My Summer In Jerusalem

By Guest Contributor

So where were you over the summer? 

Well, you know, I was back at home in Palestine-Israel. 

Oh, wow, how was it? Umm, I mean, if you wanna talk about it…

Ah, yeah, I mean, I guess it’s important to talk about it. But it’s not the casual response.

What do you mean?

I mean, you might not enjoy the answer, and it might take up our whole lunch break.

Try me.

Okay then. Sorry if I’ll ruin your day, but you’re asking for it. You know I’m involved with, like, Jewish occupation-resistance groups right?


Yeah, so, normally, each summer when I come back, I plug back in to proactive anti-apartheid activities, like accompanying Palestinian shepherds to their land using our Jewish privilege to make sure that soldiers and settlers don’t attack and kick them out illegally, and going to Palestinian demonstrations against the apartheid wall once again using our Jewish presence to ensure that the military abides by its own shooting regulations, and helping villagers get water access by digging wells and repairing water cisterns, and other kinds of direct action-ish type of things geared towards the alleviation of human suffering in the face of a legal system that treats people differently according to their ethnic background, as well as public resistance to this system. And then there are other co-existence aspects of our work that are enabled by the joint resistance stuff, like attending weddings and holidays of comrades from the other side of the wall, et cetera. 

That’s a lot, but I think I get it. Resistance by existence. Sounds very rewarding.

It can be, but the point is that this summer we couldn’t really do much of that, at least until the military operation was over.

Ah, because resistance to the war kinda took over everything else?

Not only. We’ve also seen new kinds of repression from the government and nationalists. Nationalist — or you may call them simply fascist, or Jewish supremacist — organizations got hundreds of young men out to the streets of West Jerusalem to try to lynch Palestinians that work in the Jewish side, you know, dish-washers, cleaners, cooks etc. So we had to run after enthralled masses chanting “death to all Arabs” and “the women of Israel for the people of Israel” (yeah…) that were trying to lynch people, and we were finding ourselves, absurdly enough, calling the police to try to make them do their job and stop the violence. 

Holy cow, and did they actually lynch people?

Yes. Many people were hospitalized. In one case, a more organized group of nationalists kidnapped a Palestinian boy, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, forced him to drink gasoline, and burned him alive.

Oh my God, that’s horrific.

Yes, and it was widely condemned also on the Israeli media, relegating that kind of violence to extremist, marginal, mentally ill groups. But the thing is, the state was doing the same thing — mediated by a lot more weapons and firepower — times 600 in Gaza. They killed around 600 kids in Gaza over the summer, 300 women, 2,200 people in total, and counting, since people are still dying of their wounds as we speak. 

And what about the Israeli side?

Four Israeli citizens were killed by rockets and about 60 others were Israeli soldiers. It’s not exactly numerically comparable. But I don’t like to talk about this in terms of symmetrical “sides” in a conflict. Israel is occupying Gaza, in control of the movement of people and resources in and out of it. Many people consider Gaza the largest open-air prison in the world. When prisoners throw stuff at their guards, even if this may be unpleasant for the guards and perhaps put them at actual risk, you wouldn’t really call it a war, perhaps a prison revolt, right?

I guess so. You know, I was following the Ferguson riots around here and it seemed connected to the Israel-Palestine stuff in weird ways. Like, they were using on black folks the same weapons that Israel uses on Palestinians in the West Bank, and the Ferguson Police actually went through training in Israel.

Yeah, these are similar struggles. We talked about this in the Ferguson teach-in the other day. The police are like an occupying force in Ferguson, policing the people with immunity in a similar way to which Israel is a policing force in Palestine, invading all aspects of life. It seems like it’s all about money. Most of Israeli industry is military industry, and Israel has been going on military operations every one to three years in the past decade and a half, followed by large revenues to the Israeli economy that sells weapons that were tested successfully on Palestinians to practically every state in the world. The U.S. taxpayer subsidizes that industry in return, giving $10 billion in military aid to Israel per year.

Yeah … that’s all pretty grim. What keeps you going?

Actually, it really helps me to think about the Palestinian struggle as part of a much larger and older ongoing global struggle against colonialism and capitalism. In the face of the genocide and slave economy that you guys have been leading under the American flag around here, Israel doesn’t seem so horrible and certainly not as difficult to resist. Apartheid is not as popular as it has been, and I think grassroots resistance movements can make a difference. We can even make a difference from Vermont.


For instance, we can plug into the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. Josh Ruebner will come give a talk about it in Middlebury on Oct. 19, keep your eyes open for that.


Yeah, and if you’re interested in continuing this conversation and maybe joining our efforts come to a Justice for Palestine (JFP) meeting. We meet every Friday at 5:30 p.m. in the Carr Hall Lounge.

Awesome. Alright, I guess I’ll see you there.

AMITAI BEN-ABBA ‘15.5 is from Jerusalem.