olive-treeAt a recent Trades Council meeting we had a talk from a member who had been on a sponsored visit to Palestine.  He showed us slides of the village of Aboud, which is where he stayed.  Aboud is cut off from the hills and fields around it by the “Separation Wall”, which means that children can no longer play in those places because they are out of bounds.  Our member described what life was like for the members of the village.

Equal numbers of Muslims and Christians live in the village and the two groups share important religious ceremonies, alternating between the church and the mosque.  It is quite different at the check points where Christians and Muslims are separated and made to stand on opposite sides of the road.  People have to cross  through the checkpoints to see other family members, go to school, go to work or visit hospital.  It is the decision of the border guards as to which people are allowed to pass through.    People have been known to die at checkpoints due to being detained by the guards, this includes women in labour who have not been allowed to pass through to the hospital.

During his visit he met a lady who was 103.  She spoke of the Nakba (disaster) and how the Palestinians were rounded up and randomly shot at by soldiers who would then leave only to return for more random shooting in the evening.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka has just returned from a similar visit to Palestine.  He was part of a delegation that was hosted by the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).  He gave daily updates on the PCS website and I have summarised some of his thoughts below.

On arrival the taxi driver (Noor), who drove them from the airport pointed out a deserted village that was the site of a massacre in 1948, this is referred to by the Palestinians as the Nakba.  The village had originally been home to Noor’s family and many had died.

mark_in_palestineWhen Mark saw the separation wall that snaked through Palestine he was shocked.

In Jerusalem Mark was able to see first hand how divisions are being imposed on a mixed, multicultural setting to the detriment of the Palestinians.  The system of checkpoints and permits clearly shows the imposed division.  Palestinians whose families have lived in the area for centuries are unable to enter Jerusalem.

This checkpoint system means they have to start queuing at 2 or 3 in the morning to be able to work in town and Mark saw how the nation is being suffocated culturally and socially.

Even the school’s windows were boarded up as protection from Israeli bullets. This meant the classrooms, with 45 children, were suffocating hot in summer.

The Palestinian people are being all being slowly suffocated – culturally and socially, as well as economically.

They were living in unimaginably oppressive circumstances, yet were only asking for tolerance and peace, not retribution.

Yet this is contrary to the image we often see in the media of fundamentalists or terrorists.

When taken to the once bustling city of Hebron which is now boarded up he was again shocked.  The few Palestinians that remain have to have wire mesh nailed round their windows as protection from settlers who hold anti-Arab demonstrations and hurl objects at the houses.  In another part of the town, wire and tarpaulins were stretched over the street to prevent the settlers from the flats above throwing rocks and boiling water onto the people below.

Mark was able to meet up with Fathi Nasser of the PGFTU who spoke at the PCS Annual Delegates Conference.  On three occasions Fathi has been jailed for his trade union activities and whilst in prison he became a head teacher for the children, explaining the Palestinian situation.  Whilst imprisoned the children are tortured and ill treated by the Israeli authorities.

That evening we had a meal with Gerard, a lawyer working for an organisation called Defence for Children International, who had worked on a report about Palestinian child prisoners which documented “systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities.”

He told us of the appalling abuse experienced by the children and the injustice built into the legal system.

Groups of children would be randomly rounded up by the army after a stone throwing incident in a village and placed in detention.

They were then faced with the choice of pleading not guilty and becoming incarcerated for two or more years or pleading guilty and getting away with three months in a harsh Israeli jail. Confessions were obtained by means that can only be described as torture.

pcs_ramallahWhilst visiting Ramallah the delegation witnessed a group of women and children trying to cross through the high narrow turnstyles.  There was a lot of shouting and crying whilst the Israeli soldiers hurried them along and sent them on their way with a round unpleasant clapping.

Even trying to get home was not simple with such tight security in place at the airport.  One member of the delegation was subjected to a thorough search because he had a Palestinian diary in his luggage.

The airport also has a system of stickers for the luggage.  Jews get a 1 or a 2, EU passport holders get a 3 and Arabs get a 6.  Anyone with 6 label has to have both a luggage search and a personal search conducted.

Many have made the comparison with South African Apartheid.

Such racially based policies, and the way in which they systematically discriminate against the Palestinian people, have led many people to make a comparison with South African apartheid.

We had seen much on our visit which backed up such a suggestion. Witnessing the systems of checkpoints and restrictions on movements directed at Palestinians, legal systems which directly discriminated against them, the confiscation of land and the creation of ghettos, the violence of the state and the settlers against the Palestinians as a people, and the whole policy of ’separation’ operated by the Israeli government had given us a shocking and draining experience.

You can read all of Mark’s reflections here.

There is also an excellent article in the June edition of National Geographic.  It covers similar ground but speaks about it from a religious perspective and is well worth a read if you can get hold of a copy.

28 Comments CherryPie on Jun 24th 2009

28 Responses to “Palestine; Personal Perspectives”

  1. Sean Jeating says:

    As the answer to the question What was first, the egg or the hen? is not the easiest to find, it’s difficult to say who (was the power to incite people) to throw the first stone.
    Fact is: Hate creates violence, violence creates hatress.
    And if we call this a ‘Gordian knot’: There may some people be willing, to cut it – but …

    And now imagine: This says an optimist.

    • CherryPie says:

      Yes that is a very difficult question to answer and a difficult puzzle to solve and as long as the stone throwing continues innocent people will suffer…

  2. ubermouth says:

    Thank you for speaking out on the plight of the Palenstinians. It
    always befuddles me that anyone can see the Israelis as the victims.As you may know, I am converting to Judaism and this is one very serious issue I have. Given that Jews are the most persecuted peoples on the planete and teach love and tolerance for all religions and races, I do not understand how they can subjegate the Palenstinians so.

    • CherryPie says:

      With all religions there are those who take it to the extreme and forget the original messages and beliefs and the spiritual side. This leads to the intolerance you mention and then on to the the persecution.

  3. liz says:

    I have a friend who has been regularly visiting the area for the last few years. Her reports are equally shocking.

    I’ve just realised why you’re not showing up in my bloglines reader – I haven’t updated your web address! What a twit!

  4. jameshigham says:

    And still the rockets pour into Israel which only wants the right to exist. The Palestinian apology never takes that into account, never. It never takes into account that they hav e sworn to wipe Israel off the face of the map.

    • CherryPie says:

      Both sides have committed war crimes and as Sean said it is difficult to know who threw the first stone.

      These people I speak about here have not sworn to wipe Israel off the map. They are people just like you and me, all they want is to get on with their day to day life. They have got caught up in the middle of two regimes and are suffering for it. They are seeing their land slowly eroded away by the wall which is deviating from its original planned path and in some places surrounding individual villages.

      I could go on for ages about this but I was only trying to show the human plight.

      Just one last thought for now though. Fathi who spoke at our conference and is mentioned in this post, does not support a trade embargo with Israel, all he would ask is that no more materials for building the wall would be supplied. Does that sound like someone who wants to wipe Israel off the map?

  5. ubermouth says:

    Come on, James! The Israelis are not peaceable people just wanting to exist. That is more the position of the Palenstineans.
    Zionists have takn over Palestine subjegate their peoples, and are no better than American financed Taliban! It’s a disgrace that people allow this to go on,worse take such a stance as you take now.

  6. jameshigham says:

    ‘The Israelis are not peaceable people.’ That’s not the point. The point is that they’re a sovereign nation or are they not? Let’s get this established first.

    OK, now if you concede they have a right to exist, they have been militarily attacked [war in other words] how many times? And we’re not talking here about the strategic taking of territory but the wiping out, the genocide, of a nation. This is where the hypocrisy comes in, the horse and cart.

    Now, if you were born and grew up in your nation and every nation around you wanted to wipe you off the face of the map, if a rocket hits your market place and you ask, ‘Mummy, who’d doing this?’ and she answers, ‘The Arabs. They hate us and want to kill us all,’ then a child will develop a certain attitude, no?

    As I said in the previous comment and we can now confirm it – look at all the commenters here and tell me one, other than myself and other than vague comments that ‘no one’s guiltless’, who has taken up the challenge and conceded that what the Arabs are doing is [plus Iran] is very, very bad and has been so since well before the inception of Israel.

    So we come to the recent invasion of the Gaza. Why was that? Someone in the Knesset just decided, ‘Oh, let’s go and kill a lot of Palestinians?’ It was a direct reply to rocket attacks. In case the commenters here didn’t get that, let me spell it out again:


    ‘The Israelis are not peacable people.’ I can tell you I wouldn’t be too peaceable either under these circumstances. Now, as for their character, it’s awful. I lived three years with them and they were unbelievably difficult, not honouring agreements, almost fanatical in their approach – these were the orthodox I was with and I have many anecdotes.

    That’s still no reason to wipe them off the map. The real reason doesn’t lie with the Arabs, actually, it lies further afield, including in the upper echelons of Britain which has brought on the current state of affairs over here.

    • CherryPie says:

      I shall not reply to all the points you make because the post wasn’t meant to be about which side was right and which side was wrong. I was sharing the experiences of two people I know that have visited the area. It was describing what ordinary people experienced in their day to day lives and how difficult it is for them to exist.

      And yes I do agree the problem lies further afield.

  7. Lord T says:

    I always find it interesting that this subject tends to polarise people. They are firmly on one side or the other. Personally, I find it easy to have sympathy for the palestinians who seem to be the dumbest people on the planet. They are used as cannon fodder for the rest of the Arab world in their PR war against Israel supported by dumb westerners who simply look at pictures of the children killed or maimed by the israelies and by their own side.

    In any other part of the world to have another country fire rockets into your country on a regular basis would result in war and invasion. Yet the israelies accept cease fires which just allow the other side to rearm and prepare for its next round of PR pictures for gullible westerners due to pressure from those westerners. The palestinians elected terrorists which show us what their choices are yet we think they are innocents in all this.

    The only way out of this is compromise but the arabs don’t need to do that because of our support. They keep making concessions in their salami tactic of compromise and then get back to working on the next ‘compromise’. Eventually it will all blow up and be much worse than if we had just kept our noses out.

    Why we insist on sticking our noses into eventhing on this planet that doesn’t concern us is beyond me. But we do so and yet we can’t even get it right and just end up throwing good money away on undeserving causes. No wonder we are hated so much.

    • CherryPie says:

      It does seem to have that effect, which wasn’t my intention when posting it. Although I should have know better ;-)

      I think your last sentence sums things up nicely!

  8. ubermouth says:

    Interesting James that when one points out that the Israelis are not so peaceable that is glossed over.
    The mere fact that Israelis cry they only want to exist yet do everything in their power to prevent the Palestineans from enjoying an existence themselves. Look how Arafat was not allowed to seek medical help? A head of state being denied medical help? People being denied food and medicines?

    How would YOU like to be Palestinean, James? Would you not rebel against that tyranny?Think how muc worse off they’d be if they did not defend themselves? They’d be like the Kurds in Turkey.
    In response to you Lord T,the Arabs have never been the benefactors of the western world’s support. They have not elected terrorists,but they do need to have a government who will do more than ape John Lennon ‘Imagine’ songs.
    When dealing with such Israeli aggression there is only one way to prevent them taking right over.

  9. A very interesting post, Cherie and I am shocked by the degree of segregation. It must be a nightmare to have to through all these checkpoints and so on just to go about your daily business in the place where you were born.

  10. Lord T says:

    Cherie, Its one of those issues that always causes friction between two normally agreeable people when it comes up. I’m not agreeable at the best of times, sorry. Like you I have my perspective.

    Uber, Once the west has an oil substitute in place we will drop the arab nations like an unwanted toy and they will fall into the same place in our affections as Africa where atrocities well beyond palestine go on daily but we don’t even bother to report them now. Its unsetting for the lefties because they can’t blame whitey. So they just ignore it instead.

    Bring on the oil substitutes and we will see the arab worlds disappear from our radar until it will be where only the more stupid holidaymakers go. AK47, 2 years free accomodation courtesy of whatever bunch of nutters sees you first and ransom package or funeral arranged after a year.

  11. jameshigham says:

    Welshcakes says:

    I am shocked by the degree of segregation.

    So am I, Welshcakes but that is what Hamas has brought on to their own people.

    Uber asks:

    How would YOU like to be Palestinean, James?

    I wouldn’t, not the way they treat their children, dragging them into human shields and acting less than civilized people can be expected to do. As one commenter said at my site – Who else in the world would leave their children in the line of fire? Who else would send their children into a situation where they could end up dead and then go hysterical when they do?

    This is what the poor Palestinian children have to put up with. You saw it in the video, didn’t you? The way they were treating their kids.

    Can you point us to one vid where Jews are doing similar things to their own children? No, nor would anyone claiming to be civilized.

    This is an unpleasant topic but there are a lot of lies being told because there is a lot at stake. Even we are at loggerheads over it. But the video evidence and the documents show irrefutably that the Palestinian leadership and army are acting in their own people’s worst interests.

    Welshcakes can conveniently sidestep why it is happening, this segregation but in a war zone, the enemy must be segregated and processed separately.

    And this is a war zone we’re talking about.

  12. Iamhe says:

    Well, you stirred it up that time, Cherie.

    Platitudes do not cut it on these subjects.

    When Iranian theocracy and Saudi oil power and competing regional hegemony eventually dies, and western meddling ceases, that is when it will be solved, not before.

    You have to realise these folks are only proxies/pawns. Disposable, that is.

    Of course a nuke or two could take that bet of the table…..

  13. james wilson says:

    Sorry, I think, to have missed your discussion, but there are more things to foul up everywhere than time permits.

    The Israeli’s are not only peaceful, they are pathologically peaceful. That is one reason I do not support their continued existence and would like to see them get out of Dodge before the loaded dice of history are actually thrown out of this cup.

    Forty years ago there was no wall, and Palestinian employment in Israel was high. An entrepreneurial economy always needs labor. Palestinians were commonly thought of as the brightest people in the Middle East, for what that’s worth.

    Arafat and his merry band had no interest in anything but the removal of Jews from Palestine and a sovereign Palistinian nation. His terror saw to the impovershment and hopelessness of Palestinians that would be required to create so many potential forms of disaster. Cooperation was the enemy. He was very successful. There is no going back. A-Fat won.

    Palestinians are a people now so degraded that the their joy at the idea of Iranian nukes wiping the blot of Israel off maps does not give them pause about exactly where it is they live.

    The South Africans too did not know what to do in their situation, only that they could not move ahead and could not move back. They are moving out, in a peaceful diaspora from a territory that by all accounts is finally getting what is really coming to it. I do not imagine it is possible the Israelis will be so fortunate.

    I would love to see the ‘Palestinians’ get what is coming to them. Just as has every other Arab and Muslim culture. The sooner the Israelis leave the sooner that can happen. Clausewitz would look at a Middle-East without Jews and wet his pants in anticipation.

  14. jameshigham says:

    The rest of James Wilson’s comments hold water but the ’sooner they leave’ is not possible. Leave for where? That is their homeland, in terms of history, almost as long as the Canaanites. It’s like telling the English to get out because this is not their land.

  15. james wilson says:

    Mr. Highham, when the plate is finally dropped and smashed in a war with multiple fronts and proxies beyond all control, we will see then where the next diaspora pieces fall. The object for the Israelis might be to go to those places before the plate is smashed. Not that I would, or you would, or they should.

    Many have resources, financial or intellectual, to leave; many have dual passports already. To be brutally frank, nobody does it better.

    I am not telling them to get out because it is not their land; it is their land. Or because they have done anything wrong, but rather that they are the only ones capable of doing right. I would suggest to them that there is no good deed they can do that will not be punished, that the Arab and Muslim are as destructive as we think they are, that there is simply nothing to be gained there of permanence except extermination.

    The alternative is for the Israelis to do to the Muslim what the Muslim is enthusiastically prepared to do to the Jew. I do not ever see that happening. They will leave rather than exterminate their enemies. That is my only impotent point.

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