Sophia's Peace Work

Friday, May 12, 2006

How one kind of terrorism breeds another ...

A friend of mine living in Jordan who has worked with the Christian Peacemaker Team in the West Bank of Israel/Palestine came over for dinner awhile ago. "Did you read the report about the Israeli settler attack on the Palestinian kids and their escort going to school?" I had to admit that I hadn't ... I get reports from CPT all the time, but I don't always have time to read them all and I must have deleted this one without looking at it. I had seen the small school in Twani, a small Palestinian village in the southern hills of the West Bank, in the summer of 2004 when I was volunteering with CPT. The village is overlooked by the Isreali settlement of Ma'on and some other settler outposts. There are several Palestinian villages scattered through the area that send their children to the school in Twani, the only one for miles around.

The settlers have been harrasing the Palestinian kids coming from the village of Tuba for some time and finally the Israeli authorities started sending escorts (often grudgingly) with the kids to protect them. Apparently the settlers have tried a number of techniques to stop the children ... resently they built a roadblock along the main path they have been using that stops the army jeep from escorting the kids all the way.

But on the morning of May 6th, the school escort drove from Twani, left their jeep at the roadblock and then walked to collect the children and return to the roadblock. Children and soldiers reported that settlers shouted and threw rocks at them at the roadblock. Soldiers said that the settlers had a large dog with them.

At 1:00 pm, the military escort jeep for the Tuba schoolchildren arrived to escort them home. One soldier told the other to put his helmet on (were they expecting trouble?). Three soldiers walked, one drove. Five male settlers shadowed them almost from the start. At 1:15 pm, when they reached the roadblock on road about thirty settlers ambushed the children and soldiers. Soldiers said that about half of the settlers were younger than eighteen. Settlers threw rocks at the children and soldiers, and kicked and punched them. Several children sustained injuries to legs and heads. One soldier fired his gun in the air.

A second military jeep arrived, five soldiers went into the woods and international peace activists nearby heard them shouting at and talking with settlers. Soldiers
did not arrest any settlers. The children ran the rest of the way home and later two children required medical treatment; one said that two settlers came very close on either side of her and shouted in her ears very loudly.

A group of Israeli peace activists was trying to get down to At-Tuwani all morning; police trailed them and stopped them several times. At 1:45 pm, they arrived and a group of sixty began walking from At-Tuwani toward Tuba. Settlers watching from the trees didn't attack the large group of activists, but yelled at the police to arrest the activists.

Soldiers and police tried to stop the peace activists and detained several of them until members of the group negotiated for their release. The activists agreed to leave the area if police released the detained members of the group and if the military would evacuate the children who needed medical treatment because of the settler attack.

It is hard to imagine that innocent children could be targeted in this way. Some of these children are very, very young ... and, it appears, the settler children are being encouraged to act this way by their elders. What kind of trauma is this causing to both sides? What thirst for retribution like an evil seed is being planted here? One radicalism breeding another. Israeli fundamentalists terrorizing Palestinian children, leading to a new generation of Palestinian fundamentalists terrorising Israeli children.

We get all high and mighty and talk of how Palestinians violence is self-destructive (and of course it is, but so is Israeli violence) and we can't even think of helping them or negotiating with them until they renounce violence completely. We are living in a dream world and can't face the fact that the world is a messy place where if you really care about peace, you have to willing to talk to the terrorist.


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