Last week I wrote a letter to the editor in support of the Durham City Council’s decision against the Durham Police Department training with the Israel Defense Forces. Before I could send it, I learned that anti-Semitic posters had been displayed in the city. Regardless of who posted those signs, I decided it best to let this issue cool off, so I did not send the letter.
Since then I have seen several letters to the editor and op eds opposing the City Council resolution but none supporting it. Should I have sent the letter? I suspect like many introspective people, it is often nearly impossible to know whether I am contributing to or distracting from the resolution of a problem.
By way of background, practically all my life I have been pro-Israel. Part of this results from the fact that I have had many wonderful Jewish friends. I did not know any Palestinians. But seven years ago, I participated in a study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict developed by the Presbyterian church.
I have always thought Presbyterians were a relatively fair-minded group. I then learned that the United Church of Christ, United Methodists, Alliance of Baptists, Mennonites and Quakers had all come to recognize the injustice the Palestinians have suffered at the hand of the western world and the state of Israel. Blessed with sufficient resources my wife and I have had opportunities to visit the Palestinian Territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza on three occasions with Interfaith Peace Builders, Churches for a Middle East Peace and the Joint Advocacy Initiative of the YMCA.
To sum up, I did not know what I did not know about the plight of the Palestinians, a people who have lived under occupation for 50 years, the only group in the world currently living under occupation.While I remain a strong advocate of a Jewish homeland, it is clear that the Palestinians have not been treated fairly by Israel or the western world.
To the issue of Durham Police training with the IDF,I now submit my letter to the editor.
In a letter to the editor on April 29, Marcia Harris quoted Atlanta deputy police chief Joseph Spillane who praised his Israeli peers for “how far they go in regard to human rights and the rights of the people they may be investigating.” This is certainly true for Jewish Israeli citizens but not for Palestinian citizens in Israel or its occupied territories
I suspect deputy chief Spillane never entered the West Bank or Gaza on a trip to Israel because he could not honestly make the statement attributed to him. If he had, he never saw the horrible oppression the Israeli security forces impose on people of the Palestinian territories with humiliating checkpoints, inhuman searches and restriction on road travel.
He never encountered the administrative detention where over 40,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned without charge for interminable length of time. He never witnessed Palestinian children being blindfolded and dragged from their homes, away from their parents in the middle of the night. He never visited the family of 13-year-old, Ahmad Abu Daqqa, in Gaza the day after he was shot and killed by a sniper in an Israeli helicopter while he was playing soccer with friends in the street in front of his home, or with the families of 700 other children killed by the IDF since Ahmad’s death. He never spent time with the parents of Rachel Corrie, the young woman who was run over and killed by a military bulldozer while protesting the destruction of a Palestine home. He never felt the imprisonment of 2,000,000 people in Gaza cut off by sea and air and surrounded by a land barrier patrolled by police and military. I doubt he was present this past month when Israeli snipers began shooting, killing and wounding over 1000 unarmed people in their march to the wall commemorating the 1948 Nakba.
Most of these events are documented in the 2017-18 Amnesty International Report. They are not reflective of the values I have observed in my Jewish friends over the years and they should not be the values of the State of Israel.
This discrepancy between treatment of Jews and Palestinians reminds me of the racial discrepancy that exists in some law enforcement in our country. Durham police do not need to train in the culture of the Israel Defense Forces.
Ralph McCoy lives in Durham.