Israelis might choose to ignore politics or the news-Palestinians cannot.
Religion, history, language, leaders and, most dominantly, fear, divide this complicated land of Israel/Palestine. People's politics can be assumed by their dress (e.g., Orthodox Jewish, conservative Muslim, ideological settler, soldier, cross-wearing Christian), their choice of location name (Palestine or Israel) and the I.D. they carry or can't obtain.
A Palestinian is promptly aware of local news, whether broadcast or spread by word-of-mouth. This news might include information about new roadblocks that impede trips to the grocery store or the hospital, or about Israeli-imposed school closings that mean children don't learn yet again (it's not uncommon for a 13-year old to be unable to read because of school disruptions), or about a neighborhood curfew with the threat to shoot at anyone who looks out a window, or about the building of a nine-meter high wall between one's home and one's business. Minute daily tasks become monumental.
However, according to Angela Godfrey of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (see <http://www.icahd.org/eng/>), parts of Israel have become an apartheid society. Many Israelis "can exist without meeting Palestinians and don't understand settlers," she told the Christian Peacemaker Team delegation to Palestine of which I was recently part. "For 20 years, Israelis have been told lies, and have come to believe a common myth."
At first I thought that the combination of this man's use of English and my jet-lag led to my misunderstanding. The Six-Day War of 1967 is commonly accepted as pre-emptive on the part of Israel, but he was claiming that the Arabs began it. Later, someone explained to me that "the Arabs began the war" is part of the Israeli nationhood myth, accompanied by other stereotypes: e.g., Arabs are always violent; the Arabs want to push Israel into the sea; Arabs are too stupid to govern themselves or make adequate use of the land.
To my surprise, I discovered that the Israeli media is often more openly critical of Israeli policies against Palestinians than the U.S. news media. Information, to those willing to learn uncomfortable facts, is available.
But it is not surprising that huge numbers of people have decided not to hear the news and to believe the myths. This is the nature of humanity: the desire to just get through one's day and then relax with family and friends, perhaps enjoy a bit of entertainment. We have enough everyday burdens-why involve ourselves in what is unpleasant to know?
Because, beginning to end, God calls us to care for one another. Cain finds this out in Genesis, when Abel's blood cries from the ground (Genesis 4:9) and God tells us that, indeed, we are each our brother's keeper. In Revelation 3, God prepares to spit out the church in Laodicea because it is "neither cold nor hot." "Buy from me salve, so you can see," God says (Rev 2:18). God cares about the injustice of our world, and God knows whether we care.
Consistently, on my trip through Palestine, people expected that folks from the United States didn't know much about Palestinian reality. They begged us to tell their story when we returned home. Citizens of the United States-the foremost financial supporter of Israel-have great influence on the lives of Palestinians. One Palestinian remarked that they should be able to vote in our presidential election, since the outcome will so dramatically affect their land.
As Angela from the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions said, "Realize that Israel will change only if the outside world gives it a healthy shove." The actions of the outside world helped to dismantle apartheid in South Africa, and this gives hope to Palestinians. Will the Christians of the United States hear their sisters and brothers calling?
Spirit, Spirit of gentleness, blow through our wilderness,
Calling and free;
Spirit, Spirit of restlessness, stir me from placidness
Wind, wind on the sea.
(James K. Manley, ©1978; sung by CPT delegation at church on Pentecost Sunday 2004)