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"What Do You Mean God Is Punishing Me?"

Each time I come to Palestine I leave behind another piece of my heart. I am torn between whether to stay in Palestine indefinitely or to go back home when my ticket tells me it’s time to go. America is my home, Palestine is my heart. I am touched deeply by the strength and character the Palestinians have and by the dignity Palestinians have as a people no matter how the Israelis beat them down.

I arrived in Tel Aviv full of hope and optimism. I have an undying belief that truth will always win through in the end no matter how twisted and incorrect the portrayal of the Palestinians is to the world, the truth is what is happening and can not be remained hidden forever.

The last couple of days at the Bethlehem Star Hotel have been difficult. It’s been difficult in that we’ve been confined to the hotel while outside there is gunfire and loud explosions. I feel helpless because I am unable to help or protect the Palestinians at this time. Two days ago in Manger Square many Palestinians were shot and killed by the Israeli soldiers. Even now many of the Palestinians are lying in the streets injured and dying while the soldiers are denying ambulances and doctors to these people. An Israeli soldiers told a person from ISM that they were not going to leave Manger square until every Palestinian was dead. How does one human being become so cold and callous towards another human being? If this is what religion does to people I want no part of it.

I want to bolt out the front door of the hotel to reach the Palestinians not only in Manger Square but also the Church of the Nativity. I can only imagine the terror these 200 Palestinians are feeling trapped inside the church surrounded by tanks and Israeli soldiers. No one can get within two blocks of the Church of the Nativity, not even the press. This terrifies me because there are no witnesses to see what is happening. I am terrified for these innocent Palestinians.

This morning, with a group from the press, several of us attempted to get close to the church. We walked down a very narrow street which felt more like an alley. We made our way passed crushed bullet-ridden cars, destroyed store-fronts, broken water pipes spraying water everywhere and thousands of empty bullet casings under foot.

A young Palestinian man risked his life as he stepped from his front door on the second floor and waved us inside. He wanted to show us the bullet holes throughout the house. I went up to his house and he led me inside. The walls, windows and even the TV screen had bullet holes in them. As I bent down to comfort a small child of around a year and a half a commotion began outside. I peaked out the window and saw Israeli soldiers rushing at the press with their guns aimed. The soldiers hadn’t seen me go into the house so I considered whether to stay with the family or leave with the press. I didn’t have a phone or camera so I thought it would be best if I left.

As I was coming out of the house and starting down the stairs I locked eyes with an Israeli soldier. My eyes told his”I know what you’re doing to the Palestinians. I am not afraid of you and will do everything within my power to stop <you.’ Just as I had finished telling him off with my eyes I fell down the stairs. That was graceful. I really put an exclamation point on that exchange! Oh well. I got up and continued to stare the soldier down, and he said, “see, god is punishing you.’

After he said that I came within a couple feet of him and I said,”What do you mean “God is punishing me?” The soldier wouldn’t answer the question and told me to get out of there, motioning with his gun to get out of there. So we started walking away and then a couple of the reporters stopped and took another picture and the soldiers got real angry and started pointing their guns at us and I noticed one of the soldiers had a canister of something. The press then began running out of there real fast and the soldiers then threw what appeared to be a green-colored-smoke bomb. The soldiers then retreated behind the smoke.

Beth Daoud is one of four Coloradans currently in Palestine as part of a larger international presence acting as human shields in Palestinians refugee camps, accompanying ambulances and getting the word out to the world. More of their experience can be found at http://www.ccmep.org/palestine.html