On March 10, Lucas Zoughbi came to Goshen College to present on his home country of Palestine. Lucas’s presentation focused on the conditions Palestinians experience living under Israeli occupation. He gave a slew of facts along the way to help us capture his message.
Zoughbi is a sophomore psychology major at Manchester University from Bethlehem, Palestine. His father, Zoughbi Zoughbi, operates a conflict resolution center in the town of Bethlehem and his sister, Marcelle Zoughbi, is a 2013 graduate of Goshen College. The Zoughbi’s have hosted numerous groups of Goshen students in their home.
Zoughbi began by offering a brief recent history of Palestine and Israel. The United Nations gave away 78 percent of Palestine to Israel in 1948, resulting in the displacement of almost 1 million Palestinian Arabs and dozens of massacres, setting the stage for over 67 years of ethnic cleansing. Today, Palestine controls only a fraction of the territory ‘granted’ to them by the British in 1948, and Israel continues to build settlements on Palestinian land. The U.N. recognizes 4.7 million Palestinian refugees. Today, Israel occupies Palestine and runs a system of Apartheid.
Due to the most recent bombing of Gaza by Israel last summer, the U.N. declared the Gaza Strip unlivable by the year 2020. Gaza, the most densely populated territory on earth with 1.8 million inhabitants in 139 square miles, is now often referred to as the largest open air prison on Earth. It is virtually impossible to leave as a Palestinian, and over 1.2 million of the residents are refugees. Given the political climate in Israel and the continued siege of Gaza, genocide is becoming a real threat.
My pessimism, however, is not shared by Zoughbi. As he says, “Hope is a form of resistance.” Zoughbi believes deeply in non-violent resistance, and indeed this form of action has successfully halted the construction of a number of Israeli settlements. I believe in non-violent action, as well, and for us at Goshen College that means taking action here in the United States, for our government is the linchpin behind the occupation.
The United States gives 8.5 million dollars a day to Israel in military aid. Israel is one of the United States’ closest allies in the Middle East for many reasons, one of which is religion. Much of conservative Christianity in America supports Zionism, the movement for Jewish people to return to Palestine and establish a Jewish state. Supported by a literal interpretation of Genesis 12, Zionism also calls for ethnic cleansing of non-Jewish inhabitants of the Promised Land, as described in the Old Testament.
Regardless of the reasons why the United States supports Israel and the occupation of Palestine, the influence this country holds in world politics is enormous. The majority of the countries in the world agree that Palestine should officially be recognized as a state. The United States is Israel’s protector in the U.N., and holds significant leverage over Israel in the form of over 3 billion dollars in military aid annually.
In order to affect any change, the people of America must put pressure on their federal politicians to hold Israel accountable by withdrawing military aid and allowing the U.N. to do its job. Trying to bully Israel on the international playground of politics may not seem like an Anabaptist approach, but it is the most realistic way to stop the occupation of Palestine and the refugee status of an entire country.