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Friday, 16 November 2012

Postcard from Palestine 7 - Normal life in Palestine

Hebden Bridge's Ron Taylor is a regular visitor to Palestine, part of an international movement of supporters.

This morning I went up the hill to Bethlehem. I thought there might be a protest against the Israeli attacks on Gaza. As I turned the corner into Manger Square there was indeed a crowd outside the Peace Centre (closed, I noticed; today is a public holiday - the ironically named Palestine Independence Day). But there was no protest. The crowd, a mixture of tourists and a few dozen bemused young Palestinians,was watching a Japanese rock band, Rock of Asia (I kid you not), perform a set which included a rock version of Ave Maria. Why ?

Later I learned that a handful of Palestinians had set up a vigil by the Nativity Church yesterday evening and would be doing so again tonight. But there were no mass protests, no anger on the streets - just resignation that Israel was bombing Gaza once more. And, of course, the feeling of powerlessness.It has happened many times before and will happen again: it is almost normal. Life goes on. People need to make a living (such as it is under military occupation) and they go about their ‘normal’ lives. The roaring sounds of Israeli air force US made F-16s  in the skies above Bethlehem on their way to deliver more US made weapons to the people of Gaza just add to the ‘normality’.

Back at home in Beit Sahour I search for up to date coverage on the television. Most channels are in Arabic but I have access to BBC World, CNN and Al Jazeera. The latter is far superior to the others - they have reporters who actually challenge Israeli spokespeople. CNN, for a US station, is reasonable. But the BBC ! I am ashamed. Its coverage barely questions the lies, half-truths, sophistry flowing through my TV screen. Cowed, no doubt, by years of accusations of anti-Israel bias and the usual smears of anti-semitism the BBC now seems incapable of anything approaching real reporting on Israel/Palestine (Jeremy Bowen excepted).

Mainly missing from the media’s coverage of what is currently happening in Gaza is context. Here is some, provided by a Jewish Israeli citizen who lives in a community near Gaza.

Adam Keller's Crazy Country Blog

The context is, of course, much larger than the last couple of weeks or so. It goes back decades when Israel ethnically cleansed 750, 000 Palestinians during the period 1947 to 1949. Many of those ended up in Gaza and were never allowed to return to their homes and their livelihoods (despite the fact that United Nations Resolution 194 states that they have the right to do so.) To this day the majority of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees and their descendants.

When I heard about the young Gazan who was mortally wounded whilst playing football on November 8th (he was wearing a Real Madrid shirt and dreamed of becoming a professional footballer - Gazans still have their dreams, if little else), I thought of another piece of the context, something I read a few years ago but which took place in 1949.

“On August 12 1949, a platoon of (Israeli) soldiers in the Negev, based in Kibbutz Nirim not far from Beit Hanun, on the northern edge of today’s Gaza Strip, captured a 12 -year -old Palestinian girl and locked her up for the night in their military base near the kibbutz. For the next few days she became the platoon’s sex slave as the soldiers shaved her head, gang-raped her and in the end murdered her.........On 29 October 2003, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz publicised the story on the basis of the testimonies of the rapists: 22 soldiers had taken part in the barbaric torture and execution of the girl. When they were brought to trial, the severest punishment the court handed down was a prison term of 2 years for the soldier who had done the actual killing.”

(From The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe.)

This account appeared in The Guardian

Meanwhile israel continues to steal more land and displace more Palestinians in the West Bank.

I will spend this weekend in the South Hebron Hills with Ta’ayush (The Arab-Jewish partnership) challenging attempts by illegal settlers and their aiders and abetters, the Israeli army, to push Palestinians farmers from their rightful lands. The ethnic cleansing did not end in 1949 - it continues each day.

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago.

Postcard from Palestine



Ron Taylor

Mona accompanies her father when he grazes the family’s sheep. They live in Mufakkara, a tiny rural community, which the Israeli government wants to destroy to make way for a firing zone for the Israeli army - illegal under international law but what does Israel care ? It can do what it wants without fear of sanction.

See also

Postcard from Palestine 6 -Beer festival and closed military zones (2 November 2012)

Postcard from Palestine 5 - April 2012

Postcard from Palestine 4 - attacked by settlers

Postcard from Palestine 3 - detained by the Israeli army (16 March 2012)

Postcard from Palestine 2 (19 Feb 2012)

HebWeb Forum: Postcard from Palestine

Postcard from Palestine 1 (8 Feb 2012)

HebWeb News - Hebden Bridge Old Gits support Palestinian farmers

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