Thursday, July 21, 2011
Well... It Is an Occupation!
Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee, Editorial Board member of BlackCommentator.com, a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA.
I recently returned from North Africa and Palestine. I found myself giving a talk to a group in the USA where I mentioned my trip as a way of discussing the manner in which events can unfold very rapidly. I mentioned that I had been to North Africa and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Barely had I finished speaking than an individual rose from their chair and moved toward the front of the room. When the session broke the individual approached me and challenged my use of the term “occupied Palestinian territories,” claiming that that terminology is inflammatory and that I should have used a more neutral term like “West Bank” or “the disputed territories.”
It is difficult to describe the Occupied Territories. I have followed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict since the June 1967 War and I have been an advocate for peace and justice for the Palestinians since the spring of 1969. I have studied countless documents, articles, speeches, etc. I have seen pictures of the so-called settlements and the apartheid separation Wall. Yet, to be honest, I still was not prepared for what I actually experienced.
I was part of a labor delegation. When we crossed from Jordan into the Occupied Territories we immediately experienced the arrogance of the Israeli occupiers. While waiting on line to go to the first passport control I was watched by an Israeli security person. I somehow knew that this was not a good sign. When my delegation awaited clearance to actually enter the Occupied Territories this same security person came up to me and me alone (in my delegation) and proceeded to ask me all sorts of questions about the objectives of my visit. Perhaps it was my naturally curly hair, or perhaps it was that I am told that I look North African, but in any case, there was nothing approaching politeness in this exchange. The Israelis held us at the border for about two hours for no apparent reason and then let most of my delegation through. They then held one member of my delegation - not me - for an additional hour, again for no apparent reason and without explanation or apology (when they were released).