Exeter Palestine Solidarity Campaign

 

Welcome to the Exeter Palestine Solidarity Campaign Website. Last updated: 17 January, 2010

Dear xxxxx,

Tensions are rising in the West Bank. There is a sense among all the Palestinians we talk to that things are going to get worse – and no-one knows how much worse. Yesterday morning the entire area was under lockdown – villages’ main access roads sealed by the army, checkpoints closed. Here in Hares, a village of 2,000 people, we could see from our roof that there were flying checkpoints on the three roads into the village, and traffic was at a standstill along Highway 505 for several hours. A helicopter circled overhead. When we talked to the Humanitarian Office of the Israeli army, they confirmed the closures, and also that there were to be no humanitarian exceptions for medical emergencies.

Later in the morning Marisa and I walked to the flying checkpoint at Brukin, having received a call saying that 20 Palestinian men were being detained there. As we walked up the hill, we could see them, sitting on the ground, many of them stripped down to just their underpants. The soldiers told us to leave, so having registered our concerns as to their treatment we retreated a few yards, and returned every half-hour to check with the soldiers on their wellbeing. We were told that a car bomb had been found, and was about to be detonated. We stayed until the men were allowed to dress, and everyone eventually moved out. No bombs were detonated.

What distresses me most about the lethargic response of the international community to Israel’s invasion of Gaza and its devastating impact on the civilian population there, is the sense that this is a level playing field. There go the Israelis and the Palestinians, at it again. Just being here, you can see what an utter fallacy this is. The West Bank is a land under occupation, illegal occupation in breach of UN resolutions and the Geneva Conventions: with Israeli army checkpoints on all the major roads within the West Bank; with routine army incursions into Palestinian villages and homes, of which I have heard numerous personal testimonies; with a Byzantine system of permits needed for travel to different areas of the West Bank, or for work. We heard of one family who had to apply for 41 separate permits.

And then there’s the separation wall. A couple of weeks ago, an Israeli military engineer arrived in our neighbouring village of Kifl Haris, accompanied by soldiers in two jeeps, to stake out the path the separation wall would take through the region. The line he marked out will separate some 16 households from the rest of the village, and the village from over 60% of its farmland. This was the first the villagers had heard about where the Wall would go. The mayor, Ahmed Bouzyah, had feared that this might happen – he’d seen a map showing the projected route. Now he is waiting for the military land confiscation order that will make this nightmare real, and he is trying to co-ordinate the villagers’ attempt to save their ancestral land and livelihoods.

Looking at the map prepared by the Israeli Ministry of Defence, you can see the route that the 670-kilometre separation wall will take. Some way to the west of it is another line: the so-called Green Line, marking Israel’s boundaries before it invaded the West Bank in 1967. By UN resolution and international consensus, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would mean Israel pulling out its 450,000 illegal settlers from the West Bank and adhering to the Green Line as its border. The Wall is an attempt to draw Israel’s border quite differently. Israel has stated that it needs the Wall as a “security fence” to protect Israelis from terrorism, but the route chosen by the Ministry of Defence indicates a different motive. Through the Salfit region, where we live, the Green Line runs from north to south. The Wall, however, loops and twists like a tangled skein of thread, including not only the area’s numerous settlements, but also the most fertile lands and, crucially, water sources.

“We are humans, not animals,” said our friend Ranya in Kifl Haris, as we talked over a cup of sweet black tea. “This is very wrong. No other country does this, putting people inside a wall, like animals. It’s very bad.”

On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the separation wall was illegal, and that Israel should dismantle it. Meanwhile, Mayor Bouzyah waits for the military land confiscation order and the arrival of the bulldozers in Kifl Haris.

 

Blessings to all,
Jo