It’s a big part of the problem. US military aid to Israel stands at over 3 billion dollars per year ~ no strings attached! Living and working in this land, it is difficult to be a dual citizen of two powerful countries whose governmental policies support a brutal Israeli military occupation and stand in opposition to justice for an occupied and oppressed people. It is more than difficult ~ it is embarrassing and something of which I am ashamed. Many Palestinians have commented to us on the huge sum of money that is given to Israel each year by the United States for the purchase of weapons. And as many Palestinians have said to us, “You’re from Canada? ~ But Canada supports Israel and voted against us last year at the UN.” ~ What can you say? “Yes, I am embarrassed and ashamed, and I do not agree with the policies of the US or Canada!” But this has little practical meaning to Palestinian families on the ground that are trying simply to live their lives.
What is the situation on the ground? In the South Hebron Hills, one repercussion of the weapons trade is manifest in the form of unexploded ordinances (UXOs). Large sections of Area C have been designated by Israel as “firing zones” ~ places where Israel conducts “military training exercises.” But these are places where people make their homes! Various UXOs, designated by the innocuous term “military waste,” are a cause of both injury and death, especially for children. (See Defence for Children International.)
The reality is grim ~ The phone rings. A boy is injured. He is only 15. He is on the hillside with the sheep and picks up something shiny. It explodes! He has second degree burns on both hands! ~ We are at midterm orientation when the call comes, but we visit the village when we return to our placement. We talk with the boy and his father who shows us the evidence ~ United States Air Force IR Flare! What good are the words in English ~ warning, explosive ~ for a Palestinian shepherd boy who reads only Arabic?
We express our concern to the father and to the young shepherd who is clearly in pain but smiles at us bravely. We promise his father that we will seek to raise awareness and will tell his story ~ Upon reflection, I am more convinced than ever that opposition to Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian land and lives must come from global civil society ~ not from governments. The words of Margaret Mead come to mind, providing a small ray of hope ~ Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has ~ But in the moment, as we drive away, all I can think about is the young shepherd and his painful, scarred hands.