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OPINIONS

“Don’t waste your breath, they won’t do anything anyway”

This is the third and final piece in a series on life in Israel and Palestine, in conjunction with Israeli Apartheid Week. You can read part one and part two online.

“Don’t waste your breath, they won’t do anything anyway.”

These were the (translated) words of a 94-year-old woman living in East Jerusalem, whose family is being kicked out of their home by Israeli settlers and the Israeli government. In 2001 these settlers evicted the al-Kurds from the front portion of their home—claiming it belonged to Jews—occupying the house and forcing the family to live in the back.

The al-Kurds have been living in the house, which was given to them under the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), since 1956. They had initially become refugees in 1948, when, fearing violence against themselves, they fled their home in Haifa (which is now part of Israel) as refugees to East Jerusalem—at that time, under the control of Jordan.

Over the years, settlers have used dogs to intimidate and harm members of the family—including Maysa al-Kurd, the 54-year-old daughter of the family. The al-Kurds said that settlers would expose themselves and perform other indecent acts in front of the women of the family, forcing them to permanently hang up towels and laundry in front of their windows.

In 2008, an Israeli court ruled that the house belonged to Sephardic Jews when the Ottomans controlled Palestine and ordered the family out. This family’s case was the first time in Israeli history where the judge came to a house and took the keys away from a family.

Muhammad al-Kurd, the owner of the house, died of a massive coronary attack two weeks after the ruling.  The family is still fighting the eviction to this day, with evidence in hand that the Ottoman-era document showed that Sephardic Jews rented, but did not own, the house. As symbols of a greater issue, the al-Kurds have spoken countless times to delegations from around the world.

The eviction of the al-Kurds is not even the only one in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood—by 2009, 28 families had been evicted, leaving over 60 people homeless. In December 2012, the Israeli court evicted another family, leaving an additional ten people homeless, including six children.

Listening to this family pour out their suffering to us didn’t sit right with me, and when we got on the bus to return to our hotel I understood why.

A Palestinian member of our delegation got on the microphone and translated something he heard the 94-year-old mutter over and over again in Arabic to her daughter during the presentation: “Don’t waste your breath, they’re not going to do anything anyway.”

And it really didn’t feel like there was anything we could do for this woman and her family beyond relay the story back home. Sydney Levy, a national member of Jewish Voice for Peace and one of our delegation leaders, told us later that night that the woman was right—that we were not going to get this woman’s house back.

“She has every right to feel hopeless because of what she’s seen and what she’s experienced. Your job is to take that feeling and move yourself into action. Your job is not to feel hopeless,” Levy said. “Our job is to convey messages of hopelessness here, not so people at home feel hopeless, but so they can be moved to do something.”

I wished I could tell this woman that we were doing something. Indeed, many of us are working on various campaigns to end the occupation from campuses and community organizations around the United States. And speaking for myself and Students for Justice in Palestine at Stanford, we will not stop until justice is realized for people across Palestine and Israel.

I had asked during the question and answer session: What can we do to be the most helpful to the family. The answer of Maysa was a new one to me: Get your legislators and your president to end these injustices.

“The United States opposes all unilateral actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing construction in East Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations, and risk prejudging the outcome of those negotiations,” the U.S. State Department declared last December. “This includes building in the E-1 area as this area is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution…We have made clear to the Israeli Government that such action is contrary to U.S. policy.”

As someone skeptical of the electoral and diplomatic process, this suggestion was new to me. We try many things in our campus work, but reaching out to legislators has not been one of them. While the position of the United States government on the settlements is clear, its willingness to hold to account its “greatest ally in the Middle East” is not. President Obama, who demanded a full freeze to settlement construction as a condition for peace talks in 2009, has allowed his Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue peace talks today without this condition. In fact, Israel has tendered over 5,000 settlement contracts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the talks began in August.

Yet having heard this call to action from someone who is directly and seriously affected by the occupation, I commit to putting this in my arsenal of tools to contribute my part. I also challenge my peers, who if they have read this far now know of another person’s oppression and its direct connection to U.S. students and taxpayers, not to let this woman’s prediction ring true.

 

 Kristian is co-president of Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine. He invites anyone interested in continuing this conversation to hear Palestinian activist and Stanford alumni Fadi Quran 10 discuss the movement for justice in the region tonight at 7:15 p.m. in the Ujamaa House Drake Lounge.

Contact Kristian Bailey at kbailey@stanford.edu

About Kristian Davis Bailey

Kristian Davis Bailey is a junior studying Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity. A full time journalist/writer and occasional student, he's served as an Opinion section editor, News writer and desk editor for The Daily, is a community liaison for Stanford STATIC, the campus' progressive blog and journal, and maintains his own website, 'With a K.' He's interested in how the press perpetuates systems of oppression and seeks to use journalism as a tool for dismantling such systems.
  • http://www.myrightword.blogspot.com Yisrael Medad

    In a court of law, if you can’t prove your case, or worse, you really don’t own the property but stole it or received it from some institution that stole it, you lose.

    But the real question here is two-fold. If Arabs came out of Arabia and conquered Jerusalem in 638 CE (which they did), are they illegal occupiers? If so, which seems probable, did/do Jews have the right of resistance?

    In addition, if Jews were ethnically cleansed out of Hebron, Nablus, Jenin and Gaza in 1929 – when there was no war between the communities – and then in 1948, some 17,000 Jews were made homeless in four kibbutzim in Gush Etzion, Bet HaAravah, Neveh Yaakov, Atarot and Jerusalem’s Old City, among other places, what does that say about Arabs, not to mention the massacre of 127 Jews in Gush Etzion after they had surrended?

    I see you are an “occasional student”. Try to be more than an “occasional historian” and surely less than a full time propagandist.

  • Des

    Had he lived at the time, Kristian Davis Bailey would have been an excellent protege for Josef Goebbels. While reading his screed, the words “I’ve made up my mind, don’t confuse me with the facts” kept ringing in my head. The facts are indeed conflicting, depending on who is providing them. But to swallow Bailey’s invective would be a mistake for any thinking person. It is a vile demonization of Israel which will hopefully be understood for what it is.

  • Emma Pierson

    Goebbels helped cause the deaths of thousands of people. Kristian is a student who wrote a piece in a student newspaper.

    Holocaust comparisons rarely add anything to debates. Yours is cruel to Kristian, who does not deserve to have his name linked to one of the most evil people in modern history, and disrespectful to the many people who died in the Holocaust. While I don’t always agree with Kristian’s point of view, his pieces are thought-provoking and add something to the debate. I cannot say the same of your comment.

  • mxm123

    And of course such ethnic cleansing never ever happened to Arabs. Trying to me a partial Hasbarist or a full time one ?

  • http://www.myrightword.blogspot.com Yisrael Medad

    I won’t argue whether Arabs were purposefully ethnically cleansed with malice aforethought, not because that wasn’t the case but because you probably wouldn’t believe me. To you, I’m just a “Hasbarist”, not someone who just might actually know history, having been academically educated and involved in researching history for over 40 years.

    But for anyone reading this and might think you have/made a point, (a) Jews did not sit down to plot ethnic-cleansing; (b) Arabs in the country, from 1920 on, enagged in an initiated campaign to ethnically cleanse Jews from their residences, to prevent them from immigrating into the country and, in the case of the Mufti in war-time Berlin, tried to kill them in Europe before they ever had a chance (as if by then they had a chance) to escape the Mufti’s friend, Hitler; (c) in cases where indeed Arabs were moved/expelled from their nieghborhoods and villages, or thought better to flee, it was only after they began shooting at nearby Jews. That doesn’t perhaps make the civilian Arabs who lost their homes feel any better but it does but history in context. This conflict was not a chess game, that when lost, the pieces go back to where they were. Ask the hundreds of thousands of Jews in Arab countries who weren’t even involved in the 1948 war but who were made refugees all the same in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, later Egypt, etc.

    A bit partial yourself, eh?

  • http://www.myrightword.blogspot.com Yisrael Medad

    while I understand your point, actually the “Holocaust” wasn’t mentioned, except by you. Only Goebbels was mentioned and his negative legacy should be recalled by all as he didn’t only demonize Jews and assisted killing many other peoples, races and humans.

  • mxm123

    (a) Jews did not sit down to plot ethnic-cleansing;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_Palestinian_exodus

    “During the ‘long seminar’, a meeting of Ben-Gurion with his chief advisors in January 1948, the departure point was that it was desirable to ‘transfer’ as many Arabs as possible out of Jewish territory, and the discussion focussed mainly on the implementation.[18]:63 The experience gained in a number of attacks in February 1948, notably those on Qisarya and Sa’sa’, was used in the development of a plan detailing how enemy population centers should be handled.[18]:82 According to Pappé, plan Dalet was the master plan for the expulsion of the Palestinians.[18]:82″

    Need i go further with your “research” in history ?

  • http://www.myrightword.blogspot.com Yisrael Medad

    Sure you need to go further and deeper. You really don’t want to be thought of as a shallow copycat of Arab propaganda, do you?

    You read Karsh? Here: http://goo.gl/Gl8Cfn and you probably read this, as you may be depending on Pappe:

    “. Benny Morris writes: “Unfortunately much of what Pappé tries to sell his readers is complete fabrication. .. This book is awash with errors of a quantity and a quality that are not found in serious historiography… The multiplicity of mistakes on each page is a product of both Pappé’s historical methodology and his political proclivities…. For those enamored with subjectivity and in thrall to historical relativism, a fact is not a fact and accuracy is unattainable ….. “.

    Efraim Karsh, Director of the Mediterranean Studies Programme at King’s College, University of London, accuses Pappe of writing about events that never happened, such as the nonexistent May 1948 Tantura “massacre” or the expulsion of Arabs within twelve days of the partition resolution. They learn of political decisions that were never made, such as the Anglo-French 1912 plan for the occupation of Palestine or the contriving of ‘a master plan to rid the future Jewish state of as many Palestinians as possible.’ And they are misinformed about military and political developments, such as the rationale for the Balfour declaration…”

  • mxm123

    By Benny Morris himself.

    http://mondediplo.com/1997/12/palestine

    “In the opening pages of “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem”, Benny Morris offers the outlines of an overall answer: using a map that shows the 369 Arab towns and villages in Israel (within its 1949 borders), he lists, area by area, the reasons for the departure of the local population (9). In 45 cases he admits that he does not know. The inhabitants of the other 228 localities left under attack by Jewish troops, and in 41 cases they were expelled by military force.”

    Stop your Nakba denial. Its just as odious os other deniers of history.

  • http://www.myrightword.blogspot.com Yisrael Medad

    Dear, dear, did I deny, actually deny the Nakba? Did I mention the term? I thought we were discussing ethnic cleansing. Sorry. But how can I deny the Nakba when it is mainly a made-up internal Arab narrative? We do all know that that term, Nakba, was coined first by a Christian Arab to define the failure of Arab nationalism to compete politically, culturally and militarily with Zionism and the disaster that followed the shameful loss suffered by seven invading Arab countries to eradicate Israel and exterminate its population (talk about ethnic cleansing!). It wasn’t what Israel did but how the Arabs failed; only later did it become the hateful term of “Jewish ethic-cleansing”. Oh, and the man, Constantin Zereiq was a Syrian (the “Palestinians” not only don’t have an Arab word for their country but they couldn’t even come up with a framework for their major event).

    I did notice that you adroitly avoided the Mufti and Hitler; the Arab terror that began in 1920; the violationn of the UN’s partition recommendation and the invasion of Israel. I/we shouldn’t think that as odious by you? That isn’t denying a history?

    Oh, btw, Morris now justifies the Yishuiv doing whatever it did to the Arabs: http://newleftreview.org/II/26/benny-morris-on-ethnic-cleansing. Amazing.

  • mxm123

    Ethnic cleansing of Arabs that Palestinians call the Nakba. First deny Pappe’s account of Arab ethnic cleansing. Then deny Morris.

    Deny, Deny, Deny. Why bother with any of your other spiel when your very first point is a fabrication. Stop your Nakba denial.

  • http://www.myrightword.blogspot.com Yisrael Medad

    Dear mxm123,

    First of all, this anonymity of yours is off-putting. Are you male or female? Jewish, Christian or Mulsim (or atheist or Bahai)? Are you Arab? Are you a professor, a student or a highschool dropout?

    Second, I do not — I DO NOT — deny the Nakba, aka, the results of Arab aggression, but I try to accurately define what it was objectively not as a propaganda tool. I try to point out the difficulties that one has if one depends on Pappe – a communist anti-Zionist who has been proven to lie and himself admits to falsifying facts or redefine the truth.

    Third, I try to provide context so that the conflict is not a one-sided presentation.

    So, whoever/whatever you are, stop whining.

  • mxm123

    What difference does it make if i’m Arab or Hebrew or Jehovah’s Witness. It does not change facts in Israel and the territories. Facts like the Nakba, that you denied. Now pretending to not deny (with all its qualifications).

    Quit posing as some historical authority when all your’e doing is engaging is denial. In all its variants. Quit lying.

  • http://www.myrightword.blogspot.com Yisrael Medad

    What difference does it make that I find anonymity a mask to hide behind? All the difference. I mean, you could be a professor of history and if your identity were known, you’d be seen to be a laughing stock. Or you could be a paid Arab publicist by Saudi Arabia or a radical progressive leftist who only has morality for non-Jews, if at all. But be that as it may, I hope you and everyone else reading our conversation has noticed that you have not disproved or responded to or otherwise acknowledged my points. In fact, you ignore them — but they will not go away. The Zionists were not perfect but unlike the Arabs, we actually do admit to mistakes but we also try to be historically correct. Try this: if there was no Israeli “occupation” nor any “settlelement construction” prior to 1967, why was there terror by the fedayeen and then the PLO? Why were Arabs killing Hews then and what has “settlements” to do with it?