The Dorothy Cotton Institute (DCI) has just launched its first major international initiative. As part of its Palestinian/Israeli Nonviolence Project, the DCI led a delegation of leaders from the U.S. Civil Rights movement, both veteran and younger human rights activists, writers and educators to visit Israel and the West Bank. This historic coalition of African Americans, Jews, Christian and Jewish clergy and social justice advocates met with Palestinians and Israelis who are at the forefront of the grassroots nonviolent movement working for justice, democracy, dignity and human rights for all in both Palestine and Israel. The delegation toured the region from October 11-24, moving through a remarkable itinerary planned in partnership with Inter-Faith Peace Builders, an organization that has brought over forty groups to the area.
Throughout our travels, we witnessed and learned more about the realities of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation, including house demolitions, confiscation of Palestinian land, destruction of ancestral olive groves, legalized policies of “separation” (apartheid), severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinians both within the Occupied Territories and beyond, long “administrative” (military) detentions without clear charges or legal representation, and the myriad other traumas and humiliations to which the Palestinian people are subjected daily. We were particularly horrified to learn about the abuses of Palestinian children (some as young as 12 years old) within the Israeli military court system, which have been carefully documented by Israeli and Palestinian human rights attorneys and NGOs. The valid security concerns of the state of Israeli in no way justify the serious violations of human rights and international human rights law that we observed. Sadly, much of what we heard and saw during our travels is frighteningly familiar and similar to injustices and human rights violations in our own country – both past and present.
At the same time, we have been inspired by the many Palestinians and Israelis who are working courageously to end injustice. The Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement — which has existed for decades — is not well known in the U.S. At this time it is a small but dedicated movement that is bolstered by the support and direct action of courageous Israeli and international allies. We spoke with many Palestinians and Israelis who are steadfast in their determination to end discrimination, human rights violations and injustice through nonviolent resistance. They were deeply moved and encouraged to have the DCI delegates bear witness, share their own experiences of struggle and express their solidarity with the Palestinians and their Israeli allies.
We saw clearly the central role that the United States plays in supporting these disastrous policies through political support, joint military action, and unconditional economic aid. The DCI delegation will work to bring visibility to the ongoing violations of human rights of Palestinians and help inform people in the U.S. about the situation, with a focus on changing the role of our own country from supporting the status quo to fostering positive change.