I left my home in the United States to spend the summer in
the West Bank, where I was attacked by Israeli settlers late last month. As a
member of the Christian Peacemaker Team, I went to the South Hebron Hills to
help keep young Palestinian children safe from Israeli settlers intent on
hurting Palestinians. Armed only with a video camera, it was my job to escort
the children back and forth from school and summer camp.
On July 27, the children and I were walking home when a
group of Israeli settlers assaulted us from a hilltop with fist-sized stones.
Some narrowly missed my head. Focusing my video camera, I recorded an Israeli
settler flinging stones at the children from his long-range slingshot. When he
saw that I was filming him, he struck me in the leg with a rock. He chased me,
kicked me and screamed that he was going to kill me. Wrestling the video camera
from my hand, he then repeatedly struck me in the face and upper body with a
After the assault, I was helped by Palestinians to reach a
hospital where I was treated for my injuries.
The occupied West Bank today is like walking through a page
from a different era -- part Wild West, part Jim Crow -- with one set of laws
for Palestinians and another set for Israeli settlers.
There are now over 450,000 Israeli settlers living on land
taken from Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in
defiance of international law. The settlers in and around Hebron are, according
to Israeli journalist Ran HaCohen, �fanatic extremists even by Israeli
standards. They regularly ransack Palestinian shops, cut electricity lines and
water pipes, wreck cars, and attack schoolchildren.�
The schoolchildren I worked with have no one to protect
them. In fact, the Israeli military had refused to provide an escort for them.
Consequently, volunteers from America and Europe have been accompanying the
children. We take them on a longer route through the hills to bypass the
Israeli settler outpost.
I spent my formative years in Mississippi. I know the
stories of African-American students being denied an education and intimidated
by adults who had no shame. As we trudge up the hillsides with Palestinian
children, I am reminded of African-Americans having to avert their eyes and get
off the sidewalk to avoid passing white people during the Jim Crow years in the
Settler violence towards the children here has been a
persistent problem. In 2004, the local Palestinian leadership requested
assistance from international organizations. CPT responded and has been
accompanying Palestinian children and documenting their interactions with
Israeli settlers and soldiers ever since. As my beating demonstrates, we have
become targets as well.
In 2004, five masked settlers attacked American volunteers
Kim Lamberty and Chris Brown with a chain and bat. According to The Washington
Post, �Lamberty suffered a broken arm and bruised knee, and Brown was
hospitalized for several days with cracked ribs and a punctured lung.�
The day I was attacked, the Palestinian children with me
were fortunate to escape unscathed. One result of my spilt American blood is
that the Israeli military is now providing these children with an escort.
However, just three days after my attack, my colleagues in CPT and other
international volunteers witnessed the soldiers failing to escort the children
the entire designated route; settlers hiding along the way began to throw rocks
at the children. And, according to a report issued in July by the Israeli human
rights group Yesh Din, only one in 10 Israeli investigations of settler attacks
on Palestinians ends with anyone being charged with a crime.
Something has gone profoundly wrong when Palestinian
children must risk their lives just to get to school. It is past time for our
government to pressure Israel to rein in the settler movement.
How much more powerful would it have been for Sen. Barack
Obama to have said in Jerusalem -- or Hebron -- what he said in Berlin: �The
walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christian and Muslim
and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.�
Our leaders must insist that Israel not apply one system of
law in the West Bank for Israeli settlers and another for Palestinians.
Colonizing another people ought to be regarded as ancient history.
Gulledge volunteered this summer in the West Bank with the Christian Peacemaker
Team. He grew up in Bruce, Mississippi.