trip by buying gifts for all eight of them: my “sister,” her husband, their six grown children, and innumerable grandchildren. I called them as soon as I got to Palestine to arrange when I would travel from Bethlehem to their city of Nablus two hours to the north. I never got to see them. The city was blockaded by the Israeli army, and travel in and out was forbidden for three weeks.
Three months later, on Jan. 27, I had a Zoom meeting with a friend from the same city of Nablus. He had just come down with the flu and needed his 28-year-old son to come home to take care of him, but he told his son not to come, though he was just an hour’s drive away. Travel was too dangerous. The Israeli army was patrolling the streets of Nablus with tanks, raiding homes and shooting to kill.
On top of that, my friend announced that the Israeli government had just declared that some major connecting highways within the West Bank would be for Jewish settlers and Israeli military use only and henceforth closed to Palestinians. My friend did not yet know what that will mean in terms of meeting daily needs for travel to work, school or doctors.
Palestinians are comparing the current level of Israeli military and settler violence to the time in 1948 when their grandparents were forced to flee from their homes in Palestine in order tocreate the Jewish state of Israel. Days are full of tension and fear. Children are beginning to think that guns, soldiers and destruction of their homes are normal. And they have nightmares.
My Nablus friend, a life-long peacemaker and believer in democracy, struggled to describe what the new Israeli government is proposing and acting out: it is ethnic cleansing, he said. Israel has declared its intention to build more settlements on Palestinian-owned farmland; they have started to expel 1,000 Palestinians from eight villages in the rural area known as Masafer Yatta, an area that Israel claims as a “military zone.” They are bulldozing Bedouin homes in order to take their land and their military is invading the Palestinian cities like Nablus and Jenin, terrorizing the residents. They have killed 29 Palestinians in the first 27 days of 2023.
Some Palestinian youth have picked up weapons and formed “brigades” in response to these measures. Others act alone. On Jan. 27, a Palestinian shot 10 Jewish Israelis as they were leaving their settlement synagogue. On Jan. 28, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy shot two Jewish Israelis who were in a Palestinian section of East Jerusalem. Such one-person attacks are increasing.
Many American Jews are alarmed by the extremism in the new Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu, but much of their concern is for what is happening to Jewish Israel, not what it is doing to Palestinians, those inside Israel and those in occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and besieged Gaza. Hence the “My Turn” by Richard Fein titled, “Netanyahu’s new government: What does it mean for Israel?” (Recorder, Jan. 26). While I credit Mr. Fein for his mention of “the oppression suffered by Palestinians,” that was not his focus. While civil rights inside Israel are in jeopardy, the very existence of Palestine is in jeopardy.
Palestine’s suffering may not seem as important as the growing war in Ukraine, nor as deadly, and it may seem small compared to the climate crisis, but we need to pay attention to how each crisis is connected to the others. Who profits from fossil fuels and war? Who is hurt? And why does our government give its biggest foreign aid package to Israel when Israel is violating the rights of Palestinians?
I ask you to consider these questions, and to call for the protection of my friends in Palestine, because they fear for their lives against an Israel that wants to expel them.
Sherrill Hogen lives in Charlemont.
Palestinians are comparing the current level of Israeli military and settler violence to the time in 1948 when their grandparents were forced to flee from their homes in Palestine in order tocreate the Jewish state of Israel.