1) Report from Sabastiya – Andree Ryan
2) Sabastiya girls school celebrate their Annual Open Day.
3) Our 2018 AGM
4) Events for your diary
5) Hafsa projects
1) Report by Andree from her recent stay in Sabastiya. April 2018
I have just come back from a month’s stay in the Occupied West Bank, spent mostly in Sabastiya and also Yanoun and Bethlehem.
What can I say? The situation on the ground is worsening by the day. New settlements are sprouting everywhere on top of hills, old ones are expanding, some are now huge industrial complexes. Today, the proportion of Israeli to Palestinians living in the Occupied West Bank is 1:6.
I spoke with many Palestinians, some openly speak of the death of the two states solution, and the Oslo Accords. Many are just waiting, trying to survive and provide for their families, they have lost hope and are “very tired of it all”. They feel cheated by the international community, Israel and their own Palestinian Authority.
Oslo Accords 1993?
The Oslo accords are 25 years old and Israel has not kept their side of the bargain, yet they are still in operation when it benefits them. Take Area C for example, it covers 70% of the Occupied West Bank, is controlled by Israel, but was supposed to be handed over within 5 years of the Oslo Accords being signed. Area C contains most of the natural resources of Palestine and is now covered with illegal Jewish settlements. It has been really and truly appropriated and it is obvious that it will not be given back.
Most of Sabastiya’s rich heritage lies in area C. It is now administered by “The Israel Nature and Parks Authority” which has issued leaflets for Israeli tourists. Visitors are warned not to go into the village and are always protected by heavily armed soldiers, who guard all the entrances to the area and hide in the olive groves. Two Sabastiya men were shot in the leg this April 4th when hundreds of Israeli tourists visited Sabastiya on their Jewish Passover holiday. The young men are now recovering at home. One of them is due a further operation to insert a plate in his leg, he said he was trying to comfort a frightened child when he was shot.
Since then there have been more incursions by the Israeli army, tear gas shot at the village and landing in homes where many children are present.
But who brings Israel to account?
It looks like Palestinians need a new strategy, the Oslo Accords are truly dead.
One of the young men shot by Israeli soldiers during the Passover visit to the heritage sites in Sabastiya by hundreds of Israeli tourists.
April 2018 – Israeli soldiers and their vehicles
The “rules” given out by Israel for visitors and the leaflet that Israel has produced.
It looks as if the land and the area belong to them … and not to the Palestinians who live in Sabastiya.
April 2018 – people get ready for a music concert in the wonderful peaceful, central garden café well away from where Israeli tourists visit. Despite soldiers, gunfire, tear gas, leaflets and rules …… life goes on nevertheless. Sumud.
2) Sabastiya School for Girls:
We have built up a strong link with them over the years. They are always happy when we go and visit. The school has just had its annual Open Day – where girls of all ages put on a show of singing, dancing and performance, as well as displays of their art and craft work – to the rest of the school and to enthusiastic family and friends. Just like here!
Sabastiya school for girls open day April 2018 – performing to proud family and friends.
The girls are wearing the beautiful, traditional embroidered dresses.
3) Hafsa AGM held on 17 February 2018
Dr Marwan Daweish was our Keynote speaker.
A Palestinian, he is Principal lecturer in Peace Studies, at the University of Coventry and MA Course Director and tutor at the MA in Peace and Conflict Studies and author of Popular Protest in Palestine.
His main points: He expressed his appreciation for all we do for Palestine.
He was particularly interested in our support to the village at the time of the sewage crisis a few years ago when we helped their nonviolent resistance. It is vital that we encourage nonviolent resistance.
He believes that Palestine cannot just by themselves solve the current situation, the imbalance of power is too big. Palestine needs the international community. Like the anti-apartheid campaign for South Africa, we need a similar wide campaign for Palestine to add leverage. The BDS movement is very important. We need to speak out, educate, lobby, it will not happen overnight, but it will happen. Things have already changed a lot since the 80s when hostility towards the Palestinians was everywhere.
Internationals can do different things and some even act as protective shields in Palestine, it all counts and amplifies the voice of the Palestinians.
The difficulty we have, compared to South Africa where there was one authority, the ANC, is that in Palestine there is no unity. One role as internationals can be also to try and help facilitate unity.
We need to reach out to different people in whatever ways we can, including the Jewish community.
Visiting Palestine is also very important as this is when people see the truth and the severity of the situation for themselves.
He wished us good luck and said that we bring a human message of the Palestinians to the UK.
4) Dates and events for your diary (more details to follow): we aim to raise awareness and raise funds for us to continue our projects with Sabastiya.
- Hanwell Carnival Stall Saturday June 16 – help always appreciated
- Brentford Festival Stall Sunday Sept 2 – likewise!
- Summer Social on Saturday 4 August (details to follow)
A mini cultural Palfest : every Friday evening in November: poetry, talks, music, film.
October Visit to Sabastiya – we hope to progress details of this in the next few weeks. It is timed to coincide with the very important olive harvest. Please get in touch if you are considering coming in principle. We would be leaving around 8th October, with possibly 2 nights in Jerusalem or Bethlehem before moving onto Sabastiya.
5) Hafsa projects:
Grey water recycling: we are working with students from an Najah University in Nablus. A prototype will be tried out in one house and evaluated. For this to be rolled out more widely we will need to apply for funding.
School Links: we are still very keen to establish a link with a school in Ealing and have several leads to pursue. The National Union of Teachers organise regular annual visits by teachers to Palestine.
Trees: planting trees is always important in Palestine. If you would like to buy one to plant in Sabastiya get in touch – they are £10 each.
Gas Masks: all the gas masks we bought have been distributed, but more are needed as incursions by the Israeli army are now more frequent. This month already two older citizens have been taken to hospital for inhaling tear gas that were shot towards their houses. A gas mask cost £50 and can also be used against chemical attack.