AGM Report

Once again we managed to make our AGM an informative and social event, rather than a typical tedious bureaucratic affair. Sadly Andree, our chair, was not well but she had prepared a slide show which Jean our vice chair presented.
The pictures reminded us of the events we had witnessed throughout the year in Sabastiya. In the spring two young football coaches from Brentford Football Club travelled to the West Bank and were treated like celebrities by the Palestinian football fans. This is a joint project with Hounslow Ramallah Twinning Association. We then spent several weeks worrying about the Israelis taking over the extensive ruins area, but eventually the contractors left. Whether this was due to our protests is not clear. The big project of the year was the hens and cockerels that HAFSA paid for. By now the roughly 400 hens have produced chicks and will keep providing eggs for many needy families.
Cathie our treasurer reported on our best year of fundraising so far with nearly £6000 raised in donations, a couple of socials including our ‘Hen Party’ and stalls at the Hanwell Carnival and Brentford Festival. HAFSA produced a range of greeting cards to raise funds. Some money was spent on Eid presents for poor families, the most of our money was spent on hens and cockerels, leaving a balance of over £2000.
Abu Yasser joined us from Sabastiya via Skype for most of the AGM.
After a refreshment break we were lucky to have several informative speakers. First up was Sir Vincent Fean, recent British Consul in Jerusalem, who emphasised the importance of visits to Palestine to let the Palestinians know that they are not forgotten. There are plenty of opportunities for schools to set up links with Palestinian schools. Vincent also encouraged us to raise Palestine in the election campaign and there was some thought provoking discussion where not everybody agreed with his idea of a two state solution with land swap to take account of the facts created by Israel’s illegal settlements.
Eleanor Tomlinson and John McGlone were part of the Zaytoun tour in the autumn. Some of their friends thought they were mad, wanting to spend their holiday in what they considered a war zone, but both encouraged others to visit and experience the hospitality provided by the Palestinians in the West Bank. They arrived a bit late for the olive harvest, but a tree had been kept for them so they could try their hand at picking olives.
Last but not least spoke Stephen Bell, a trade unionist who has campaigned on Palestine for over 40 years. He reported on how impressed he is with the resilience of the Palestinians, both in the West Bank and Gaza, where they for example have developed a new type of cement that will allow rebuilding while the blockade goes on. The discussion raised the one sided reporting in the media; occasionally pressure put on the BBC has led to changes. Likewise it was raised that some tours to Israel just show the Israeli side even when a brief visit to the ‘dangerous’ West Bank is included. We know that the Palestinians welcome visitors and are keen to tell their story.
Monika Eady

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