Page 17 - Foreign Service Journal - December 2012

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n 1985 I was the frst USAID ofcer to
be assigned responsibility for manag-
ing and monitoring foreign assistance
NGO programs in the West Bank and
Gaza. In that capacity, I was the author
and negotiator of the frst U.S.-funded
Palestinian-Israeli Cooperation Program.
Te process involved a large number
of people and organizations: the Israeli
government, the State Department, the
U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, the U.S. consul-
ate in East Jerusalem, USAID, the Pales-
tinian leadership, various nongovern-
mental organizations in the West Bank,
Gaza and Israel, and Jewish and Arab-
American NGOs in the United States.
After two years of difcult nego-
tiations, work fnally began on the frst
activity, revising history textbooks for
kindergarten through grade 12. Teams of
Israeli and Palestinian academics, teach-
ers and parents began development of
mutually acceptable content for history
Sticks and Stones…
About the same time, in 1987, the frst
intifada (Arabic for shaking of) com-
menced. Best known for boys throw-
ing stones, the campaign also involved
general strikes, boycotts, tax strikes,
Molotov cocktails and, eventually, armed
attacks against the harsh and inhumane
Reasons for Hope in the
Israeli-Palestinian Confict
Kristin K. Loken was a Foreign Service ofcer with the U.S. Agency for International Devel-
opment from 1979 to 2001. Since retiring from the Service, she has worked for the Center for
Development and Population Activities, an American nongovernmental organization that
promotes women’s health and sustainable development, and writes from her home in Falling
Waters, W. Va.
conditions of the Israeli occupation and
the campaign by the Israelis to make life
intolerable in the West Bank and Gaza so
as to drive out the Palestinian population.
In August 1988, the level of vio-
lence within Israel escalated with the
frst suicide bomb attack on a crowded
bus in West Jerusalem. Twenty-three
Israelis were killed and more than 130
were wounded, many of them chil-
dren. Te Israeli forces responded with
beatings (often breaking bones), home
demolitions, extrajudicial killings, mass
detentions (sometimes of thousands of
Palestinians at a time), deportations,
curfews and torture. Whatever the tactic,
the Israeli strategy was always to hit back
harder than they had been hit.
During my visits throughout Gaza
and the West Bank to monitor USAID
programs during this difcult period, I
witnessed many encounters between
Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. I once
came upon a group of young boys (maybe
7 or 8 years old) throwing stones at Israel
Defense Force members. Te soldiers
started to chase them and all got away
except one boy, who was taken to a group
of soldiers.
One of the soldiers seemed to be in
charge and gave an order. Te soldier
holding the boy straightened out his arm;
then another soldier raised his leg and
brought his boot down against the back
of the elbow of the boy’s arm with a force
strong enough to break the bone. Te boy
screamed, broke free and ran.
Te soldier who performed this act
was young; I guessed maybe 17 or 18,
with bright red hair. All these years later
I still recall thinking about what trauma
that boy would sufer—and the young sol-
dier would sufer, too. For in this confict,
there were no winners: everyone lost,
and all, including witnesses like me, were
traumatized. It was years before I stopped
seeing scenes like this in my dreams.
Tough I kept trying to get our coop-
eration program going, I eventually came
to question the value of our eforts in the
Israeli-Palestinian context. Perhaps the
power diferential between the two sides
was too great to expect that dialogue and
cooperative eforts would have benefcial
Tere were some committed individu-
als on both sides who worked very hard
on cooperative eforts. But they seemed
to burn out because over the years, on
any level of analysis, they were seeing
such meager positive results. And all the
while the confict became more intrac-
table, violence on both sides increased,
and living conditions for the Palestinians
Eventually, the violence became so
horrible and pervasive that I saw little
or no possibility for positive impact. I
moved on to Foreign Service assignments
in other parts of the world. When I did
return to the region two decades later as
a private citizen on a peace delegation