Elce Redmond, South Austin Coalition staff member, is a young man on a mission. That mission is “peace.” Redmond combines his administrative duties with SACCC and his ongoing relationship with the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), addressing the need for peace around the world.
On Nov. 19, Redmond and CPT members traveled to Hebron, which is located south of Jerusalem in Israel. The city of Hebron has deep religious meaning to both Islam and Judaism and has been the scene of many conflicts between the two.
Redmond states as a member of CPT their purpose is to monitor human rights and the delegation met with representatives of human rights groups, individuals on both sides and government officials. We interviewed Redmond shortly after his return.
AWN: What did you observe during your two weeks stay?
Elce: We took a tour of Jerusalem and saw the separation barrier-the Palestinians call it “Apartheid Wall.” The wall is being built to limit the movement of the Palestinian people. They cannot visit relatives who live in Jerusalem, and they can’t get to their jobs. People can’t get from one place to the other. There are so many checkpoints. Even farmers have a hard time moving their livestock from one place to another. In Israel military service is mandatory, so you have 19- and 20-year-olds humiliating older Palestinians and this causes resentment as well. Israel does not want the international news to know what they are doing with the Palestine community.
What we witness we will be writing in a report, and we will release a report. There are three important issues we observed: 1) the wall, 2) the roads Palestinians can’t drive down without being arrested and only Israelis can travel, and 3) school patrols-in Hebron they have built these settlements. they resemble upscale condos you might see here in the states. Next to the settlements are the Palestinian neighborhoods, and these neighborhoods are not as nice. One of the things happening is the Israeli adult settlers attack the children, and nothing is being done. I personally escorted children, and the settlers would yell, “Go back to USA, this our land!”
AWN: Did you meet with any officials from either side?
Elce: We met with representatives from Fatah. Its president is Mahmoud Abbas, who is the elected president of the Palestinian National Authority. We met with former soldiers from the Israeli army called “Breaking the Silence.” These are soldiers who have done terrible things to Palestinians, and now they are trying to repent and recruit others. Problems such as ambulances being prevented to service Palestinians are just some of the issues that need immediate attention. In the United States, this type of action would be a big issue. There it isn’t.
We also talked with doctors who said they would have to go outside to treat Palestinian victims. The daily humiliation appears to be a way of life. Other groups were also in the area-the International Solidarity Group and a Italian group called Operation Dove.
I went to Bethlehem, Dome of the Rock, Wailing Wall and visited the area where Abraham and Rebecca are buried. It was rather unnerving to see armed soldiers in places like Toys R Us.
Fatah representatives that Redmond and CPT members met with are considered too moderate by the more radical Hamas faction that leads the Palestinian government today. President Abbas has been criticized for his willingness to work with Israel’s leaders. There has been ongoing fighting between Fatah and Hamas. Although the USA, Israel and Europe have branded Hamas as a terrorist group, their supporters see them as a group defending Palestinians from occupation. Hamas controls the Palestinian Authority, and since the death of Yasser Arafat it has won many seats in local elections.
The city of Hebron in Palestine has over 100,000 residents, according to Elce, but it is the group of Jewish settlers who live in the center and in nearby Qiryat Arba that continues to be an issue. Hebron is under control by Israeli and Palestinian forces; however, the Jews living in the area are protected by Israeli troops.