Jake Terpstra’s introduction – tear gas – to Occupied Palestine

   Visitors to the Occupied Territories, as I did as part of a delegation of the Dorothy Cotton Institute in October, 2012, see naked Israeli violence against nonviolent protestors, ordinary villagers, from small towns near the Wall.  Since Palestinian villagers demonstrate every Friday (often supported by the Israeli Anarchists against the Wall or Rabbis for Human Rights), what Jake Terpstra describes below is part of daily life.  As Michael Schwartz, a Rabbi for Human Rights suggested to this delegation, “Israel is losing its soul in the way it is violating the tenets of the Torah.”  Rabbi Erik Ascherman went to rescue  a 13 year old boy tied by “soldiers”/Occupiers on the windshield of an Israeli military vehicle (this is a common, noxious, war criminal Israeli practice; I wrote about it here) – and was arrested. What police force arrests a rabbi for trying to rescue a 13 year old boy whom it is assaulting?

   And who are the people who commit such acts which are soulless or evil (regardless of religious tenet or instruction….)?


       Rabbi Ascherman’s courage and principle deserve great praise while, for instance, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapiro, whose views have been echoed by Rabbis in the Israeli army at least since 2010, said it is permissible to kill children of “goys.”  See Haaretz here and my comments here.  

       If what Israel does day by day behind the Wall were widely publicized in the United States, Jews – who were once subject to Pharaohs and Tsars such as Netanyahu would be even more in the forefront of protest against Israel.  It is no accident that Jewish students are very active in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions…See “Why Chris Hedges rightly supports BDS” here.


    Jodi Rudoren in the Times turns a blind eye to Occupied Palestine.  That’s why she was sent there…


   Since Jake wrote an indication of this, I asked him for the story:


    On the first day of our visit to Palestine with Christian Peacemaker teams we met with rabbi Michael Schwartz, an active member of Rabbis  for Human Rights. When talking with us he said that as concerned as he is about what is happening to Palestinians, he is even more concerned about Israel; he feels it is losing its soul in the way it is violating the tenets of the Torah, in carrying out the occupation of Palestine.[Rabbi Schwartz is right about Israel, but the horrors it is committing against ordinary Palestinians are far worse…]

     We were scheduled to stand with Women in Black after this meeting but rabbi Schwartz said that a peaceful demonstration was scheduled in the town  of BIdu, and we could go there with rabbi Ashermann if we wished. We did. The demonstration was intended as a protest against the Israeli destruction of a farmer’s olive orchards adjacent to the town. They had destroyed some of it and were planning to destroy it all in preparation for building the wall there.

     The demonstration was commencing actively when we arrived. My estimate was that there were at least 200 people. Buildings of the town were on our right with fields to our left, with trees and brush  along the edge of the street. The demonstration was noisy and enthusiastic, but peaceful. After we walked about two blocks we heard muffled explosions and then saw a cloud ahead of us. We turned around to get away from what the people said was tear gas. When we began to walk back the gas also was ahead  of us. Running to get ahead of it was futile because  running requires heavier breathing and I breathed more of the gas. The pain on eyes. nostrils, throat and lungs was excruciating. So I walked slowly, opening my eyes occasionally to stay on the road. We did not see any soldiers; they stayed behind the brush and trees. When we got back beyond the gas, Palestinian women met us with slices of onion, to breath on to minimize the effect of the gas. It helped.

    We did not see Erik Ascherman again. He tried to rescue a 13 year old boy from the solders who were tying him on the hood of their jeep to serve as a human shield. He was arrested. The local newspaper the next day said that 35 people were  Injured.

     This introduction to Palestine, while more violent than we would have preferred, served to make it clear to us what Palestine people have to live with routinely.



     Robin Hensel, a correspondent of Jake, horrified, replies:

     “Holy $hit……this is outrageous….what [expletive] the zionists and their army are.  Tying  13 year old boy to the hood of their jeep.  May God forgive them after they STOP their HEINOUS CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.  Of course, murk has set the example of what’s acceptable…..ANYTHING GOES.  
     Thank you Jake for having the GUTS to see for yourself and wilingness to speak out about this.
     May many good Jews speak AND ACT against these atrocities. 
     The world never have peace until there is peace and freedom between Israel and Palestine.
     Very troubled….Robin”


     Jake replied to Robin with some of the same story that I told my family and friends when I went to Palestine in 2012 – see here, here , herehere and here.  No one is immortal; solidarity is important.  One can die without any broader meaning except to one’s family and friends or stand up (and hopefully, not be killed by those who are specialists in evil…)

     Jake mentions that the army commander threatened to kill 2 people if the Palestinians engaged in nonviolent protest.  The army – the Israeli “Defense” Forces – in fact, murdered four…


      The Israelis think the are the elite, which seems to permit them to act like [expletive].  There is a surprising number of Jewish people who feel at least as strong about it as we do, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference “on the ground”. [Jews support the Iran nuclear treaty and Obama more strongly than most Americans in the opinion polls; yet AIPAC and Sheldon Adelson are presented, in the New York Times and elsewhere as speaking for “Jews” – that is a result, as Peter Beinart says of plutocracy – and we should all – all Americans, all human beings…- stand up loudly for the Treaty from below]
     Alan is a powerful advocate for the exploited, native Americans, blacks and Palestinians. When I mentioned this incident to him he asked me to describe it, for his blog. That’s why I wrote this.
     When I went, there was a lot of unrest in the area and some people were concerned about my going. A cousin said that I could be killed driving tot he grocery store too. When I mentioned that to our son he said “But that wouldn’t have any meaning”.

     In retrospect I was glad this happened because it helped me to understand what life is like under occupation.

     Erik Ascherman has been arrested many many times since.
    The people there told us that a peaceful protest was planned in the area shortly before, and the Army commander said that if they did he would shoot 2 of them. He kept his word and shot 4 men..