Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

An American Jewish Woman Finds Occupation Unacceptable

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

An American Jewish Woman Finds Occupation Unacceptable

Article excerpt

POLITICAL ACTIVIST and author Anna Baltzer spoke to a full house at the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation Conference on Oct. 25 at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC-and it was obvious from the start that she struck a chord with her audience. Baltzer has toured the United States spreading the word about what she saw during her eight months in the West Bank, as well as promoting her book which documents that journey, Witness in Palestine: a Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories (available from the AET Book Club).

She went to Palestine to see for herself the conditions for the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, Baltzer explained. What she found was very different from what she had learned growing up a Jew in America. "I didn't want to believe it," she said. "I wanted to believe that Israel was being virtuous and the Arabs in the area were the ones preventing peace." However, she discovered, this was not the truth.

Baltzer emphasized that there is a clear difference between a Jewish Zionist and a non-Zionist Jew. "Do not associate Israel's occupation with Judaism," she said with full conviction. "Don't confuse Israel's actions with Jewish justice."

Social justice is a cornerstone of the Jewish faith, she reminded her listeners. "To speak out is not anti-Semitic; it is in line with Jewish social justice," she said.

She then asked the crowd to imagine Washington, DC under a full military occupation, as the West Bank is today. Imagine well-kept highways for the use of Jews only, while Muslims and Christians are forced to travel over other, neglected roads, or hundreds of roadblocks set up everywhere, between neighborhoods, preventing Muslims and Christians from having any semblance of a normal life-earning a living, receiving an education, enjoying a social or spiritual life. "Everything is affected when you can't move," she noted.

Baltzer then discussed the other side of the story. In a part of the world where a Palestinian farmer whose family has lived on his land for thousands of years is forbidden to reach that piece of land, Israel grants her, as a Jew, full freedom of movement. She then pointed to a photo of an Israeli billboard beside a West Bank road urging Israelis to move to the illegal settlement of Ariel, which now has a population of more than 18,000. …

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