Hebden Bridge solidarity with Palestine
Olive Picking Campaign in Palestine

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Just showing the comrades at the HQ of ISM in Beit Sahurtg the Hebden Bridge website, and they all want to come and live with us here - the website is so impressive.

ISM Palestine under House arrest sends greetings to all

I just visited the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Bethlehem and there were only three of us there all out of the same taxi, the only visitors to this town largely dependent upon tourism. The taxi waited for us as there were no taxis in town. Bethlehem is under total curfew so only internationals are allowed out.

Yesterday, in the region where I am going tomorrow, 30 businesses were bulldozed in a small town and more demolitions are planned. The town Nazlat Isa is on the Green Line 3km west (Israeli side) of the proposed wall, so this action may be a way of persuading the community to leave their communities.The Wall is expected to make another 40,000 refugees and add to the 4 million Palestinians who are already refugees.

Chris Green

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Today was an English spring like day in Jerusalem. Most pleasant. Yesterday was high summer 26deg and rising. Great for those at play on Israeli beaches.Too hot for me and my 30 minutes wait at Waheera checkpoint outside Nablus.

And far too hot for the crying children, and the men and women who wait for upto 5 hours to go through one way or the other, if they are lucky.

I was told by a Palestinian man i could go straight through because i am a foriegner. But i thank him as usual and take my place with the people. As more women arrive i let them through. It seems only fair and natural in this heat. We seem to move a bit quicker. Our presence does help. But the sadness of it all weighs heavy.

The one soldier checking id,s does not think anything is wrong in this way of treating people. Where is he coming from you have to ask youself. An old lady sits exhausted in the road a few yards from shade of a lorry but cannot make it. I offer her some water and with help get her up and walk towards a taxi area 1 km away{ taxis are not allowed any closer to check point} A taxi comes to us at risk of losing his car for upto a week if caught.The old lady gets in but is not well. After my time here it seems obvious there must be a department in Israel which works round the clock to work out new ways of making life unpleasant for Palestinians and it must be very BIG.

Israel must be stopped for its own good.

In the back of the taxi are two women from england who have just spent 3 hours on the checkpoint. They are suffering from the heat too. But they have been back many times to Palestine to do this human rights work and will continue coming as anyone who has been here seems to do.

As I arrived in Jerusalem a Danish volunteer, Jonas, was just leaving. He was going to work in the fish factories in Norway,earn enough to come back for six months and continue his human rights work here. At his own expense.He intends to study arrabic at the university here too.This was a typical story. I asked him what it was that made people so keen to return. I could not understand whay it was. He said " you will find out"

I have. And I will return for the olive harvest campaign.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me make this trip.

I know it has made a difference to me and some difference for the people here. Meeting so many amazing and fantastic people has become my daily bread.

I have been priveledged to meet them, learn from them, and will continue to help as i can with the struggle of the people here to make a life with justice and peace. I urge everyone who can to come and witness what is happening here and take part in whatever activity they feel comfortable with. There are many things you can do.And it is all valuable.

We know another world is possible and it is great to struggle for it.
It makes us alive. And its all based in love. That is our strength.

Tuesday, January 7, 2003

OK I'm in the fastest internet cafe in Israel in Jerusalemİ after a spot of roadblock relocation in Nablus. Having a rest in blazing sunshine. It is very warm here. I am considering my next move - either home or back to the villages and helping the farmers. Both would help my health (I am suffering from the cigarette smoke that is all pervasive}. But in any event I don't want to leave this amazing country, and the incredible people I keep meeting. Working alongside Spanish, French, Swiss, American, Canadian, Swedes to name but a few. The Palestinian people as always are incredibly friendly and their hospitality cannot be exaggerated.

Then there are the large number of Jewish people from around the world as well as from Israel fighting against the brutalisation of Isreali people and the results of that on the Palestinians.

We visited the University of Tulkarum two days ago and were amazed at our reception. The teachers and students welcomed us with great warmth and excitement. They hardly get any visitors at all, and definitely not from other students in Europe or USA. This is a great opportunity for links to be made.

In the occupied West Bank, any attempted journey between villages or towns is one of the most depressing sights to behold. Long lines of people herded by soldiers to be made to wait for hours to go about their daily business. To try to convey the injustice and humiliation suffered by these people is so hard. It is also so hard to believe that the world ignores this brutality. We are reduced to tears at witnessing the degrading spectacle very quickly but have to remember this is the norm for these people every day. When darkness comes they are at even greater danger from the curfew.

This inhumane treatment of one people by another is all our resposibility. We must not abandon the Palestinians.

Such an imbalance of power and the ability to get away with just about anything is destroying Israel as well as the Palestinian people.

Tony in Jerusalem


Wednesday, January 1, 2003

The fourth Hebden Bridge representative to join the International Solidarity Movement left for Palestine just before Christmas. Tony Martin, who has been very active in Calderdale against the War has been in touch:

Tony Martin

Christmas message from Bethlehem

I am Tony Martin from Hebden Bridge, the fourth volunteer from Calder Valley to come to Palestine to join the international peace campaign to give help to Palestinians and Israeli peace activists as they try to create a safer place where action from some settlers and Isreali armed forces can put them in danger.

Christmas Day in Bethlehem was a wet and sad one with only a fraction of the normal numbers attending Midnight Mass at the church of the holy Nativity. Following more than three weeks of almost total curfew the israeli tanks and troops withdrew for two days to allow the visitors, pilgrims and Palestinians (with appropriate passes) to enter Bethlehem.

Normaly the church would be overflowing and there would be upto 10,000 in Manger Square. Our international group including Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch volunteers had good views and enjoyed the experience of being amongst so many from around the world wishing only for justice and peace.

After 3 succesful public meetings in Hebden Bridge ,aİgroup to supportİmore volunteers has been established. If you want to know more about visiting Palestine or supporting the group contact Chris Green

Palestinian Support Group

Support group singing Palestinian carols
around the tree on Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Chris Green and Mike Prior from Hebden Bridge are taking part in the International Solidarity Movement's Olive Picking Campaign in Palestine, taking place for a month, starting in mid October.

Chris is taking a sabbatical from his lecturing job, while Mike is setting aside time from his energy management consultancy.

Chris and Mike

The International Solidarity Movement is a Palestinian led coalition of non violent direct action aimed at challenging the Israeli occupation.

"The purpose of our visit is to support and strengthen the work of the Palestinian and Israeli justice groups. In previous campaigns members of ISM have removed roadblocks, ridden with ambulances, delivered food and water during curfew and acted as witnesses." said Chris.

The Olive Harvest
The Olive Harvest is vital to both the Palestinian economy and Palestinian culture. A quarter of the Palestinian agricultural sector is dedicated to olive production. Households which in the past have had alternative work in Israel are unable to undertake this work and are now completely dependent upon the olives. Therefore Palestinian families are dependent even more than usual upon the Olives harvest.

Aware of the importance of the Olive Harvest, the Israeli army and illegal Israeli settlers have been making life almost impossible for Palestinians to access their fields.

According to an Oxfam report publsiehd earlier this year, in one typical community Salfeet region, near Nablus, 70% of the roads have been closed by the Israeli Defence Force, 7000 olive trees have been uprooted, and several tankers of olive oil have been emptied out by soldiers at roadblocks. The road blocks are part of the "closure" policy implemented by tge Israeli government in 1991. This is a form of collective punishment against the entire Palestinian community, and a violation of the fourth Geneva convention. There are at least 140 checkpoints in the West Bank alone, which may take several hours to pass through, and some towns have been under almost constant curfew.

Olive oil needs to be picked and pressed on the same day. but because of closures there is a risk that the oil will be of poorer quality. This results in an inability to export, and a fall in local demand because of the lack of work for Palestinians, and the difficulty for merchants to come to the villages to buy. It seems very likely that this year's price will be lower than that fetched last year.

Maintenance of the olive crops is also neglected because of the threat of violence against individual farmers working in their fields. According to Oxfam " the biggest impact of actual and threatened violence by settlers comes during harvest, when damage to crops can devastate rural livelihoods." and the report concludes "Parties to the conflict must take steps now to prevent this humanitarian crisis turning into a full-blown humanitarian disaster."

"The recent escalation of violence in Palestine including the rocket attack by the Israeli army in Gaza which injured over 50 people gives us great cause for concern- but at the end of our visit we will be able to leave,said Chris, but for 3 million Palestinians it is their home."

Chris and Mike will be sending back regular emails during their visit which will be posted here on the Hebden Bridge Web.

Message: Saturday 12th October

Just a first quick note to say we've arrived easily and safely.

We've had a very friendly welcome from the people we are staying with in East Jerusalem, but there are very few tourists, although I've counted 5 news teams.

Talked to interesting Palestinians and Fransiscan friars, and have had a chat to the ISM co-ordinator on the phone.

Questioning on entry wasn't as traumatic as we might have expected, as some people are still coming in as independent tourists.

Our hotel the Mount of Olives is ideally placed for looking over the whole city but the restaurant wasn't open, and we had to walk 5 minutes to a recommended eating place where we were the only customers, but we had an excellent salad.

We visited most of the ancient Christian sites on the first day, where Jessus taught the Lords Prayer, where he wept for Jerusalem (a very moving sight with the chapel window overlooking the city, and with Fransiscan friars having a go at Blair and Bush for their war mongering- Also visited Via Delarosa (Way of the Cross) and the very interesting Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where every square inch is holy and has been graffitied by visitors. Temple Mount has been out of bounds to tourists for 2 years. The Garden of Gethsemane with 2000 year old olive trees was also moving- how much suffering have they seen ???

Message: Saturday 26th October

The only reason we are in the cafe is Jayoos, the place we were going to has been declared a closed military zone. Even so we could not travel there directly but only through roadblacks and on dirt tracks as the good roads are settler only (and a few taxis). Palestinians on these roads woiuld be arrested.

Some of us went to Jayoos last week for a small demonstration; 10 internationals and 30-40 locals, while others kept on protecting olive pickers. Jayoos is where they are building the wall at the moment and bulldozing all the olive trees. "We will replant them for you," say the military. "No-one will get shot," say the military. On the day we were there that was the case. The kids shout back, "Let us throw stones and die!"

The private security company guarding the bulldozers have machine guns. The brave woman from the Red Crescent runs up and tries to pull back the young men who are having their arms thrust behind their back for plastic handcuffs and several times she succeeds in getting them away.

We also succeed in getting the younger crazier squaddies to not point their rifles at people. "I'm only using the site to see what is going on," they indicate. Then another stun grenade goes off. The tear gas is worse, probably 20 rounds before we had pulled back far enough to satisfty the army.

Of course, we can't show how bad it was.

Two video camera tapes and two still cameras were confiscated!!

Read more about the Wall or Separation barrier on www.btselem.org. It's a bit dry but you can find other articles and pictures. 80% of the agricultural land of Jayoos will disappear behind the massive wall, trench and free fire footprint zone.

It is the wailing and keening of the older women that is the worst. It is hard for me and you to understand the vital importance of the Olive Crop. 25% of the West Bank economy depends upon it. It has been people's lives for hundreds of years, and yet they are too frightened to pick in areas near settlements or near roads in case they get shot at, and in other areas like Jayuoos the fields are being destroyed.

The mayor, a brilliant negotiator, declared it a successful day. No-one was killed and no-one arrested but lives were destroyed. (he also declared us heroes for going with a detainee and sitting with him for 2 hours (he was blindfolded and handcuffed with head down) until released. He worked the blindfold up and smiled at us. His brother burst into trears when he saw his elder brother return

We never have enough people observing in Palestine. If anyone fancies the political and great educational experience contact us Perhaps the most useful thing we can do is buying Palestinain goods. We hope to import some soap and oil later in the year

Chris Green      Mike Prior

Tuesday, November 5, 2002 Report from Quffn.

Eighty per cent of existing agricultural land moved behind the wall, no travel to work in Israel for the last 2 years. Olive crop income, what is left of it, reduced because the market price has fallen and people had to harvest early becfore the bulldozers knocked their trees down. One man , I.K, is a teacher his degree paid for by his father's income from olives. He has now had all his 800 trees either bulldozed or taken behind th fence/ wall the 100 metre wide construction we see being built every day. ( It's due to be finished in 7 months. ) He daren't tell his 80 year old bedriiden mother about the trees being stolen "It would kill her" he said

Thursday, November 7, 2002


Wedding attacked

[Falami, Qalqilya] Tear gas and sound grenades have just been thrown at Palestinian villagers and international civilians engaged in a wedding celebration out in the olive groves of Falami.

Traditional dress, singing and dancing was part of the villagers plan to change the mood on the ground and assert their presence on land that is being destroyed by the Israeli military. This nonviolent act of protest is being attacked by Israeli soldiers who have already used tear gas, sound grenades, and now have their weapons aimed at the unarmed civilians. The group of Palestinian villagers and internationals are refusing to be dispersed.

Wedding attacked

Yesterday the French Consul General visited Falami and attempted to negotiate with the Israeli authorities over the destruction and isolation of this agricultural land, which is the source of livelihood for thousands of Palestinian farmers in this region. The French government, which has invested in an agricultural irrigation project on this land, failed to persuade the Israeli authorities to halt its destruction. The Israeli military accompanied bulldozers to the olive groves this morning to find the wedding celebration in full swing.


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