Elce Redmond is off again on a mission of peace. On Sunday, Nov. 19, the South Austin Coalition staff member, along with colleagues from the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT), departed for Hebron, located south of Jerusalem in Israel. CPT travels around the globe offering nonviolent alternatives to war and other forms of conflicts. It provides organizational support to persons committed to faith-based nonviolent alternatives.
Prior to his departure, we talked with him briefly.
AWN: What is the purpose of the trip?
Elce: To get a sense of what’s happening with the Palestinians. We will be going to the Apartheid Wall, this wall that the Israelis are building to sort of separate themselves from the Palestinians. We’re going to get a tour of that wall as well as to find out specifically how the Palestinians feel about the occupation in Palestine and the treatment by the Israelis.
The second part of the tour is to work with the local unions within Palestine. We’re going to be meeting with some of the Palestinian labor organizations and human rights groups to really get an assessment of how the economy within Palestine has been destroyed. Not only with the UN sanctions but as well by the impasse between the Fatah Party and the Hamas Party which is the ruling party right now of the Palestinian territories.
AWN: Will you be talking with any of the Israeli officials while there?
Elce: Yes, we will be meeting with Israeli human rights organizations, getting a sense of where do they see this crisis between Palestinians and Israelis going, what’s going to really happen in the next five, maybe 10 years, in terms of the occupation? Will it be a two-party state? How can you really deal with this humanitarian crisis that is going on in the Palestinian territories where people are not working? Because of the Israeli blockades, people can’t move from one place to the other, and it’s creating this incredible humanitarian crisis within the country.
AWN: How many will be in your delegation? Afterwards, will you be writing some type of report?
Elce: There will be about 12 in the delegation from the U.S. and Canada. And, yes, we will come back and write an analysis on what we saw and some of our basic conclusions during the meeting with the human rights organizations, labor union, Israeli human rights groups and even the Israeli government. We will be meeting with officials from Fatah, Hamas, but also with the Israeli government to really get a sense of what can be done about this crisis.
AWN: Have they finished building this wall?
Elce: No, there are certain parts where the wall is up, but there are still certain parts that they are building. The wall is pretty much a barrier and lots of Palestinian workers cannot get to their jobs because of the wall, the blockades and checkpoints. So a lot folks can’t go to work, and if you can’t go to work, you can’t support your family. A situation like that can only fuel more suicide bombings and other terrorist activities when people can’t work and they have no movement within their own country.
AWN: Where will you stay?
Elce: We will be in the city of Hebron and probably stay in an apartment owned by CPT. [They] have a long-term organizing project there for several years. They do what is called “accompaniments”-a lot of the Israeli settlers attack and brutalize the Palestinians, and they have the support of the military in doing that. What CPT has done in the past is accompany people to schools or to work, or picking the olives. So we will probably be doing work like that also.
AWN: Will you be talking with everyday people in Palestine?
Elce: Yes, everyday people, to get a sense from them about the occupation.
AWN: Is there any headway being made with the occupation?
Elce: Well, I think both sides are entrenched in their positions, and I think there are some who believe something has to happen. There has to be a two-state solution in terms of Israel and Palestine. There has to be some type of autonomy within Palestine. Everybody is entrenched. That is one of the serious problems there, and I think the United States could do a lot more in terms of trying to push some type of peace process. They really are not. The road map of the Bush administration has been pretty much a failure.
AWN: Will there be a follow-up trip after you return?
Elce: I think there will be follow-up trips unlike the situation in Iraq, where we just went there and never went back. I think with the situation in Hebron, we will probably be going back [to] see what is happening and having constant updates about the crisis and hopefully a two-state solution to the crisis there as well.