The HyperTexts

Kim Nguyen

The following are two letters sent by Kim Nguyen to Mike Burch, the editor of The HyperTexts, about the horrendous racial injustices incurred by Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli military and the robber barons they protect (euphemistically called "settlers"). Please keep in mind that these letters are not anti-Jewish (indeed, one of the letters was forwarded from a Jewish friend of Kim's). Rather, the letters expose the anti-Semitism being practiced by the government of Israel (like most Jews, most Palestinians are Semites). If Israel was a true democracy with equal rights for all human beings, it wouldn't be creating "Jewish only" roads and settlements deep inside Occupied Palestine. Israel's worst problems are self-inflicted, because in a modern world that is trying to put an end to racism and racial injustices which inevitably lead to violence, Israel continues to insist that babies of one race are born with superior rights to babies of another race ... when in reality all human babies are very closely related and in this case the two "races" are in reality the same.

For readers unfamiliar with what is really happening in the West Bank to defenseless Palestinians under a brutal Israeli military occupation, the story Awarta and Itamar is revealing. This article from the Los Angeles Times should help set the stage: "Tensions between [Israeli] settlers and Palestinian villagers have been escalating for weeks. Founded in 1984, the Itamar settlement sits on land that was once controlled by the village of Awarta, said Awarta Mayor Qais Awwad. In recent weeks, Palestinians have accused settlers in the area of chopping down hundreds of olive trees, burning Palestinians’ cars and shooting at villagers. Last week, Israeli soldiers were accused of using live gunfire to quell one clash, injuring ten Palestinians and one settler. Itamar’s settlers are considered among the most fervent, believing Israel has a historic and religious right to absorb the West Bank, which Israel seized during the 1967 War."

The "most fervent" Jewish settlers are really nothing but racist robber barons. To know whether a baby has human rights, they have to know whether the baby's mother is Jewish. If not, the baby is just a stepping stone beneath their fascist boot heels. Like white settlers who once deemed Native Americans "inferior" and used superior firepower to take their land, leaving them homeless and destitute, these modern-day Jewish settlers think nothing of stealing land from defenseless Palestinian farm families. In the United States, white supremacists once declared it their "manifest destiny" to steal land from Native Americans and own African Americans as if they were less than human. As Mark Twain pointed out, the Bible was used in churches and schools throughout the South to prove that slavery was the "will of God." Today many Jews and evangelical Christians do much the same thing, using the worst verses in the Bible (the ones that command and condone racism, intolerance, matricide, infanticide, ethnic cleansing and genocide) to "justify" millions of completely innocent Palestinian women and children being stripped of basic human rights, freedom and dignity, for the economic benefit of their racial "superiors." It's a sad, disgusting game, and it's a shame that the Bible is once again being used as the means to such evil ends. But now, without further ado, are the two letters sent to me by Kim Nguyen ...

The first letter

Mike, this is a letter from my friend who the West Bank village of Awarta:

Yesterday started off early, bringing the parachute and Project Joy to the primary girl's school in Awarta ... the teacher who translated, Najah, told her own compelling story. Her family lives in a fairly isolated house close to the Itamar settlement and has been invaded twice by the Israeli army in the past two weeks. The soldiers had the family wait outside (the 13-year-old boy had a broken leg) while they ransacked the house, destroying all the food supplies in a third-floor storeroom, urinating on the clothes they pulled into piles. Najah tells us that, based on the manner in which the soldiers questioned family members, she concludes that they did not believe a Palestinian from the town had committed the murders of the settler family, but that they were under orders to be as destructive a possible. Her youngest child, Kareem, is terrified, refusing to go into the kitchen or bathroom after dark without his mother. We offered to stay in the house for the night and she eagerly accepted. Nijah and her husband are remarkable people; they have lost 10 dunums of olive trees (2.5 acres) inside the electric fence of the Itamar settlement and another 50 dunums behind, yet for the past six years the couple has walked alone to the settlement to demand that they be allowed to harvest their olive trees. Najah says even if there are no olives on her trees because of the settlers, she needs "to sit underneath them and breathe their air." Given the history of violence perpetrated on Palestinians especially by this extremist settlement populated with many [Jews] from the US, their courage is absolutely astounding. Last year the settlers killed two boys collecting scrap metal on Mother's Day. One of the boys earlier had told his mother he was going to earn money to buy her a present.

The settlers often walk the narrow road by her house ... the family has a collection of stones on the roof in case the settlers attack but now wants to build a stone wall. As she and her husband showed us the lights on the new hill claimed by the settlement since the family death she remarked: "They steal our land, they steal or trees and they call us their enemies."

This is an inspiring family in so many ways ... all siblings of Nijah are doctors and engineers living near the Israeli border; she in turn is determined to provide the same level of education to her children. On the one dunum left in their possession she and her husband have planted vegetables and every imaginable fruit tree, including a grafting strawberry tree that produces both red and green strawberries. The family has no piped source of water, so she has rigged her own grey water system from the kitchen drain to water the trees (the water tanked in weekly is stolen from Palestinian aquifers by Israeli companies, then sold back to Palestinians).

Saeeb, the husband, has been arrested multiple times for participation in the PFLP, a old school Marxist political party not favored by Fatah. He has physical problems as a result and tells of years of getting to work as a plasterer in Israel by hiding in a water tank pulled by a tractor across the international "green line" marking the border between Israel and Palestine; he says that some 30 men in the tank left a foot of water in case the spigot was turned on at a checkpoint. Now he has a permit to work in Israel, costing the family about 3,000 shekels (roughly $1,000) for four months.

After typical warm Palestinian hospitality and a wonderful meal, we had an uneventful night, but awoke to discover that about ten settlers had driven into the town during the night throwing stones and marking doors of houses where arrests had taken place. (According to local reports, around 5,000 people from the northern West Bank have been taken for questioning by the Israelis in the past 40 days and, for the first time many women have been included in the sweeps. This is especially disconcerting to the children who are used to their fathers being out of the house but never their mothers.)

The town is visibly so frightened ... many men remain in jail, so any organized solidarity effort to spread alarm when the army or settlers come in is difficult to effect. Today in the news Itamar announced plans to build additional [settler] homes. The mayor's office tells us that of the 22 thousand dunums belonging to Awarta, Itamar has taken 12.5 thousand, and the lights on the hilltops surrounding the town at night are truly scary. No one is getting any sleep ... as I sit in the mayor's office writing this email the men are staring into space, pacing relentlessly and smoking.

Also yesterday, we continued to try to understand the situation surrounding the arrest of two teenagers for the murder of the Itamar family of five. In talking with family members of one of the accused, the way the army questioned the boy who "confessed" is really difficult to describe: they had him in the bathroom from four a.m. till noon with his head in the toilet flushing it repeatedly while forcing his mother to watch. The other is recovering from an operation, making it difficult for him to walk. It is very difficult (at least!) to imagine that as Israeli reports go, these two "on impulse" walked to the settlement. We decided to understand the distance by walking toward the settlement, spent 45 minutes heading in that direction and made little headway.

In addition there are two electrified fences around the settlement ...15 metres in between the two "a bird would set off the alarms, cameras and snipers ... so many other inconsistencies ... but Human Rights Watch was in town yesterday and is issuing a report hopefully this weekend..

Doctors without Borders personnel, in town to deal with childrens' trauma, told me that there is an Israeli pattern whenever there is a violent death in a settlement: In Alon Moreah several years ago a settler was killed, a Palestinian arrested, more land taken from the Palestinian town of Azmoot, then sometime later the Palestinian was released with no charge for the murder but the town's land remains in the settlement's hands ...

The second letter

Mike, I didn't mention that my friend is Jewish and I am not—I know, it doesn't matter. I have had similar experience when the Holocaust comes up. It is a blind spot for many people, and even those who are not directly connected to the experience show the lingering effects of deep trauma. The thing is, until someone acknowledges and listens to the story, it cannot loosen its grip—and that holds for the Nakba [Arabic for "Catastrophe"] as well. People who almost lost their family, culture, identity in the Holocaust often see discussing others' losses as a comparison or even diminishing of their own.

This from an earlier letter from my friend:

"A quick sharing of an exchange between me, settlers and the Israeli army the other day brought the huge gulf in perception up close. I hope I can describe it clearly enough so that you may feel some of a similar impact: I was on major route 60 headed back to Beit Ommar after helping edit a newsletter at the Palestinian farm we know as the Tent of Nations, which is totally surrounded by Israeli settlements. The dirt path to the farm runs parallel to the settlement road, so when I arrived on Rte 60 to catch a Palestinian 'service' [taxi], I can easily see how I might have looked like an ordinary settler. A car came up behind me insisting that I get in, that it was "so dangerous being alone on the road, that there were many Palestinians around," etc. It was a young settler couple. Having always studiously avoided ALL settlers throughout the years, I protested that I was fine, and just waiting for public transportation, which alarmed them even more. I finally got in, and they continued on about how dangerous it was to even think of using a service, because the Palestinians who operate them are dangerous. I assured them I had always found services to be fine, saying every person was my brother, etc., and after all, I had gotten in a car with them, equally strangers to me. They agreed on that, but then I think they began to realize that I was part of The Other ... a fairly uncomfortable silence ensued where the weather was clearly the only almost-safe topic. I did tell them about the Tent of Nations, emphasizing its international character more than its Palestinian ownership (I did feel that I was in their clutches!), and how they would be welcome there, etc., before they dropped me off at another Israeli bus stop, in the midst of a bevy of Israeli soldiers. As I moved away from the Israeli bus stop where I was unlikely to find a Palestinian service, the soldiers came after me telling me to go back and join the others, saying "Danger, danger, etc." I explained that I preferred a service, which immediately put them on guard ... they began disapproving, telling me about the dangers of Palestinians, then asked me what was I doing there and the questions as to my identity and purpose began. I spotted a service and told the soldiers that I wanted to get it, while flagging it down at the same time. I told the soldiers in no uncertain terms that the service would not be likely to stop if they continued to surround me. They finally moved off and the service stopped for me. For me, aside from experiencing the huge relief of being among unafraid and friendly Palestinians again, this showed how absolutely impenetrable the normal Israeli perception is, despite Israelis living among Palestinians [in the West Bank]. Imagine what it must be like in Israel, where most folks don't even imagine let alone see Palestinians. I have to say that I was also impressed that the Palestinian service would stop for me amidst Israelis and soldiers, which seemed to suggest less fear than in previous years. I remember the words of the Egyptians in their revolution: when you don't fear you are free.Of course this incredible fear of The Other makes me reflect a lot on our own racism in the US...."

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