COLUMBIA — Anna Baltzer has spent much of her professional life traveling the world and educating others. Having made over 60 appearances throughout the country in the first quarter of this year alone, Baltzer found herself touring central Missouri to promote her latest cause: drawing attention to the oppression of the Palestinian people.
This past week, Baltzer made stops at a radio station, Hickman High School, Westminister College, the Islamic Center of Central Missouri and U.S. Grant Elementary School.
“I’m hoping to share my experiences with people who are otherwise not going to get exposure to these ideas,” Baltzer said. “I’m trying to reach individuals who are interested in the (Palestinian/Israeli conflict) with critical information that doesn’t show up in the United States mainstream media.”
In her presentations and book, Baltzer accuses the Israeli government of marginalizing Palestinians. She is also highly critical of U.S involvement in the conflict. Her speech focuses on the restriction of Palestinian mobility through checkpoints, the Israeli government’s encouragement of colonizing the West Bank through subsidizing its citizens that move into developing colonies within the West Bank and criticizes the “security blanket” — or wall — that is being built along the border of Israel and internally within the West Bank.
“People don’t know about the segregation that is occurring and the fact that the United States is the one paying for it,” she said. “Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, and a lot of that money goes to encouraging the alienation of the Palestinian people ... There is a 25-foot concrete wall in many areas that doesn’t only separate Israelis from Palestinians, but often Palestinians from other Palestinians and basic resources.”
Baltzer is Jewish-American and spent time teaching English in Turkey under a Fulbright grant. During her time teaching in Turkey, Baltzer would travel to neighboring countries whenever she got a break. On one of her trips through Lebanon, Baltzer befriended a group of Palestinian refugees who she attributes to helping her gain perspective on the conflict.
“I didn’t hear very much about Palestine growing up,” said Baltzer. “After visiting Palestine myself, I knew it was important to share my experiences with others.”
Majed Dweik, president of the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, a venue that hosted one of Baltzer’s six appearances in Columbia this week, emphasized the importance of Baltzer’s visit.
“She visited (the Islamic center) last year, and we knew she had new material to present this year, so we were very happy to have her back,” Dweik said. “The turnout was very successful, and many people returned from last year’s event.”
Lawrence Garvin, a returning visitor to the Islamic center to see Baltzer’s speech, said he is on Baltzer’s e-mail list.
“When I got the message that she was coming back to town, I forwarded it to half a dozen other people,’ he said. “I have a niece in St. Louis, where (Baltzer) will be making an appearance on Sunday, and I told my niece, ‘You must go see this woman and listen to her message.’”
Bill Ferguson, an attendee of Baltzer’s appearance at the Islamic center, was very satisfied with the presentation.
“It was something I’ve researched on my own, and I agree completely with everything she said,” Ferguson said. “I just hope more people will hear what (Baltzer) has to say. You don’t have to believe everything she says, but at least listen and then do your own research. It’s as simple as getting on to Google for a lot of this information.”