Wednesday, July 05, 2006
"The Israelis are a thundering nuisance"
Last night, Swindon Stop the War Coalition and CND hosted a public meeting to discuss friendship links with the town of Beit Fajjar, which is a small town of 12000 in the district of Bethlehem. We have a delegation of five going in October to build links.
The speaker was Joanne Moston, who is a health visitor from Cheltenham, and who frequently travels to Palestine to support the Deheisheh refugee camp. The stories she told were truly traumatic. One case she mentioned from when she was in Bethlehem in April this year was of a raid by IDF troops who seized two men, a Moslem and a Christian, saying they were terrorists. Afterwards they said they Moslem man was the one they suspected of terrorism and the other man had been taken by mistake, but both had been killed.
The bodies were not returned for 48 hours, itself an insult, as by religious and local custom they should be buried straight away. But much more shockingly when the bodies were returned the family of the Christian man asked Joanne to come and bear witness to the fact that all his internal organs had been taken, including his eyes, presumably for transplants in Israel, without the consent of the family.
Allan Thipthorpe, a stalwart of the local peace movement, (who has the idiosyncrasy or always wearing his army beret, medals and regimental blazer at peace events) spoke of how when he as serving in Palestine during the late 1940s more than 700 British conscripts were killed by Zionist terrorists. This has never been forgotten by their Veterans Association, and these former soldiers regularly raise money for medical aid for the Palestinian people. Allan made the brillaint observation: "The Israelis are a thundering nuisance".
The media coverage of the Zionist occupation is still extremely biased, and the full scale of Israeli atrocities is minimised by the western media. But Joanne reported how her trips to Palestine have had extensive coverage in the Cheltenham local papers, and even our meeting and planned visit received wide coverage in Swindon and Wiltshire, including GWR radio. Building concrete links at a community level, between organisations, churches, mosques, trade unions, womens’ groups, etc. can provide an important alternative channel for information.
The Palestinians also desperately need the links with the outside world, and the practical assistance we can give. The Palestinian economy has been devastated by closures of the border with Israel, the withholding of $50 million per month of taxes legally owned to the Palestinians by the Israelis, and the wall. The war has also stopped tourism. Not only are links with the outside world vital for their morale, but can also provide outlets for the small scale handicraft production that now sustains their economy. There is a great deal of potential for selling Palestinian craft goods at Churches, Mosques, local fetes and other events.