by Cllr Marion Talbot
The situation in Palestine is very different to what I imagined before I set off with Labour Party colleagues. Although I read information on the web and newspaper reports, I was not prepared for what I saw there.
When we were deliberately tear gassed by Israeli soldiers, for observing a peaceful protest in Bil’in, I was shocked. We had done nothing to warrant the attack, and the sheer unfairness of it made me really angry, but also scared. My point of reference, about how people behave toward each other, was gone. I was slightly anxious every time I saw an Israeli soldier, (lots) as I was unsure how s/he might react.
We were only there for four days, so imagine how it is for Palestinians, who are stopped, searched, questioned, made to wait at checkpoints for no good reason, forced to leave their homes, to live like that all the time. I don’t think I would have the courage and fortitude that the Palestinians we met displayed.
We were lucky that Labour2Palestine’s contacts in the area meant we saw and spoke to a range of Israeli and Palestinian politicians, who were committed to a peaceful resolution; the British Consul and UN who provided excellent briefings and Human Rights NGOs.
Visiting Palestine was a sobering experience. It’s hard to sum up my feelings, and capture what we saw, heard and learned. For me, so many images stand out, so I will just pick a couple.
The Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD) showed us the rubble where Palestinian homes had once stood. Demolition notices are issued, but often put on rocks or posts so people don’t know their home is to be demolished. If they do see the notices, they have no date on them, so you know your home will be demolished, you just don’t know when. It could be days, weeks or years. We were told that children take their favourite toy to school with them, in case they come home to find it lost under the rubble. As if the misuse of power isn’t enough, you then get presented with a bill to clear the rubble!
When we visited the Al Amari refugee camp, a maze of winding alleys, poorly lit, strewn with rubbish due to the UN strike, a young woman about 8 months pregnant, walked past. I have three children and looked forward to their births as a time of joy and of hope. I wondered how she viewed her future and the future of her unborn baby.
People should not be forced to live like this. It violates human rights. The international community needs to act and act quickly.
Cllr Marion Talbot