I have recently read the article published in The Crimson on the ‘Picture Balata’ tour and was moved to respond (“Politicizing the Playground,” oped, Apr. 20). I have just returned from a visit to Gaza and the West Bank where I was carrying out research on behalf of the UK’s Mental Health Foundation. I have been following the press of the Picture Balata tour with great interest as I had the pleasure of meeting one of the tour organisers in Balata refugee camp. My colleague, Elizabeth Porter and I were struck by the hospitality and warmth we found in Balata—and appalled at the living conditions there. We were woken every night by explosions caused by the IDF’s incursions into both the Old City of Nablus and Balata.
We were frequently greeted by ‘Shalom!’ in the street in Nablus and Balata—maybe a surprise to outsiders who may believe the Palestinian people indoctrinated and hate-filled, but reinforced by the fact that we did not hear a single Palestinian person express hatred or blame towards the Israeli people during our research—just incomprehension and despair. It would be hard for an Israeli citizen to have the honor of experiencing this first hand though, for signs at checkpoints to all towns in the occupied West Bank ban Israeli citizens from entry.
I was concerned at the apparent ignorance shown by your contributor of the situation in the West Bank. Although it appears he has already been amply corrected through the comments on your online edition, maybe your readers will be equally open to reading the words of Israelis who share the growing horror for the human rights abuses that are carried out daily by the IDF. Try Tanya Reinhart’s recent Road Map to Nowhere perhaps; or if the unadorned words of ordinary Israeli citizens are preferred, take for example this former IDF soldier: “I didn’t humiliate Palestinians most of the time, but I stood by and did nothing while it happened... I didn’t think I was someone evil. I had become the essence of the evil without even thinking about it.”