Hebden Bridge support for Palestinian villages
Report from Ron Taylor on Palestinian villages which have received some support from people in Hebden Bridge
Friday, 30 October 2009
Over the last two years or so people from the Hebden Bridge area have given generously to Palestinian causes. Much of the money raised has gone to organisations such as Medical Aid for Palestinians. But some has been given directly to the people of two West Bank villages - At-Tuwani and Artas - which are under daily threat from the military occupation of Palestine. Particular thanks are due to Vicky and Maggie who asked guests at their birthday parties to donate money for Palestine rather than give presents, and to Janet who donated cash raised at a social event in Mytholmroyd.
Following a recent short trip to the West Bank, Hebweb has kindly allowed me some space to report on what is happening in these places and to let readers know how the money is being used.
The village of At-Tuwani lies in the South Hebron Hills in the far south of the West Bank. It is home to about 250 people but is also a centre for several remote hamlets tucked away in the surrounding hills. Whilst some villagers have jobs in the larger towns to the north, the majority depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. At the best of times it is hard to make a living from the soil in this arid region. And, for the Palestinians living here, this is not the best of times.
At-Tuwani has been a village under threat for many years. The land is wanted by the Israelis for its policy of colonisation but the Palestinians, who have had a presence here for possibly a thousand years, are not. The Israeli settlement of Ma’on was established in the 1980s. Under international law it was built illegally. The settlement encroached on to village land, but worse was to come when the outpost settlement of Havat Ma’on sprouted on Hill 833 in 2001, even closer to At-Tuwani. (The outpost is illegally built even under Israeli law, but the Israeli authorities allow it to remain – common practice in the West Bank).
With virtual impunity the settlers, who are armed and protected by the Israeli army, harass and attack the Palestinians. Their activities are part of what has become known as ‘the silent transfer’ - make life difficult enough for them and they will leave. Many Palestinian villages have disappeared in this way. But the people of At-Tuwani are determined to stay on their land.
There have been regular instances of settler violence against shepherds and their animals, crops have been destroyed and water sources contaminated. But the most despicable part of the campaign against the people of At-Tuwani began in 2004 when children, making their way from outlying hamlets to school in the village, were attacked. One 6 year old girl suffered head wounds when, during one attack, she was hit by rocks. She never returned to school.
The village sought help and the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT), a remarkable group of people mainly from the US, stepped in. CPT members began to accompany the children to and from school, but they, too, were subject to violence from the settlers.
After the matter was raised by Israeli peace activists in the Knesset, the government of Israel made a remarkable decision. Instead of prosecuting the attackers or evacuating the illegal outpost, it ordered the army to provide a military escort for the children.
Last year the CPT published a report about the escort system. Its detailed findings show that the army is half-hearted in its approach to the protection of Palestinian children. During the 2007 /8 school year the escort was late nearly 40% of the time and on 94 occasions failed to accompany the children along the entire length of the route. The failure of the escort to carry out its duties adequately means the children are vulnerable.
The CPT recorded 14 occasions during 2007/8 when the children were attacked. No settler has ever been charged with offences of violence against the children in this area.
The 2008/9 school year saw a similar pattern and, even though the current school year is only a few weeks old, it seems that little has changed . . . At this point, and I know this may appear to be management of the news, I will stop writing as I have just checked my email inbox. I have in the last few minutes received the following press release from the CPT in At-Tuwani and it needs no further comment from me. Please read.
During the 2008-2009 school year, settlers used violence against the
Back to the money. The cash given to At-Tuwani goes towards the following: