Looking in the Mirror: How the U.S. Funds Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine

In 2013, while visiting Nabi Salih, in the occupied West Bank, we met with a Palestinian family trying to protect their access to the stream that meandered through their village. To family and friends, I wrote the following:

In this village, settlers on the nearby hill decided to take over a stream essential to the Palestinian village. Though the settlers have water 24/7, no shortages, and the Palestinians only have water for 4 hours per day, the settlers decided to claim this area as their own. You can read more in the NY Times article.

We met with a family in Nabi Salih today to talk about their experiences in peaceful protest. One family member has traveled the U.S. to talk about their nonviolent resistance at the invitation of a member of Congress. She herself has been arrested multiple times. Her children have been arrested, and one of her sons spent time in intensive care after being shot with a rubber bullet. Her husband has been arrested four times for videotaping the nonviolent protests and the following police/army response (http://nabisalehsolidarity.wordpress.com/videos/). They have now been protesting on Fridays for a couple of years. The only rocks thrown or projectiles launched come from the Israeli side. They have an immense tear gas canister collection and were just skunk watered last night. 

I remember the smell still lingered in the air as we all gathered in their living room.

What was absolutely shocking to me—I admit that I was clearly both ignorant and naive despite having done a lot of listening and reading before traveling—was the collection of tear gas canisters and other projectiles, now used as fences to protect gardens. Every house in this little town displayed the canisters in this way, and there were hundreds of them, if not thousands of canisters.

As I looked at these canisters, I noticed that they were clearly marked:

MADE IN THE U.S.A.

Every single one of them. I felt sick. Then, I looked at the bullets and other projectiles and saw more of the same:

MADE IN THE U.S.A.

Or, they were made with funds from U.S. military aid to Israel, billions of dollars worth.

From: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/3/8/understanding-us-military-aid-to-israel

Today, the violence and ethnic cleansing sponsored by the U.S. continues. In May 2021, according to CNN, “The Biden administration notified Congress of a proposed US weapons sale to Israel worth $735 million earlier this month, according to two sources familiar with the notification.”

Over the past nine days, bombs made by General Dynamics, dropped by bombers made by Boeing, flown by Israeli air force members are killing men, women, and children living in a blockaded Gaza. Men, women, and children trapped in the world’s largest open-air prison, surrounded by tanks and war ships.

https://imeu.org/

Images of tear gas and rubber bullets being used on those struggling for Palestinian liberation in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Israel abound. Images of Palestinian death and destruction in Gaza abound. And, all I keep thinking about is: These weapons are marked with MADE IN THE U.S.A. or earmarked with U.S. military aid to Israel. We cannot allow this to continue.

Kalandia Refugee Camp: The Space Between

In 2013, I traveled to Israel, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank with Librarians and Archivists with Palestine. While there, I wrote regular essays to family and friends about what I was bearing witness to and experiencing. Below are segments of two essays about Kalandia (Qalandia) Refugee Camp, which sits across or between Jerusalem and the West Bank, and my witnessing of apartheid and ethnic cleansing in real time:

Excerpt 1:

Today, we passed through Kalandia (Qalandia) Refugee Camp on our way to Ramallah because the checkpoint to cross sits right in the center of the camp. This Palestinian refugee camp is not quite what you might imagine. There are multi-story apartments, businesses, and such things – but there is no real infrastructure. The Israelis have annexed Kalandia as part of Jerusalem, likely so that they can police it and keep it under surveillance. This means the camp has become no-mans land as far as resources and infrastructure. The Palestinian Authority cannot oversee its care, and the Israelis don’t oversee its care. The roads were a mess. Building codes are not followed because permits to build are denied. Schools and other public resources are inconsistent. It’s really a sight/site to behold. 

Kalandia refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot: https://www.unrwa.org/where-we-work/west-bank/kalandia-camp
Excerpt 2:

We left Ramallah early this morning and passed through Kalandia checkpoint to visit Tel Aviv. The traffic at the checkpoint is amazing. People stand in long lines waiting to walk through and catch the bus on the other side to get to work, visit friends or the doctor, or whatever else. People are asked to step out of their cars and to have the whole thing pulled apart. Some people are not allowed to cross and are turned away after hours of waiting, even if they are trying to get to work or go to the doctor.

Just to the side of checkpoint is Kalandia refugee camp. I was not allowed to take photos of the camp (see UNWRA photo above). Similar to Balata (a refugee camp in Nablus, occupied West Bank), it is a ton of taller buildings sitting on top of each other. People trying to make ends meet sell various things to the people waiting at the checkpoint.

Israeli soldiers boarded our bus and checked each of our visas. They carry very large machine guns. They ordered us to put phones and cameras away. We were not allowed to document the incident at all. It was definitely unsettling.

Photo by Me, taken quickly as we passed through Kalandia. 2013.

Art and slogans adorn the giant, forbidding wall that aggressively herds the traffic through the checkpoint. In the presence of the wall, there is no doubt about occupation and violence. The wall itself feels violent with its imposing stature and relentless reminder that freedom does not exist in this place. In defiance, Palestinians spray paint messages of resistance, hope, and liberation.

Photo by Me, taken quickly as we passed through Kalandia. 2013.