I hope you are well. I am writing to you as a fellow student from Jerusalem with the hope of having you not participate in the upcoming trip to Israel. It is my hope that you would be able to not only read this message of mine, but to also relate to it, and most importantly act upon it. We, as students, must be able to heed the call of others when justice and humanity are at stake.
I call on you to not be a part of the upcoming trip to Israel for a number of reasons. Firstly, these trips only serve the Israeli state in continuing its occupation of Palestine, and its ongoing violations of human rights and international conventions. It provides Israel with a cover to its crimes, and in all too common propaganda moves ensures that the participants are made unaware of its crime of apartheid committed against the native population of Palestine. Participating in this trip, and similar ones, legitimizes the Israeli state’s crimes and sustains them.
Secondly, the Palestinian people have a clear position objecting to these trips, and their role in whitewashing the occupation’s crimes. Attending these trips is not an act of solidarity with oppressed peoples or a commitment to a more just future. On the contrary, such trips actively side with the oppressor, and attempt to maintain a fake air of normality. There is nothing normal about occupation, oppression and ongoing dehumanization.
Thirdly, the claim that the purpose of this trip is merely an apolitical “connection with ones religion” ignores the fact that access to religion and religious sites is political. Palestinians don’t have the freedom to practice their own religion nor to visit religious sites. This is not to say that such visits should not take place, but to question the real purposes of such trips, their funders and, in the case of the said trip, the larger whitewashing context within which it operates. The holy city and its holy sites have an unholy secret; a secret that the organizers of the trip want to keep away from you: the reality of occupation and segregation in Palestine. In fact, separation, violence and oppression are most evident in Jerusalem, the most holy city for believers in the three Abrahamic religions.
Fourthly, there are alternative, conscious ways of visiting Palestine and engaging in acts of solidarity with the people of Palestine towards a more just and peaceful future. As students in search for truth and justice, participating in trips that assist in the subjugation of a whole group of peoples should not even be considered. I would be more than happy to direct you to alternative and more conscious ways of visiting my home.
Before I end, I would like to share with you a brief personal account that might paint a picture of what means to be a resident of Jerusalem, and a Palestinian. Please bear in mind that this story is not particular to me, but is shared by virtually all Palestinians. I call on you to reconsider being a participant in the upcoming whitewashing, propaganda trip to Israel.
“Growing up in Jerusalem, I have witnessed the Israeli government’s continuous attempts at erasing Palestinian history from the city, at separating families, arresting youth and children, and silencing dissent and resistance. I clearly recall the many instances where my family was directly affected by the Israeli occupation’s discriminatory polices. Though young, I remember
wondering why several bulldozers –surrounded by tens of soldiers–had twice demolished my grandmother’s house in Shufat. The house and the open field surrounding it used to be my playground and a place where family members of mine would gather in an attempt to delay, and fight, the demolition order. Currently, the infamous wall runs above the exact place where that small house used to stand as it cuts through Jerusalem and other Palestinian cities and homes. My grandmother’s house is not the only one. Over 24,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished since 1967.
Having my whole family present at dinner is rendered almost impossible due to Israel’s policy of segregating families, its systems of checkpoints, ID cards, and traveling permits. For the part of my family residing in the West Bank, traveling to Jerusalem–a mere 20-minute car ride from my uncle’s house–is impossible as their entry would be refused or they would risk possible arrest at the many checkpoints and points of control surrounding the city.
My father, a prisoner of conscience held under administrative detention, is not allowed to travel to Jerusalem. My family has been segregated by Israel’s ID cards system: a green ID holder, such as my father, can’t enter Jerusalem and must seek a (not always granted) special permit in order to do so; a blue ID holder, such as myself, can legally live in Jerusalem and travel to the West Bank but can’t live outside Jerusalem or would risk losing residency status. Consequently, families like mine usually end up living in and continuously traveling between both sides of the wall. The fear of losing residency status and access to one’s own house is devastating.
I can’t recall the last time my whole family met together in Jerusalem. And this is not only due to my father’s continued arrest without trial. Israel actively works to separate Palestinian families with its apartheid ID and permit laws in an effort to have them relocate or to forcefully revoke their residency status.
To be a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem means living in continuous fear that your residency will be revoked. This is the case of nearly 15,000 Jerusalemites whose residency was revoked, denying them entry to their own city and location of residence. I am always worried that one day my residency might be revoked or that my entry would be refused upon return to Palestine from abroad. It is a worry shared by all Palestinians residing in Jerusalem.”