Category Archives: Gill’s blog

Leaving the West Bank

 

Exit policy – I wasn’t going to lie this time!

 

I decided that when crossing Allenby Bridge into Jordan for my flight back to the UK, if the Israeli border police asked me any questions, my reply was going to be, ‘I have been teaching English in Ramallah, is this a problem’? These last three months had again made me examine my fears and, and combined with Snowden’s whistle-blowing on the National Security Agency in the US, convinced me tha t- to be truly human, to dispense with spying, surveillance and fear of the ‘other’ – we have to be open, transparent and honest.

 

The 40 minute drive to the Bridge from Ramallah was so pleasant. The driver was a man I know who is from Aboud, a village close to Nabi Saleh, He took me by the back roads, pointing out villages I had never seen as we descended into the sandscape of the Jordan Valley. To get to the actual border crossing one has to change from the Palestinian taxi into an Israeli taxi and pay another £10 for a 10 minute ride. This Israeli driver was distinctly different…was it because I shook hands with the Palestinian driver? ‘Did I have a visa’? ‘Where had I been’? he repeatedly interrogated.

 

We passed through a checkpoint where I was asked if I had any weapons – this is a ‘usual’ question and, luckily, we quickly weren’t delayed getting to the terminal. After I had paid my exit tax, I turned around and was approached by a giantess of a woman, with clipboard, who asked me if I was a tourist. I just looked blankly at her and she repeated her question. Still getting no answer from me she explained that, as I had just come from Israel and she came from Ministry of Tourism, she would just like to ask me some questions. Protesting that I was in a hurry, I rushed off to the next booth for an exit visa stamp. Here the official explained that my visa had expired by one day but that was not a problem .. (I have become orientated to being on Palestinian time but, even so, being 24 hours late is stretching that somewhat).

 

And so I passed into Jordan, thinking “was that giantess really from the Shin Bet security organisation, doing a soft approach, or was it just my paranoid reaction”? I realised that I had just passed up my opportunity of being honest and transparent …I should have said, ‘No I haven’t come from Israel but the West Bank, there’s lots of tourism there in spite of being occupied’ ! The best intentions of mice and men, I have to count this as a trial run!

Prison Palestine

Many Palestinians feel trapped as they don’t have the freedom to travel freely in their own state – to Gaza or Jerusalem – let alone the ‘outside’ as they frequently describe it. Some who have been in prison say they felt freer there than living in the West Bank.

 

Here are two examples of border hassle for West Bank Palestinians who I know, minor compared to outright rejection of a visa application, but illustrating how the occupation can harass and intimidate. Ziad, Director of Al Bireh Municipality where I had been volunteering, went to Jordan for two days, and on his return he was questioned for 4 hours at the Allenby crossing by Shin Bet because he had made a speech in Ramallah about Hugo Chavez. Ramallah/al Bireh had decided to name a street after Chavez and Ziad was inaugurating this. Apart from the harassment, how did they know what he had been doing? It doesn’t take too much analysis to work that out ….The second example is that of the two teachers who give me Arabic lessons. They decided to go to Sheik al Sharm resort area in Egypt for a week’s holiday. Not being able to go through Gaza (where they were born), they were forced to travel to Amman, Jordan, and then fly to Egypt. It would be so much easier for them to go across the Rafah border directly into Egypt, if only they could. But as Palestinians this is forbidden to them.
Gill's blog 1 July 2013 teachers of arabic

 

 

As a UK citizen, I am a privileged person, with rights and freedom to travel to countries the Britain once colonised or controlled. And I just hope that we can do something to help Palestinians get their freedom, their human rights, and the right to travel.

 

 

Free Palestine!

 


			

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UK cabinet minister visits Nabi Saleh, Hastings Friends of Yatma was there

Alistair Burt, Parliamentary Undersecretary for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, visited the beseiged West Bank Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh this week. Nabi Saleh has been the site of weekly peaceful demonstrations, as villagers march to the spring that was stolen from them in 2009 by colonists from the nearby settlement of Halamish. Each week they are ritually and violently met by the Israeli occupation forces with tear gas, skunk water, and rubber bullets. Two Nabi Saleh residents have died recently in separate incidents.

Alistair Burt said “I recognise the suffering of Nabi Saleh”

Gill Knight, an activist from Hastings Friends of Yatma, met with the Nabi Saleh village leaders, Alistair Burt and Sir Vincent Fean, UK consul in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, Palestine yesterday. Burt said his visit was to convey his condolences the mothers of Mustafa Tamimi and Rushdi Tamimi who were killed by the Israeli army while peacefully demonstrating against the Israeli occupation and the settlement of Halamish, which has appropriated their land and the village spring. Also Burt said he wanted to get an update on events in the village and to see if the army were using less violent tactics. Gill Palestine Alistair Burt

This is Alistair Burt’s third visit to the village and he said that he would keep coming to Nabi Saleh to maintain the relationship and to show the families of Mustafa and Rushdi that they were not forgotten and their suffering was not in vain.

The visit included a visit to the local school where the UK government have just made a £5000 donation for additions to the library and scientific equipment. Alistair said that ‘he realised that the occupation caused a lot of suffering to Palestinian children and that “every child deserved a decent life”.

His next stop was Ramallah, to meet with Mohammed Abbas and he stressed that Senator Kerry was committed to get the peace talks started again and that this was the only solution for the people of Palestine. He stated that Nabi Saleh was a symbol to many both in Palestine and internationally.

Although many Palestinians think the two state solution is dead and prefer the idea of a one state democracy, his visit and support were greatly appreciated by the village.

Hastings Friends of Yatma is a solidarity and friendship group supporting Yatma, a village south of Nablus.

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Filed under Gill's blog, Land seizures, Water supply

Water Apartheid

The Heat is On!

Hot and sweaty! I have had no water for over 24 hours – my neighbours have filled large bottles to help me and this morning I am amazed at the amount of water I use for a single person – loo flushing, washing up, teeth brushing – why did I use all those cups!? – must be a couple of gallons already and I haven’t washed my hair!!

For a few hours I am experiencing what some Palestinians endure for 4 days at a time. So I am suitably humbled, for I can call my landlady and she can phone the water company to solve it. OK they haven’t come yet but eventually they will…..in Palestinian time!

Water apartheid

A clip from Al Haq’s recent 53 page report ‘Water for One People Only’* states:

‘Israel has renderer any reasonable access and use of water resources in the OPT practically impossible for the occupied population.’

Thirsting for Justice Campaign found that: **

– The average Israeli daily consumption per capita (300 litres) is about 4 times the Palestinian average (70 litres) which is well below the 100 litres recommended by the World Health Organisation. The average daily water consumption in the UK is 150 litres per person.

– Israel controls the aquifers underneath the West Bank extracting close to 90 % of their yearly sustainable yield and forbidding Palestinian access to the Jordan River.

– Some Palestinian communities live with as little as 20 litres of water per person a day. This is barely enough water for their basic needs.

– Communities depending on tankered water pay up to 4 times more for every litre than those connected to the network, adding strain to their income.

– About half a million Israelis live in illegal settlements located beside thirsty Palestinian communities. They have unrestricted access to water, well-watered lawns and swimming pools

Coupled with that is the destruction by settlers and the Israeli army of wells and water cisterns.

Gill's blog 10 June 2013 destroyed well

Political Hot Air!

The heat is on as well for the next round of peace talks, apparently Al Quds newspaper doubt if they are going to take place. Where does this leave the Palestinians? Ziad the director of the Al Bireh municipality and one of my students, is really worried if they don’t happen because right now more building is authorised in the settlements and the ‘judaization’ of East Jerusalem proceeds apace. If there are no talks this could make way for the complete annexation of the West Bank.

Or will this be the igniting of the 3rd Intifada? Some think it will only take a spark to make this happen; in this place of uncertainty it is difficult to predict.

My water 30 hour ‘drought’, was evenutally solved, not by the water company, but by two neighbours – one a Professor at Al Quds university the other a lawyer – so if you can’t get a plumber call in the academia!

http://www.alhaq.org/publications/Water-For-One-People-Only.pdf *

http://www.thirstingforjustice.org **

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WI’AM Centre for Conflict Resolution, Bethlehem

“We have found that conflict resolution is the art

Of working and sharing ourselves,

Our resources, our minds and hearts with others”.

Zoughbi Zoughbi

Conflict resolution as an art

I am constantly amazed at the creativity and inventiveness of Palestinians. In Palestine I learn about being human in the face of oppression and find inspiring ideas that we could adopt and adapt to our own society.

An example of this is the Wi’am Conflict Resolution Centre in Bethlehem. The entrance to the Centre, which is quite amazing in itself, is housed in a 19th century Ottoman-era building. But the piece-de-resistance is the gardens. Down stone steps I was immediately engulfed in peace and tranquility brought about by carefully planned sitting areas amid trees, flowers, herbs, and stone walls. The site is multi-purpose and has a children’s playground. Amazing, because in brutal contrast, it is immediately next to the Separation Barrier, built 25′ high in dark grey concrete, with the trade mark watch tower.

Gill's blog 6 June 2013 Playground next to apartheid wall

My hosts were the Centre’s founder Zoughbi, and Usuma, who together explained that the idea for the centre came in the first and second intifadas which had caused a breakdown in civil society and disrupted the traditional ways of resolving conflict between neighbours. The Centre was founded in 1994 and aims to be a ‘centre of hope to a people living under occupation’. It uses techniques based on the Sulha Arab tradition of mediation as well as other schools of thought from around the world, a world that “is brimming with the cries of injustice and oppression”. It aims to celebrate a mosaic of differences with a message of hope in a time of hopelessness.

. Gill's blog 6 June 2013 Zoughbi and UsamA

Wi’am is the Arabic word for unconditional love and harmony. I mentioned to Zoughi that I follow a Buddhist path, something that I don’t often do in Palestine as most people do not understand a spiritual path that does not have a deity. I find that you often get involved religious debates with no positive outcome. But Zoughbi, a Palestinian Christian, understood immediately as he had been to India and Japan and met Zen masters, among other spiritual leaders.

The Centre’s Activities

Here is a sample of what they do:

For Children

Recreational and educational activities trauma coping skills. 80% of the children show signs of trauma, anxiety and fear

For Youth

Cultural exchange, and creating competencies for social transformation and to work for non-violence. While I was there Nasser, one of the volunteers who had himself been in prison six years, held a workshop with some young men from the Aida Refugee Camp. The subject was proper use of the Internet. The camp is living under constant uncertainty and becomes virtual pressure cooker where the youth, mostly unemployed, can easily fuel their frustrations into non-productive aggression.

Gill's blog 6 June 2013 Nasser leading a workshop

For Women

Recognising that Palestine is a patriarchal society and that women suffer from the impact of the occupation the Centre aims to empower women to take part in decision making.

Free Advocacy, Job Opportunities and Outreach

These are available to all in the community.

As Palestinians attempt to heal their society at the grassroots level, there are lessons here that can be learned by everyone, (even the ‘big guns’ like John Kerry who have so far failed even to sit down at the negotiating table).

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Grave Disorder*, an incident in Assiwiya

Settler attacks in the West Bank are often violent, causing injury to Palestinians or the destruction of olive trees, particularly in Hebron, the South Hebron Hills, or by the Yizhar which is around Nablus.

The damage to property of the inhabitants of Assawiya was of a lesser degree by comparison. But it caused loss of livelihood, fear, and disempowerment. The village is divided by a highway (an Israeli road built without legitimate planning procedures) which in itself has caused dislocation and access problems to the farmland etc.

This incident happened last week to the part of the village nearest the settlement of Eli. I witnessed the aftermath of the events that had happened in the early hours of that morning, travelling there with Arafat Abu Ras. 

What we saw first was the wanton destruction of a small roadside garden ‘centre’; graffiti sprayed on the ornamental pots, and the cutting down and uprooting of plants. Moving up the hill there were many punctured tractor tyres made totally unusable, and one car with four damaged tyres. ‘Revenge’ in Hebrew was sprayed on one garage door. Most devastating of all was the desecration by graffiti of two graves of a father and his brother. If the Palestinians had damaged Jewish graves, this would be deemed as anti-Semitic and a threat to the state of Israel.

Gill's blog 26 May 2013 damaged tyre

Gill's blog 26 May 2013 damaged plants

Gill's blog 26 May 2013 more damaged plants

 

Gill's blog 26 May 2013 pot graffitied

gill's blog 26 May 2013 graffitied graves

There was a sizeable Israeli army and border police presence in the village which had been there all day. But no settlers had been interviewed, they were there merely to prevent confrontations between the villagers and the settlers breaking out. In all cases of vandalism by settlers the army takes the side of the settlers, an illustration of the daily intimidation happening to Palestinians.

* passing reference to punk band The Damned’s album

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