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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Crossing Boundaries

When traveling through Israel, an Israeli and Palestinian might go the same distance through the country, but they would not arrive at the same time.

“It’s hard to judge by time in the West bank,” says Claire, a UMass Boston junior who recently visited the Middle Eastern country earlier this summer. “If you wanted to say how long does it take to get from Boston to Manchester, New Hampshire, it is forty-five minutes. But if you’re in Palestine you have to factor in checkpoints, or anything that is going on anywhere, things like hold-ups. Nothing ever was a straight drive, there were always stops.”

Claire, who has chosen keep her last name anonymous, grew up instilled by her family with a set of beliefs that have drastically evolved over the years. “They support Israel. My father spent a year on a kibbutz. I mean, they support Israel, and I don’t.” As a young, modern Jewish American, Claire is confident in her strong support of a free Palestine.

Her arrival in Israel was just prior to the conflict between that nation and Hezbollah. From the moment her delegation of activists arrived, they knew this would be much different than America. “I went into Burger King, and you had to have your bag searched in Israel if you want to do anything, including getting a Whopper.”

Her group moved east, from Israeli civilization, and into Israeli occupation. They split their time between East Jerusalem and a village called Haris, approximately two-hours outside Ramallah in the West Bank.

But Claire is not really certain how long it took her to get there. Palestinians must always carry identification cards, and Claire observed that they are always targeted for inspections, whereas Israelis have an easier time because it’s their nation’s military that is stationed everywhere.

To Claire, this has all been seen before. “It’s very much like the south during the civil-rights movement; it’s a segregated place. The occupation is stifling life, and it’s an apartheid state.” A comparison like this, shows the impact of the sights Claire experienced in her travels through the occupied territory. “There are areas that you might consider devastated, where one can see houses that have actually been demolished. I mean wouldn’t you consider a refugee camp in, and of itself, actually devastation?”

But the devastation isn’t only in the condition of living; it’s also in how they live. Claire experienced this same uncertainty of their day-to-day existence. “When I was staying in Haris, a settler came into town and took a Palestinian at gunpoint, took him into his house and fired several rounds into the walls of his home.”

In this atmosphere, no one is safe. Claire saw people of prominence, including politicians, being targeted. “I was in Ramallah when the Israeli Defense Force stormed in and took away five people.”

But many were spared thanks to the work of delegations like Claire’s. “I stayed with a group called the International Peace Service. They are there because the village asked for an international presence because they have had a lot of soldier incursions into the village where people have been taken away.” She recalls one specific incursion that was stopped by the International Peace Service. “There is a case in my town where soldiers came in during the night and entered somebody’s house, they were just in the house giving him a hard time, and so the villagers called us, and as soon as we walked up the steps they left.”

Even so, Claire felt that her delegation’s presence there was seen as a burden to some in Palestine. “I worried a lot about that. And I’m also Jewish and I’m American, and I worried a lot about those two things and what the perception would be of westerners. For instance, I was walking alone down the street and a driver, who I assume was Palestinian, pulled up and asked me why I was here, and asked me to leave.”

Traveling to a war torn country isn’t for everyone, and having seen first hand what is going on in the Middle East, Claire thinks there is something much more important that concerned citizens can do right here in the united states. “As far as Americans, I feel like the biggest responsibility we have is to affect the US foreign policy, and to try and spread awareness here to try to send a message to Israel that we don’t agree with the occupation.”