Saturday, March 03, 2007

Justice for Palestine

PAULINE Collins and Norma Rana of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign last Friday night spoke to a packed meeting room in Blackheath, south-east London, of their recent visit to Palestine’s West Bank.
Their talk was illustrated by slides and packed with information and shocking statistics on the lives of ordinary people in Palestine under the oppressive and illegal Israeli occupation.
They visited the agricultural village of Beit Furik, with a population of 25,000 situated 25 miles from East Jerusalem.
They described the key issues affecting the people of the village, including denial of access to water, which is rationed by the Israelis, and denial of access to their fields to harvest their olives.
The people of Beit Furik have to pass through military checkpoints to get to their own farm land but the opening times of the checkpoints are brief, arbitrary and constantly changing.
Permits are needed to get through the checkpoints and can be taken away arbitrarily. People can be arrested and detained for no reason. Sometimes they are released after a few hours; sometimes they disappear into prisons.
Delays at checkpoints are responsible for a number of deaths, as ambulances are denied access and both casualties and women in labour are denied access to urgently needed medical care. Many babies born to women queuing at checkpoints have died and so have some mothers.
When they get to the fields they cannot farm the slopes of a nearby hill – there is an illegal Israeli settlement at the top and the settlers harass the farmers and damage the trees. But if the land is left unfarmed for a number of years, the farmers are forced to relinquish ownership of it under laws that go back to the Ottoman Empire.
Pauline and Norma described the effects of the giant partition wall built on Palestinian land to prevent Palestinians moving about freely. The wall is not straight; it has many loops that create isolated enclaves, cutting off those within from the rest of their community.
It forces people to walk many miles from their homes to their places of work and study, which are quite close as the crow flies and it isolates clinics from the communities they serve.
The local people have a simple list of demands, including being treated as human beings, a Palestinian state equal to that of the Israelis, the right of return to the homes they have been evicted from, the restoration of their olive groves and a fair price for their goods when they take them to market.
The Women’s Union raised £1,000 in funds for the village, which was used to buy two sewing machines to make clothes for sale; a digital camera, piano and computer with internet access for the Children’s Drama Association and traditional Palestinian clothes for the boys’ dance group. They are setting up a website for the village.
photo: Norma Rana and Pauline Collins