I have been experiencing some negative feedback on my blog, and from other people more generally, who have suggested that I have become “radicalised” by my time here. I find the use of this word – and the implication that I can no longer be objective – to be deeply troubling, so have responded to some of these criticisms here.
The statement below was written on the blog of another girl who is on the ICS program with me, and whilst she doesn’t name me directly I am aware that this is directed at me as I have discussed these issues many times with my fellow volunteers.
“As for seeing things from the other side, some group members here have become radicalized by the things we have seen and heard here. They have attended protests despite this putting our organizations’ future in Palestine in jeopardy. They have become blinded by the Palestinian’s suffering and seem unable to see things from the Israeli point of view or even objectively. I however am determined to remember that I am only beginning to understand the conflict and the people involved. Ofc I am more on the Palestinian side but I won’t let that mean I am anti-Israel, I just want to be pro-peace. I am an international observer here after all and a development worker not a political activist. And at the end of the day if we let hatred creep into our judgment then what hope is there that Palestinians and Israelis will overcome their hatred to create a last peaceful resolution?”
My response follows, albeit slightly edited for the purpose of clarity for readers of my blog:
Firstly, I’d be very careful with your use of language – “radicalisation” connotes “extremism”, and my actions do not come anywhere near that of an “extremist”. Try going to the settlements in Hebron and you will understand what “radical” and “extreme” really mean. I have not been radicalised nor brainwashed, though I have admittedly taken a stronger stance based on the evidence put in front of me over the last three months.
I feel very “extremely” passionately about the Palestinian struggle, and a frustration with my own development project (and international development in general) has meant that attending protests and demonstrations and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Palestinians in solidarity has been the most that I can offer here. I had a problem with the role of international development before I even arrived in Palestine, but was still intrigued to see what it entailed. There is no doubting that NGOs do great work to improve the lives of people on the ground here, but are they really going to change the political situation which makes these NGOs a necessity? If they were then the billions that has been thrown at international development over the years would have changed the world – and Palestine – far more dramatically than it has thus far.
Your suggestion that I do not look at this situation objectively and that I have let hatred creep into my judgement is simply incorrect. Out of all of our ICS group, I am in fact the only one who has actually stayed with Israelis in both Haifa and Tel Aviv, speaking to them at length about their stance on the situation here and forming my own judgements and strengthening my own arguments accordingly. I also work with Israeli activists who are doing brilliant work here in the OPTs. I am from a part of North West London where there is a strong Jewish community, and have been brought up experiencing the best of Jewish cultural traditions. I believe more than anyone that people are a product of their environment, and I find it incredibly important to understand the environment that has bred political Zionism so that it can be combated in the most effective ways possible.
Furthermore, neither do I understand nor accept the position of “observer”. To return to a quote that I will repeat until time immemorial on this blog, “To wash one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral”. I believe that it is imperative that the human rights violations that are committed against Palestinians are observed and documented – but in order to instigate real change, not simply as an act of observation in itself. Palestine may be a litmus test for the unequal power relations which oppress so many people in our global society today, but the Palestinian people are not lab rats to be observed – this is not war tourism, and an observation of the situation here must have a final goal. Being fortunate enough to have been given the chance to visit Palestine, it is the responsibility of internationals to pressure our own governments to end compliance with the Israeli government’s apartheid policies, and incite and inspire global movements in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
I will not accept people who define themselves as “pro-peace” as if to suggest that there are people who do not want a peaceful resolution to the situation here. I believe that there are three basic demands that need to be met in any resolution to this situation – end of occupation, end of apartheid and right of return for refugees. If these ideas are “radical” in your eyes then so be it, but everything I have tried to do and learn about since I have been here has been a means to an end of achieving those goals. If you think that’s what NGOs are trying to do then you are deluded. They are alleviating the suffering which people experience as a result of these conditions, and that is an incredibly important task, but are doing very little to change the political situation which make this suffering never ending.
You have chosen your path through international development as you feel it is the right thing to do, but do not criticize the way that I have chosen to be part of the Palestinian struggle nor the motivations for my actions. I have affected perhaps only a small ripple in my time here, and have learnt far more than I have been able to offer, but with currently over 2000 hits on my blog this is something I am genuinely proud of as I believe people read this blog knowing that the things I am documenting have been based on my personal experience as a human being, relating to the pain and suffering of other human beings.
Lowkey’s new album has become my sonic Bible, and I will finish with these lyrics from Long Live Palestine as it summarizes my feelings more succinctly than I could ever hope to do so…
“It’s not simply a question of differing views, / Forget emotions, this is fact, / what I spit is the truth… Its your choice what you do with this message, / Don’t get it confused; I view this from a truly human perspective…
…Words can never ever explain the raw tragedy, / It’s not a war they’re just murdering more rapidly, / We are automatically supporting pure savagery, / Imagine how you’d feel if this was your family!”
حرر فلسطين حرة!