We’ve all heard about the military occupation in Israel. We’ve seen the images of displaced families, bombings and demolished buildings. We’ve read about the violence. It is a world away, and something like would that would never happen here in the U.S., right? That’s why it’s shocking when two Israeli activists who have been to hell and back tell you, “Palestine is Here,” in the U.S..
UNC Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voices for Peace co-hosted a presentation by Israeli activists Eran Efrati and Maya Wind. The lecture focused on militarized policing and displacement in Palestine and it’s connection to the United States. Eran Efrati is the Executive Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA. He experienced the war firsthand as an Israeli soldier, and left the army to pursue investigative work. He collected testimonies from thousands of Israeli soldiers for the organization “Breaking the Silence.” Maya Wind is also involved with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions along with the New Profile: The Feminist Movement to Demilitarize Israeli Society. Maya co-founded the Shministim group of Israeli conscientious objectors in 2008, and was sentenced to military prison after a public protest.
Together, Eran and Maya have observed, experienced and protested the oppression of the Palestinian people. While working as a soldier, Eran was forced to demolish numerous houses owned by Palestinian families. He used new weapons without the knowledge he was testing them. Through his collection of testimonies from other Israeli soldiers, he came to the realization that the Israeli soldiers were puppets in the war. He also described the war as a “European solution” to a “European problem”. He described the displacement of the Palestinian people by the Israeli army as a form of “ethnic cleansing,” an ideal that he feels strongly against, as his grandmother was a survivor of Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Many soldiers in the army are not fully aware of the damages done against the Palestinians, as only 20% of the soldiers see combat. In addition to this, the testimonies Eran collected were carefully censored, and important details were often left out once the documents became public.
Maya made the unprecedented decision to refuse to participate in the army. In military prison, she witnessed the skewed social dynamics that left lower class and people of color stuck in the military prison. Maya is a European Jew, and was the only white woman in the prison. The others consisted of poor women of middle-eastern descent. The army forces people to join, but only pays 1/10th of minimum wage. The women Maya met in prison could not support their family off this unreasonable payment, and so instead they had to be sent to prison, unable to support their families at all. Maya says they call the 1/10th wage ratio the Israeli “Labor of Love.”
The connection of Palestine to the U.S. is more obvious than one might think. People of color and lower class citizens stuck in prison for unreasonable reasons? A violent police force? Racially motivated violence and subjugation? These are all problems we see in our society every day. In addition, Eran informed the audience that some U.S. cities send their police forces over to Israel to train for combat. The U.S. military gets a lot of weapons and military devices such as the Xaver 800 and the Hermes 900 from Israel. The activists warned us that U.S. is a lot more in common with the war in Israel and Israeli society than one might initially think.