Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Best Way to Serve and Protect

Returning from shepherding, I spotted something green on the roof of our house. As I removed my sunglasses and squinted a bit, my suspicions were confirmed, soldiers. What the hell? Seriously? What are they doing at our house?

Walking towards the village, I remember that there was a group of 30 college students visiting Tuwani to speak with villagers and to speak with us. The group had been stopped at a military checkpoint and questioned about their purpose for being in the South Hebron hills. The soldiers proceeded to 'escort' the group into Tuwani. So that 'escort' had now resulted in 2 soldiers outside of the door of our house, 1 soldier on the roof, and one walking up and down the road outside of our house.

As I walked down towards our house I saw that H., a leader in the village, was already speaking with the group about the situation in Tuwani (exhibit A: the soldiers standing 5 feet away from them). As we engaged with the soldiers, well no, actually, we first demanded that they leave. When they refused to do that, then we entered a dialogue.

The soldiers claimed they were there to protect the young people, because their job is to protect and provide security. Weird, cause YOU are the only ones with guns. So are you protecting them from yourselves? That's awfully postmodern of you.

Wait, but hold on a second. This group of students called us, and asked if they could visit the village, and were then extended an invitation by the villagers and by us, the internationals. So you are protecting them from their hosts? Protecting them from the people who served them tea, and are now speaking with them about hardship in their lives? Protecting them from those people?

The soldiers went on to explain that most of the young people were American citizens and the American government had asked the army to protect it's citizens. I became internally infuriated by this comment.

First off, I am an American, and I have NOT asked for your protection, and I am disgusted by the billions of dollars that the United States government provides to Israel every year. Disgusted by it. Secondly, your presence here makes this situation infinitely more dangerous for me. The BEST way that the Israeli army can protect me is to end the occupation of the West Bank and end the criminal siege and imprisonment of Gaza. Ending the occupation and the systematic subjugation of the Palestinian people would provide infinitely more protection than bringing your hummers and your guns to my house.