(NNPA)—“It felt like being in a huge prison.” That was how I responded to questions I was asked in January after returning from a visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Yes, there were other ways of describing the experience. The land is beautiful; the people are generous; and with every glance, one sees reminders of a history dating back thousands of years.
Yet, the feeling that one gets in one’s stomach is of being imprisoned; of being vulnerable; of not knowing. And this was the reality felt by African-American visitors to the Holy Land. The actuality for Palestinians is far worse.
At every turn you never seemed to lose sight of the ignominious “separation wall,” as the Israeli government politely references it; the “apartheid wall” as much of the rest of the world describes it. The wall with guard/sniper towers, running, not along the Green Line (the armistice line that was agreed upon in 1949), but through almost whatever terrain the Israelis choose for it go. A wall that frequently separates Palestinian farmers from their own land, making it next to impossible for them to consistently cultivate their crops.
My delegation and I found it both frightening and sadly familiar that the Palestinians had few rights that the Israeli authorities were bound to respect. Land has been seized—illegally–by the Israeli authorities, allegedly for security reasons, or sometimes, quite ironically, for archeological reasons. And it is never returned to the Palestinians, instead turned over to Israeli settlers.