By Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach
On October 5, a 13-year-old boy was on his way home from school in the West Bank when he was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier. Abed al-Rahman Obeidallah lived in Aida Refugee Camp and regularly visited Lajee Center, an organization that provides creative arts programs and summer camps for youth in Aida camp. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) provides support for Lajee Center’s work. Sobbing, his mother told Ma’an News Agency, “he went to school and never came home.”
Sadly, Abed’s death is one of many over the past several weeks as violence has escalated between Israelis and Palestinians. Since Oct. 1, 11 Israelis and at least 57 Palestinians have been killed as a result of knife attacks and shootings.
Many of these deaths have resulted from Israeli Defense Forces’ all-too-common practice of shooting, rather than arresting, alleged attackers. Nine Israeli human rights organizations issued a statement condemning this practice, saying, “Since the beginning of the current wave of violence, there has been a worrying trend to use firearms to kill Palestinians who have attacked Israelis or are suspected of such attacks … Politicians and senior police officers have not only failed to act to calm the public climate of incitement, but on the contrary have openly called for the extrajudicial killing of suspects.”
Many of the violent acts carried out by the Israeli military and by settlers in illegal West Bank settlements are not reported in the U.S. media, leaving many Western viewers to wonder why Palestinians harbor such anger against the state of Israel. Palestinian officials say that in the first half of 2015 alone, there were 375 attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, including arson, defacing of property, injury, and death. These attacks are in addition to other aspects of the occupation, including strict limitations on movement, home demolitions and the blockade of Gaza.
All of this forms the backdrop for the current violence and must be addressed in order for the violence to be halted. Statements by public officials in the U.S. that ignore this context and focus instead solely on blaming the Palestinian Authority for “incitement” are unhelpful and unfortunately can inflame further violence.
Take some time today to call your members of Congress at (202) 224-3121 and tell them that you are dismayed by all acts of violence. Ask them in their public communications to acknowledge the broader cycle of violence created by the Israeli military occupation, so that schoolchildren everywhere, including in Aida Refugee Camp, will be able one day to go to school and come home in peace.
Peace on the Hill is a monthly column in PeaceSigns written by staff of the MCC Washington Office highlighting congressional developments and detailing ways the church can continue to be engaged in the work of peace and advocacy.