Catholic News Service
Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories has separated families and cost people their homes, jobs and dignity, said three women from the Holy Land who visited Washington. They “threw me out like rubbish,” said Sharihan Hannoun, a Palestinian Muslim from East Jerusalem, referring to the day Israeli police kicked her family out of their home as part of a plan to create a new Jewish settlement in the area. The only thing she could take with her was the house key.
The Israeli police “kicked us out on the second of August at 5 a.m.,” Hannoun said, noting that her family was left on the streets.
Hannoun told participants in a conference on the Holy Land that Israeli police told her family the authorities were allowed to take their home “because you are Palestinian and we can take any houses we want … without any papers … because we are Israeli.”
Hannoun was a student at the time, and police would not even let her into her house to get her books — she was forced to do her take-home finals on the street, she said.
Jala Basil Andoni, a Christian Palestinian from Bethlehem, West Bank, echoed Hannoun’s story when she addressed participants in the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation conference in Washington Oct. 24. Andoni talked about being kicked out of her university dormitory in Amman, Jordan, in 1967 during the Six-Day War so the building could be used as a makeshift hospital.
The Six-Day War was the beginning of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and Andoni was separated from her family for two years.
She also spoke about the travel restrictions Palestinians currently are forced to deal with on a daily basis.
“I cannot go into Jerusalem unless I pass through a checkpoint,” she said. Palestinians must show IDs and permits to prove they are able to work or even to confirm a doctor’s appointment.
The security barrier Israel built to separate itself from the Palestinian territories is made of concrete and has towers and military checkpoints, Andoni said.
Delays at the checkpoints have caused some Palestinians to lose their jobs, she said.
“Some workers sleep near the checkpoints at 4 in the morning,” she said, so they can be there when the checkpoints open around 5 a.m.
Ruth El-Raz, a Jewish resident of Jerusalem, told conference participants the checkpoints are supposed to open at 5 a.m., but sometimes they do not open until 5:15 or 5:20, possibly because one of the policemen slept late, although no real explanation is given.
At times, Palestinians find themselves on the “forbidden list” and are not allowed past the checkpoints — the Palestinians do not know why they were placed on the list or who placed them there, El-Raz said. Palestinians crossing the border have to live each day with the uncertainty of when they will be able to cross the checkpoints — or if they will be allowed to cross at all.
“Any occupation is, by nature, evil,” El-Raz said.
“Every country has the right to determine who comes in” by use of passports and ID cards, El-Raz said. The difference in the Palestinian territories is that Israel alone determines who comes in and out and “what the Palestinians do in their own territories.”
El-Raz told conference participants, “I am not pro-Palestinian. I am pro-Israel,” but she said she believed in an independent Israeli state next to an independent Palestinian state.
Andoni, too, called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. She said her family owned olive trees and used “to make gallons of olive oil,” but with the restrictions posed by the Israeli security barrier they were unable to care for all their trees.
“Ending the occupation … will not be possible unless we get the support of the American people and the American government,” she said.
The three women’s trip to the Washington conference was sponsored by Partners for Peace, an organization working to educate Americans in an effort to secure Palestinian-Israeli peace and justice.