Adding fuel to tension in the region, Israel began building its separation wall complete with guard towers for the stated purpose of preventing Palestinian suicide bombers from attacking Israeli civilians. While the International Court of Justice have ruled that the separation wall, some of which veered into occupied Palestinian territories, violated international law, much of the wall still remains. Thus cutting tens of thousands of Palestinians off from lands they own or previously farmed on without restriction.
According to the Human Rights Coalition, more than 4,610 Palestinian prisoners are in Israeli detention centers, including 322 administrative detainees and 203 children under 18 years of age. Many of these prisoners do not have charges against them. Just yesterday, close to 2,000 Palestinian inmates ended their three-month hunger strike, which included a Palestinian soccer player, who had been accused but never convicted of being an active member of Islamic Jihad, a claim that he has denied. The HRC reports that: “Israel’s practice of jailing West Bank Palestinians inside Israel violates the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit an occupying power from detaining members of the occupied population outside the occupied territory.”
Israel’s questionable human rights practices don’t just stop with the long-standing conflict with its Palestinian neighbors. As of last month, the nation smoldered with violent protests around the 60,000 of asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea. The protest was in direct support of political parties, who claim that the presence of these Africans undermines the sanctity of Israel. Top Israeli officials including Interior Minister Eli Yishai contended that Israel “belongs to us, to the white man.” While MK (Knesset) Miri Regev would publicly state that the African migrants were “a cancer” in Israeli society.
In response to international outcry over the treatment of the Africans, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said that he would solve the problem of the “infiltrators” in a “responsible manner.” Then his government amended the Prevention of Infiltration Law of 1954 to grant Israeli authorities the power to detain illegal migrants for up to three years. He also launched a campaign to round up and expel the migrants. In exchange for peacefully leaving, migrants were given up to $1,000 USD each.
The allegations of widespread human rights abuse in Israel is at the backbone of the international boycotts and divestments, which also includes the likes of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, which recently decided to call on its membership for an explicit boycott of all Israeli companies “operating in the occupied Palestinian territories,” and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which is asking its members to divest the church of its stock in three companies “until they have ceased profiting from non-peaceful activities in Israel-Palestine.” Even former apartheid-riddled South Africa has publicly endorsed plans to label products, which were made in Israel-occupied terrorities. According to Dr Rob Davies, South Africa’s minister of trade and industry, “The government of South Africa recognizes the State of Israel only within the borders demarcated by the UN in 1948,” Dr Davies stated, adding that consumers should not be misled into thinking products made in occupied Palestinian territory have been produced in Israel.
So while Alice Walker may get a lot of flack – and quite possibly suffer some repercussions towards her career – she certainly deserves to be applauded for putting herself on the line for a cause, which she believes in. Through her actions, we see that activism doesn’t just stop at petitions and voting. Real activism means questioning how our choices, especially ones made as consumers and artists, fit into the larger political context of our beliefs. And it also means being willing to stand in the face of fear, using the tools you have at your disposal (in this case her award winning book) and sometimes alone, in order to send a message that tyranny and injustice – as she sees it – will not be tolerated.
Alice Walker possesses the right to question and speak out against the way in which her work, the books she has written, are to be used. And while one can question the effectiveness of her act, no one has to the right to challenge the moral authenticity of it.
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