‘There is no occupation,’ Arab pastor tells shocked young tourists
An international group of millennials have seen the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a new light after engaging with both sides – and being shocked by what they discovered.
A party of eleven young people from seven nations were brought together for the chance to understand issues from the point of view of those living there.
They were deliberately not primed to view things from any particular perspective in order to allow them to form their own conclusions through interviews and talks with representatives of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Their three-week trip was recorded on film for a feature-length documentary called Quest for Truth, now available on YouTube (See below).
It was produced by Generation 2 Generation, a UK-based organisation founded by Andrew, Daniella and Daphne Kirk committed to inspiring the next generation with an uncompromising passion for Jesus and the gospel.
The group – from Germany, the USA, the UK, Norway, Japan, Brazil and South Africa – were introduced to community leaders in the Palestinian territories as well as in Israel itself.
Not surprisingly, most of them are strongly influenced by social media which generally portrays a narrative of Israel as big bullies of an oppressed people. Media bias had shaped their perception of the conflict, and they were profoundly shocked to discover that the truth was very different.
“I’ve been lied to,” said one. “You realise how false these stories are,” said another.
The Deputy Mayor of Bethlehem, Essam Juha, was forced to explain why a swastika was inscribed into the fabric of the hotel where they met him. He said it was because Israel had humiliated nations in the same way they had been treated.
“It was so hard for me to keep a straight face,” said Marlea, from New Orleans. “How dare they make that comparison (with the Holocaust)?”
After hearing how Palestinians see the Israelis as occupiers of their land, they were taken aback by the response of Arab pastor, Naim Khoury, who asked: “What occupation?” And as he turned towards the windows, he added: “Where is the occupation? We are completely under the Palestinian Authority.”
The point was further brought home by a member of the group, who observed: “I have not seen one IDF (Israeli Defence Force) soldier, or Israeli flag.” They also learnt that the throwing of rocks – and even Molotov cocktails – at Israeli soldiers is seen by Fatah, the PA’s ruling party, as non-violent activity.
A further learning curve involved meeting Col Danny Tirza, architect of the notorious security wall built to keep out terrorists, who said he wanted to be the first to begin taking it down when peace finally came. But in the meantime the murder rate from terrorism had been cut by 90%. He said that those whose land had been split by the wall – only five per cent of which is concrete; the rest being a much more discreet wire fence – are offered compensation, but refuse to accept it for fear of being labelled collaborators.
Graffiti on the wall betrays the true ambition of Palestinian agitators, with a map showing all of geographical Israel as theirs. They have no wish to share the land, or establish a state beside Israel. They want all of it. As historian Dr Michael Brown put it: “If the Palestinians put down their weapons there’d be no more war; if Israel put down their weapons, there’d be no more Israel.”
An ex-IDF soldier said: “They use our moral standards against us.” As an example, he explained how a terrorist suspect fled to a crowded residential area, knowing they wouldn’t open fire if civilians were at risk. And when the military had the place surrounded, the fugitive duly appeared on the roof in a bid to escape, at which point they shot him in the leg. But while supporting medics were bandaging him up, the soldiers were pelted with huge rocks. Israelis risk death because of the great value they place on life.
Further observations on the Palestinians included – “They are victims of their own hatred” and “They are suffering a lot because of radical people in their community.”
In the southern city of Sderot, meanwhile, a rocket-proof playground has had to be built for children so that, when sirens warn of regular incoming missiles from Hamas in nearby Gaza, the kids have an immediate bolt-hole.
The group also visited Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum where a tearful young British woman, Megan, was visibly shocked by the way her country – in charge of the region then known as Palestine – closed the doors to Jews trying to escape Nazi-occupied Europe. And on the question of Israel practicing apartheid – a charge widely disseminated by the liberal left – she added: “I haven’t seen any evidence of it.”
Dr Brown emphasised the need for Israel’s self-defence by saying that anti-Semitic levels are as high now as they were immediately before the Holocaust. A Brazilian member added: “I believe the biggest reason for anti-Semitism is lack of knowledge.” And a German youth said: “The greatest enemy of anti-Semitism is the truth.”