March 11, 2007 12:36 am
BETHLEHEM, Palestine--I am surprised that you find so terrible some of the quotes you record ["A steady diet of hate for kids in Palestine," Feb. 11] from Palestinian textbooks, such as "Palestine will be liberated by its men, its women, its young ones and its elderly."
Surely something of this sort was said by Americans fighting for their independence during the Revolutionary War. Their desire to sacrifice for freedom echoes some of our first generals: "[A]ppealing to Heaven for the justice of our cause, we determine to die or be free" (Joseph Warren, American account of the Battle of Lexington, 1775).
I spent three months in Palestine and Israel. I have been a witness to injustice that rarely makes it to mainstream news in the U.S.
I have spent time with families whose houses have been demolished; families who are left with no means of income after their fields have been destroyed; men who have been tortured in prison and who are nevertheless seeking a nonviolent way to resist; children who have been shot while playing; children who have been beaten by soldiers; and children whose siblings are in jail simply for being members of a political party.
The lives of Palestinians are devalued at the expense of Israelis. Palestinian children have little or no access to play areas, because of Israeli building restrictions and continued confiscation of land. While settlements atop hills in Palestine use water for swimming pools, gardens, and open spaces, Palestinians must pay four times as much to Israel for water.
Sewage from these settlements often runs directly onto Palestinian farmland.
Palestinian children in refugee camps face raids, where soldiers come in the middle of the night, break into their houses, and sometimes make an arrest or simply break things and leave.
You state that Palestinians do not learn about the Holocaust. Well, Israelis are not taught in school about the history of their country beyond the Jewish perspective. It is not taught, for example, that in the 1948 war more than 400 Palestinian towns were destroyed, and thousands of Palestinians were expelled or killed.
I have found that Israeli soldiers know little about why they receive orders, and Israeli civilians are ignorant of what happens in the West Bank. Please consider the following typical examples:
The first week I was here, I met a Palestinian family whose 11-year-old son was shot from a watchtower while playing on his porch.
I told an Israeli girl in her 20s about it. Her reply: "That couldn't have happened. It would have been on the news."
Two weeks ago we received a phone call from a family whose sons, 17 and 18 years old, had been beaten and arrested by the Israeli Defense Force in the village of Budrus.
I called the spokesperson for the IDF. I did not get in direct contact with the general. Instead I talked to an office worker. His response: "This doesn't have to do with us. We just talk to the media. But soldiers do not hurt innocent people. I am really sorry."
Last week I asked an Israeli soldier if he knew where the Green Line (the internationally recognized border that gives Palestine 22 percent of its original territory) is--since bulldozers, 12 kilometers away from this border, removed 700-year-old olive trees, the livelihood of 200 people.
His answer: "I don't know where the border is. I am just following orders."
There are actually many schools in Palestine that teach about Israelis and Palestinians living peacefully together. The Hope Flowers School near Bethlehem works to bring Palestinian and Jewish Israelis together to teach about reconciliation.
This school faces a court order--from Israel--that its cafeteria be demolished to make room for a security road. In addition, the school's water well will be taken. This school is even denied the right to repair the road that leads to the school.
Palestinians do not need to learn hate from textbooks. They can learn it when they see what happens to their friends and families, their schools, and their land. They learn it by having dignity and rights taken away.
The Web site Palestinian Media Watch teaches Americans to hate. It turns the parents and teachers of Palestine into caricatures of terrorists whom we can easily blame.
Every parent and teacher I have met here is struggling to meet basic needs--and at the same time is teaching children that education is the key to freedom. But you cannot tie a cat down and ask it to make peace.
It would be much more useful if the Web site were devoted to America's role in unilaterally supporting Israel and how we can reach a solution that is just.
It would also be helpful if Americans came to visit Palestine, to see for themselves.
Caroline Borden, from Catlett, works in Bethlehem, Palestine