No Shortage of Hope
A Reflection by James Drew, member of CPT Palestine Delegation, September 17-30, 2016
“Forgiveness isn’t giving up your right to justice, but giving up your just right for revenge.” These wise words, spoken by a Palestinian man as he sat next to a Zionist settler, offer hope amidst this brutal conflict. Hope is something that all must cling to, especially under the oppressive weight of military occupation.
As part of this delegation, I saw hope everywhere. I saw it in the eyes and smiles of Palestinian children as they were forced to walk the path to their kindergarten over mounds of garbage, rather than on the clean, paved, Israeli-only road next to it. I saw it in the face of a vendor who offered me free food as we observed the efforts of the Israeli military to intimidate and dehumanize Palestinians during the settler tour, a weekly propaganda tour through the Old City of Hebron for Israeli settlers and Jewish tourists. I heard it in the words of the people of Tuwani as they spoke of the principles of nonviolent resistance and cited the examples of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Despite the circumstances I witnessed in Palestine, there seemed to be no shortage of hope. Hope through suffering is something beautiful and awe-inspiring to behold, and I count it a blessing that the Palestinian people and CPT allowed us to stand with them during this time.
Why is hope necessary? Because the Palestinian people are brutalized on a daily basis. We cannot talk of this beauty of hope without talking of the carnage and brutality from which it springs. The settler tour provides a haunting example. Soldiers, unlocking the gate meant to keep Palestinians caged in, poured in with a grotesque show of force, only to be followed by armed settlers participating in the tour. To see a young female settler wearing pink, floppy antennas on her head, as though she were at a carnival, was surreal, especially against the backdrop of the old, broken yet beautiful buildings of the Old City of Hebron. I was keenly aware of the lack of humanity that makes this brutal and oppressive occupation possible. It seems that everything, from these vile “tours” to the never-ending military checkpoints, is designed to make sure Palestinians know who is in charge. It is a systematic effort to show Palestinians whose boot they are under.
The oppression will not succeed as long as hope remains. That boot can crush a body, but it can’t crush a spirit filled with hope. We saw that at Yad Vashem (Holocaust Memorial) when discussing the Warsaw Ghetto, and we saw it again in the ghettos created by the very people who rightly proclaimed “never again” after World War Two. Hope is the seed that guarantees the defeat of oppression.
I would like to thank CPT for this opportunity to witness all this in person. But, more than anything, I want to thank the Palestinian people for inviting us into their homes and lives. I would like to thank them for their strength, kindness, hospitality, and humanity. They are the strongest, most amazing people I’ve ever met. As I go back to my comfortable, privileged life, their stories will go with me. In my part of the world I will tell the stories of what I witnessed. I will talk of beauty and strength. They helped me see the importance of the Apostle John’s challenge that we are to love, not with word or tongue, but in deed and truth. I went home as a different person than I was when I came. As William Gladstone said, “We look forward to the time when the power of love will replace the love of power. Then our world will know the blessings of peace.”