Caabu and LFPME delegation visits the West Bank, August 2014

Posted by Caabu on 04 Sep 2014

A delegation from Caabu and Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME) visited the West Bank including Jerusalem from 28-31 August.  The delegation included Jon Ashworth MP and Stephen Kinnock, who is the Labour candidate in Aberavon. They were accompanied by Caabu Director, Chris Doyle and Komal Adris from LFPME.

There were meetings with Palestinian and Israeli officials as well as fact-finding visits to Hebron, the Jordan Valley, E1 area and Palestinian villages under threat from settler violence.

The visit took place just after an indefinite ceasefire in Gaza had been announced and so the whole Gaza crisis dominated talks. The delegation visited the UNRWA headquarters in Jerusalem where they were able to meet volunteers packing food parcels for Palestinians in shelters in Gaza as well as get an extensive briefing on the UN’s operations there.  The key message was that the private sector must be able to import construction materials into Gaza.  Given that 18,000 homes had been destroyed and 108,000 Palestinians rendered homeless, this is clearly vital.  They also highlighted the dangers of unexploded ordinance (UXOs) in Gaza.

Another major area of concern is water. During the conflict the UN has made a preliminary assessment that 35km of water and 30 km of sewage pipelines had been destroyed or partially damaged.

The delegation also visited Makassad hospital on the Mount of Olives to meet victims of the Israeli bombing. At the time there were 75 Palestinian patients from Gaza with more expected all with acute injuries and trauma. The majority had lost limbs. One fam-

Stephen Kinnock and Jon Ashworth meet 4-year-old Sharif from Gaza

ily we met had a 4-year-old who had lost a leg and an eye. His mother had lost both her legs; his father one.  Other injuries included massive wounds and severe burns. Most of the patients arrived with very high-resistant bacteria infections which only responded to last resort antibiotics.

Outside the hospital there had been rioting, one of many indications of increased tensions in the divided city.  At Shua’afat refugee camp there were daily clashes. This was where Muhammad Abu Khdeir lived, the 16-year-old boy who was seized and torched alive in July.

Caabu delegations concentrate on the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank. We visited herding communities to the east of Jerusalem under threat from the E1 settlement. The herding community at Khan Al Ahmar, is like all of them, under threat of demolition and relocation. Their spokesman tells us that the settlers are using a drone to monitor their activity. This particularly applies to anything that appears to be construction, defined they were told as anything above 10 centimetres. It also extends to children’s play areas - in February this year, the Israeli army confiscated swings, slides and other playground equipment donated by the Italian government. It could be their homes or schools next.

In the Jordan Valley Oxfam took the delegation to meet Palestinian farmers and herders. Once again they suffer issues of access to their land and lack of water due to extraction by settlers.  The Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea area makes up 30 per cent of the West Bank but increasingly is off limits to Palestinians. The EU has condemned what it has described as the forcible transfer of Palestinians out of the valley.  Previous Caabu delegations had seen demolished homes that have been a feature of the Israeli occupation. At a herb packing factory, the manager told us that it cost them double to export herbs via Ben Gurion airport than for an Israeli farmer.

Hebron was as ever very tense. Earlier this year the Israeli authorities approved the first new settlement in the middle of the city for decades at the Rajabi house.  We saw most of area H2 including the sterile streets – sterile meaning Palestinians cannot use them either by foot or in cars. One settler approached the delegation and argued that Britain was about to be taken over from ISIS.   The situation for Palestinians in Area H2 is dire with unemployment believed to be up at around 70 per cent.

 

 

Overall the climate was very tense. The ceasefire understandings over Gaza may not hold and there are no realistic prospect of a resumption of talks between Israel and the PLO. The Israeli announcement of a massive confiscation of land in the West Bank on the day the delegation left reinforced the view that only when ending occupation is addressed will there be any chance of moving forward.  

 

Stephen Kinnock has written the following after the delegation for the Huffington Post  - It’s the Occupation, Stupid

Chris Doyle wrote the following column for Al Arabiya - Where's the West Bank ceasefire?