Several Israeli artists and creators joined by dozens of other Israelis took part in a MachsomWatch tour of the West Bank Friday, in order to "get first hand knowledge of the evils of the occupation."
MachsomWatch, founded in 2001, is an organization of peace activists which regularly protests Israeli presence in the West Bank.
Among the artists taking part in Friday's tour were actors Oded Kotler and Amnon Meskin and directors Ati Zitron and Ram Levy.
The group toured several Palestinian villages near the West Bank cities of Qalqilya and Nablus, the Elkana Local Council and the city of Ariel, which has been in the center of a cultural debate in the past months, after artists refused to perform in it newly inducted cultural hall.
The tour (Photos: Ido Erez)
Speaking with Ynet, the artists criticized Israel's occupation policies: "I knew of these things, buy I had no idea how horrible they really were," said Meskin.
"The little things, like the handicapped path at a crossing that remains closed because they can't find the key to it, or the soldiers' contradicting orders – one telling a Palestinian to stand, the other telling him to sit. And don't get me started on the burning of olive trees, which I'm sure is directed from somewhere."
The actor went on to doubt the IDF's assertions of ethics and morality, saying that, "The soldiers don’t understand how bestial their behavior is. They look at the Palestinian as if they were things, cockroaches. This is an army of evil."
'I'm ashamed of my people'
"This day only proves that the Ariel petition was right," Kotler added. "I don't agree with the artists who later recanted, but I can understand that they were worried about their livelihood.
"There is no one here to tell the soldiers that what they're doing is immoral. They see the entire Palestinian population as terror suspects."
'Hell at the crossings'
"I've seen people, who despite being humiliated and abused, still receive (tour) groups with endless patience, I'm ashamed that I'm part of the force that humiliates them," Zitron told Ynet. "I'm ashamed of my people."
According to MachsomWatch's data, about 200,000 have been barred from entering Israel by order of the Shin Bet. Palestinian human rights activist Zacaria Zada warned that settlers' onslaughts of Palestinians were increasing: "The outposts around here are hubs of violence. Only a week ago, they torched 2,000 olive trees. There's a nearby highway I can take only on Shabbat, for fear I'll be attacked."
Dalia Golomb, who headed the tour, told participants that "there are entire areas of Palestinian land here, whose owners live beyond the fence and cannot access their land. Every morning, thousands have to go through the hell of waiting at the crossings. If they are even five minutes late, they are deemed illegal Palestinian aliens."
Omar, a hothouse owner from Qalqilya, believes "both people are victims of their leadership. We know not all soldiers are the same. We absolutely love some of them, but this is a harsh reality."
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