Monday, November 5, 2018

CPTer Michael Himlie, comes to Iowa on speaking tour

By Christine Sheller

Sunday, October 21st, Michael Himlie, of Harmony, MN spoke at Ivester Church of the Brethren of CPT and his time in Palestine/ Israel.  He has spent time in Lesvos, Greece, Israel/ Palestine, and Iraqi Kurdistan during his work with CPT, but has spent the most time in Palestine.
He went on a delegation to Palestine in November 2014, then was in Palestine full time from November 2017 to May 2018.  Accordingly, he spoke on Palestine in his talk for Ivester. 

He shared the mission statement of CPT- “Building partnerships to transform violence and oppression.” Palestine is under great oppression, as most know.  He showed a map of Palestine and the Isreaeli settlement areas and how they have taken over almost the whole country of Palestine.

He showed pictures of what a checkpoint looks like, which are points in the cities where Israeli soldiers check a person before they allow them through the gate into that section of the city.  He also showed a picture of a boy, maybe 12, who had been stopped because he was accused of throwing stones.  There was no proof he did this.  This situation is common.  He told of another situation where Israeli soldiers accused a boy with a red shirt of throwing stones, so they (a couple days later) went in and arrested several boys with red shirts.  If they didn’t confess to throwing stones, soldiers threatened to hurt their families.  He said as foreigners, CPTers are normally treated with more privilege, but they still undergo poor treatment sometimes.

Most know of the president’s move of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018.  Many Palestinian demonstrations were met by force with tear gas, bullets, or live ammunition.  He also talked about sound bombs- meant to disorient people but doesn’t physically harm people usually.

Himlie also spoke about another checkpoint where CPTers monitored.  Several years ago 70 kindergartners were going through the checkpoints every day to get to school.  Now, approximately only 7 go to kindergarten.  Parents moved to different homes in different areas to avoid the checkpoint.  Another point:  checkpoints are not legal in international law, but are legal with Israeli law.

An injustice Himlie spoke about too, was the practice of Israeli soldiers to treat children 12 or older as “adults, while still considering Israeli children to the age of 17 before considering them adults.

The hope that is present are several movements going on internationally.  One is BDS- Boycott, Divest, Sanctions.  This was successfully used in South Africa in their apartheid situation.  Two examples of companies to boycott are HP and Caterpillar.  He gave attendees a handout of all companies to boycott.

The US gives $3.4 billion to Israel annually.  We are supporting their oppression and illegal actions (according to international law.)

Himlie spoke a little about being banned from Palestine this past year.  In July, he was denied entry to Palestine for 15 years and sent to Jordan.  He underwent more training to go to a different project (Iraqi Kuridstan).  According to “Israel Denies Entry to CPTers” (by CPT Palestine team in the July- Sept. 2018 CPT newsletter), between July and September 2018, 5 fulltime CPTers were denied entry into Palestine.  Himlie was one of three who were reported within a single 10-day span in July.  Michael shared this in his presentation.

Michael Himlie at 24 years old, asked the Israeli soldier who was questioning him at the border if he was a threat, holding the Iseraeli military accountable for interational law and its own national laws.  “The Israeli sergeant stated that ‘CPT is a leech’.”  It was clear that at the beginning of their interrogations that the immigration officials knew of their work with CPT.  (according to “Israel Denies Entry to CPTers,” CPT newsletter, July-Sept. 2018)

Also, the denial of human rights workers and supporters of Palestine is increasing.  In January 2018, the Israeli parliament passed new laws stating that any foreigner entering “Israel” (including the illegally occupied Palestinian territories) could be banned from the country if any link is found between them and the BDS movement.  Also, currently, a bill in the Israeli Parliament seeks to make it illegal for anyone to photograph or record Israeli military personnel and police.  (according to “Israel Denies Entry to CPTers”)

At Ivester, questions were taken throughout the presentation.  One question was: “What training did you have before going into CPT?”.  Himlie answered that he was a peace studies major at Manchester University (in North Manchester, IN), they also underwent training at CPT.

Ivester was very appreciative of Himlie taking time to be at Ivester.  He is known in the congregation from growing up in the district (Northern Plains Church of the Brethren) alongside some of the other young adults in the congregation.

Himlie is on a speaking tour through several places in the States, and approximately one week in Toronto, Canada.

Ivester also raised funds for Michael and his work in CPT.

Christine Sheller is editor and coordinator of Iowa Peace Network.  She is a graduate of Bethany Theological Seminary.

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