This week, at the Presbyterian General Assembly, I discovered Twitter. Despite receiving a degree in communication and existing as a young person in the world, I have managed to largely avoid the world of hashtags and Twitter wars. Until now.
As human beings, we distance ourselves from things that are hard to look at. Not wanting to endure the heartbreak of a murdered child, of a ravaged home, of hundreds of prisoners, we put the occupation on mute.
I am guilty. We are all guilty. Palestinians living in the occupied territories do not get to ignore the daily violence and atrocities carried out against their people and on their land. Refugees living abroad do not get to sleep without worrying that in the morning they will hear of the death of a friend or relative, or the destruction of their former home.
Sitting in the committee meeting, refreshing the Twitter feed over and over, I watched the first raid on Ramallah happen virtually, in real time. I saw pictures of wounded Palestinians and trashed kitchens. I saw IDF soldiers standing guard outside of homes, schools, places of worship. I saw militarized trucks and construction vehicles rolling into the streets of Ramallah. I read the words of worry and fear attached to each photo.
The pictures on my Twitter feed were not hand-picked for me by news outlets. They were not accompanied with messages about the situation being “complicated” or calling for more “dialogue.” They did not speak of peace talks, closed-door meetings, or “giving it time.” They begged for a voice. They asked the world to notice. They called for change.
The significance of the timing of the raids relevant to my life hit me full force. Here I was, sitting in a committee meeting, listening to debate about divesting from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard. The debate, of course, was heated. Emotions flared in the room, arguments got more pointed on each side. It took hours for the committee to debate the various complicated pieces of divestment. Meanwhile, Ramallah was under attack. It took everything in me not to jump up and yell out, “don’t you know people are dying?!”
It occurred to me then, why divestment needed to happen right then and there. We simply do not have the time to wait anymore. Peace talks have failed. Closed door meetings are not yielding results. Economic pressure, like that put on by divesting in the companies that are used to continue the occupation, is our best hope for change. So far the only tactic of those opposing divestment has been talk. We have run out of time to talk. Now it is time for action.
During my time in Detroit, I was fortunate enough to participate in many prayer services with Presbyterians and other allies. The morning before the vote on divestment, a young Presby seminarian led us in a song. “We are waiting,” it ended, “oh, we are waiting.” The people of Palestine have waited long enough. Justice has waited long enough. The photographs and firsthand accounts from the ground are proof. They are waiting. And the time to act is now.