In early February, IPMN Advocacy Chair Addie Domske, led a group of young people to Israel/Palestine to participate in the Keep Hope Alive olive planting program with the Joint Advocacy Initiative in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and to tour the land, meeting up with activists and visiting holy sites. Over the next few months, IPMN will be sharing reflections from that trip. Many of the participants received travel scholarships from IPMN to help subsidize their travel costs.
A Heartbreaking Reality
by Craig Kennedy
Palestine: a land of many conflicts. This place stole my heart because of how beautiful and special it is. Yet, the ongoing social and political environment which dominates and suffocates Palestine is heartbreaking. What is heartbreaking is that the world seems to have forgotten about the Palestinian people. The world does not know and understand what is truly happening over there. If you do not know what you are looking for, it is easy for you to miss and not see just how the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank suffer. The most frustrating element to my trip to the Holy Land is that the political policies Israel imposes over the occupied territory are so blatant and reprehensible that they should not be tolerated for as long as they have been.
The geographical landscape of the West Bank is rather unique. I was truly surprised by just how hilly the area was in addition to the close proximity to many historically rich and important towns and cities. Amongst this beauty however are the more sinister and deliberate policies of the Israeli government, constructing new settlements located on the top of many of these hillsides. These settlements, together with their cranes and the drones of construction work, dominate the local landscape. They are haunting in their frequency and in how they are strategically placed. They arch over Palestinian towns and villages whilst threatening to cut off them and their farmland off logistically from many other parts of the West Bank.
These settlements are the physical proof that the Knesset does not want a two state solution. Continued expansion into the West Bank undermines any argument for this outcome. The West Bank is more densely populated per sq mile with Israeli citizens than Israel is itself. Despite my studies and awareness of this in the West Bank, I was not expecting to witness the sheer inhumane way in which settlements were being constructed and how they were a political tool to intimidate and dishearten the Palestinian Arab population.
From the Palestinians I have met in my life, I have found them to be full of calmness and humility. Each of them has been wise, wholesome and mature in their thinking. My trip to Palestine did not change my opinion but it did amaze me further at their mental strength and courage in living, persevering and challenging the status quo and control of the continuing occupation. Their attitude and determination is awe inspiring and has made me understand and realise further that their stories must be told back home and around the world to help their voices be heard: to help educate and create a change in people’s attitude towards the issue to increase pressure on the Israeli government.
This trip has opened my eyes to the systematic and unrelenting way in which the Israeli government ensures that Palestinians have little hope and even fewer opportunities to establish a foothold that will see them prosper and be able to form any kind of autonomy. But their hope and passion for autonomy is as strong as ever. International support is essential in keeping hope alive in Palestine and equally as essential in pushing for a change to Israeli and Western foreign policy. This system of apartheid is not sustainable, yet how long must it go on? How long until those in government office realize this? The sad reminder is that without international pressure, nothing will change. So my question to you is this: Until when?
Craig Kennedy, aged 24, lives in a small Scottish town called Pitlochry in Highland Perthshire. A recent MLitt graduate in International Law and Security, he writes "I am looking to continue the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired into the charity and policy sector. I have a strong passion for international politics. Books and journals do not compare to what you experience through your own senses and this was a truly fascinating and hard hitting trip. I seek to gather an understanding of the world and how different countries can operate in different ways. With understanding comes respect, and it is paramount that everyone is given a chance to be understood in order to build positive relationships. This is essential and an ever simplified world."