“Why are you going? What has it got to do with you? It’s not even your fight!” are the most negative comments that greet me when I tell someone I’m going to Palestine. My reply? “When good men do nothing, evil triumphs.” Is being a human being not enough of a reason to go?
I visited what is now considered Israel over ten years ago as part of a tour with my family. We were in Jerusalem and Bethlehem and as I look back I realise how restricted we were. Obviously a lot has happened since.
I would have understood there was unrest in Palestine but not understood it fully until 2014 when Operation Protective Edge was launched by Israel after 3 Israeli teenagers were abducted and Hamas was blamed. The objective of that Israeli attack was to ‘stop rocket fire from Hamas into Israel’. This lasted for 7 weeks and thousands of civilians were killed, mainly Palestinians. Hamas’s goal was to bring international pressure to bear to lift Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, end Israel’s offensive, obtain a third party to monitor and guarantee compliance with a ceasefire, release Palestinian prisoners and overcome its political isolation. Israel broke a 2012 ceasefire by beginning the attacks and many believe they deliberately targeted civilians including UN hospitals and schools.
Since then citizens havent been able to rebuild with many parts of Palestine being completely destroyed.
After WW2 there were many Jews left displaced after the Holocaust. To assist, the UN granted them Palestine (including Jerusalem, home of the Jewish religion) which at the time was part of the British colony. Zionism is a national movement in the interest of Jews and to create a Jewish national state.
November 1947 the UN pass a resolution to divide Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. Most Palestinian Arabs refused to recognise this as America had promised they would be consulted with before any decision was made.
Any Jew, no matter where they were born is automatically entitled to Israeli citizenship. With these new Israeli settlements many Palestinians have become displaced. They have been physically removed from their houses and their houses destroyed for Israeli homes to be built. The UN has condemned these settlements and find they are illegal. Crops have been poisoned and destroyed, olive trees burnt, all to establish and broaden these settlements. On the other hand Palestinians are now forced to live within the confines of separation barriers, like the Peace Walls in Belfast. These are 8 metres high, 700 km long and 3 metres wide. Palestine is effectively an open prison as the movements of Palestinians is restricted because they have to travel through check-points. Palestinian passports are under Israeli authority and therefore is a Palestinian leaves Palestine altogether they can never return. There have been reports of wells destroyed and water systems altered to provide water to settlements rather than to Palestinians.
I will be traveling alone to join a non-violent civil rights movement called Youths Against Settlement, in Hebron. Hebron is a city in the West Bank near Jerusalem. Its the 2nd largest Palestinian territory with over 215,000 people living there including Christians, Muslims and Jewish settlers. In 1994 a Jewish settler massacred Muslim worshipers in Hebron. Since then the city is divided into 2 sections H1: under the Palestinian Authority, and H2 under the Israeli Military. Since then Al-Shahuda Street has been closed. This is massive as it was the main market area of Hebron and the shut down affected livelihoods of market vendors and shop owners.
Youth Against Settlements is a non-violent direct action group who’s aim is to stop the illegal building of settlements by non-violent struggle and resistance. There is a regime of forced evictions, curfews, market and street closures, military checkpoints, and subjection to military law. Palestinians face frequent random searches, detentions without charge, and rampant settler violence. As a result of this, about 13,000 Palestinian civilians have fled their homes in Hebron’s city center. It’s apartheid.
My role within the organisation is to highlight these human rights violations by creating web content consisting of written, video and photographic documentation, to speak to children in schools about the effectiveness of peaceful protest to desist them from violence (there is an issue of Palestinian children throwing stones at the Israeli military), then networking and public relations with other international organisations.
Between the 18th and the 27th of February Youth Against Settlement organise annual ‘Open Shuhada Street’ Demonstrations, marches and sit-ins. On the 25th especially, groups from around the world create their own demonstration. If any school or group want to get involved to highlight the issue all they have to do is set up mock israeli check-points or set up a petition. All the information on the petition and materials you need for your own demonstration are available on the website http://hyas.ps/activities/open-shuhada-st/ And on the date we’ll be running the hashtag #OpenShuhadaStreet so people can retweet and show support.
Announcing 7th Annual Open Shuhada St Campaign (22-28/02/2016) We are very excited to announce the upcoming. 7th Annual Open Shuhada St. Campaign from 19-28 February …
I’ll also be visiting Ramallah, an Arab Christian city also near Jerusalem in the West Bank to see the UN Jalazone Palestinian Refugee camp. There are nearly 15,000 people in this camp and right beside the Beit El Israeli settlement.
The reason I’m going is to clarify for myself what it is I’m supporting, I want to confirm that what I’m supporting is the right thing because there are many Jews who feel they’re justified… I was sick of sharing videos online and feeling like it wasn’t making a difference or that people were giving a blind eye to it. I wanted to do something a little more hands-on and effective.
My biggest worry is that I wont get granted a Visa by Israeli customs at the airport, and that I might be turned away at the check point between Jerusalem and Hebron. I’m there as an observer so if I see something horrendous I cant do anything but watch and report afterwards. There are many videos of Israeli soldiers using physical force on women and children. That upsets me the most.