Being an American, I can never fully understand what every Palestinian must endure daily from Israeli SECURITY; but I have heard enough of their stories, seen enough of effects of The Wall and far too many eyes of children who only know Israelis through the barrel of a gun, to ever shut up in trying to educate and agitate the status quo; for experience is all about what you do with what happens to you.
On November 15, 2005, Senator Hillary Clinton stood on the Jerusalem side of The Wall and was quoted in Ha'aretz, expressing support for The Wall because it "is against terrorists" and "not against the Palestinian people."
On New Years Eve Day of 2005, I visited a family who had just rebuilt their home in Dasheish, one of three a 100% Muslim refugee camps in Bethlehem.
The Habib [not their real name] family had rebuilt on the very same spot after the Israeli Forces blew their former home up without any reason or compensation.
Since 1967, Israel has demolished over 18,000 dwellings [averaging eleven people per unit] which were bulldozed by Israeli forces using USA made caterpillar bulldozers and Israel attempts to justify their home demolitions with three distinct categories:
1. Collective Punishment: Homes of suspected terrorists-which in reality is anyone who opposes the occupation of Palestine- and the families of suicide/homicide bombers. These punitive actions amount to 15% of the over 18,000 homes destroyed since 1967.
2. Administrative Demolitions: For lack of building permits- which Israel refuses to issue-account for 25%. In occupied east Jerusalem there are now 22,000 more homes [one out of four Palestinian homes]with a demolition order over them.
3. SECURITY: The blanket response to all of Israel's injustices and illegal actions.
Mr. Habib told me that in 2004, Israeli Forces banged on his door and informed the family that their home would be demolished within fifteen minutes. The family all got safely out, but their home was but a memory a few moments later.
"No one in our family had ever been in any trouble with the Israeli government before and no family member had ever been arrested. They picked us to be an example of the power and control that Israel has to deny basic and inalienable human rights," Mr. Habib informed me without any bitterness.
An Uncle, who lived down the stairs from the Habib's also had his home blown away on the very same day. Relatives took them all in, for the poor in Palestine take care of the poor and don't look to the government to do what people of good will, will do automatically: care for the ill, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners.
When ever I need a taxi while in Bethlehem or Jerusalem, I usually phone Samir-but I always call him Sam.
Sam can comfortably transport eight in his van and he has an excellent sound system. Sam is an Orthodox Christian in the Syrian Church and has a gorgeous wife and two beautiful kids. Sam has VIP papers which enable him to chauffeur the Patriarchs around town without as much hassle as a regular Palestinian would have to endure at the checkpoints.
Sam, his wife and I rode to the Ben Gurion Airport, three hours prior to my 1 AM flight home on January 5, 2006, the final day of my second of seven journey's to Israel and Palestine. We talked a little but mostly we listened to the music of Bob Marley. When we arrived at the checkpoint at the entrance of the airport, Sam rolled down his window and smiled at the young soldier and said, "Shalom" but it sounded more like "Salaam."
Sam's VIP pass meant nothing to the soldier and we were all ordered to disembark and pull out all of my luggage. My passport was demanded without a smile and Sam was led into the interrogation room while his wife and I remained out in the cold trying to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Another soldier examined and probed the van looking for b-o-m-b-s and I wondered about the paranoia apparent in so many Israeli's. I have discerned that it is a holocaust hangover that has blinded many to the fact that the once oppressed have now become the oppressors.
After Sam's van was thoroughly examined for b-o-m-b-s, I received my passport back marked with a red sticker upon it. Back in Sam's van his wife expertly removed the sticker and all the glue from my passport. The sticker brands one as having come through occupied territory and Sam informs me that my third degree would be by airport SECURITY.
Sam smiled wryly as he told me, "This is what the Nazi's did to the Jews before the Holocaust when they made them wear the Star of David. They marked them as the enemy. Now anyone who knows Palestinians or visits occupied territory gets a sticker on their passport to label them as friends of the enemy."