Socialist Worker

Palestine under occupation

Joan Beazleigh is a member of the Campaign for Palestinian Rights, she joined an international solidarity delegation to the Palestinian territories in December 2001 – She told Socialist Worker about her experiences.

Issue No. 1786

'Everywhere we went we bumped into a funeral. We went to the town of Salfeet in the West Bank. Many houses had been bulldozed just two days before we'd got there. They'd built a little hospital. It has four beds and two doctors for 60,000 people. People from Ramallah have to use the hospital as well. There are lots of stillbirths.

Every Palestinian was on a state of alert for the whole two weeks that I was there. You couldn't do the normal things you would do in other cities. This is an occupation, and the Israelis are behaving like occupiers. The Israelis had invaded Nablus and shot Hosni, a young graduate, just days before we arrived. He had three children.

He went to tell his friend that the Israelis were coming and the soldiers shot him in the head-they said he was a militant! There are checkpoints everywhere. I always refuse to show my passport because what Israel is doing is against international law. If you wave a Palestinian flag anywhere in the Palestinian areas you will be arrested.

All across Palestine there are roads that join up the Israeli settlements. These are military zones controlled by the Israelis. Palestinians cannot drive on these roads. Israel puts roadblocks across Palestinian villages so people can't get in and out. We went to the village of Yassouf to remove the roadblocks there. If people want to get anywhere they have to come out of town, climb over the two roadblocks, and then get a service taxi from the other side. A journey that should take half an hour could take hours.

The only way Palestinians can get food into villages is to have trucks back to back across the roadblocks. Palestinians cannot remove these roadblocks themselves because the Israelis would shoot them. This is an everyday story of life in occupied territory. We also went to a village called Marda. There is a settlement built on top of the village. All 250 settlements are built this way.

The settlers go by in their cars with their guns-they're more dangerous than the soldiers. They shoot without provocation. The Israelis have built pipes to carry sewage down to the river, which is the only water the Palestinians have.

To get to Bir Zeit University students have to go through the checkpoint. The Israeli soldiers sometimes keep them waiting for hours. They take away IDs and do not give them back. Students and people going to work are just held up at the checkpoint for half a day for no reason. We demolished the checkpoint and formed a human chain that the Palestinians could walk through.

The road was clear for the whole day. People could walk from Ramallah to Bir Zeit. In the afternoon the Israelis sent soldiers and tanks. They started shooting teargas. I was hit with teargas myself. Before I joined the international delegation I stayed with some Palestinian friends who live in Ramallah on the West Bank.

They have two children of school age who hadn't been able to go to school for six months because of the Israeli closure. Their school was destroyed in December as it backs onto a Palestinian police headquarters that Israel blew up. Yet this situation I have described in the West Bank is nowhere near as bad as it is in the Gaza Strip.

One million people live in the Gaza Strip. It is the most overpopulated area in the world. The Israelis wouldn't allow us to go there. They attacked our group and hospitalised some people when we tried to enter Gaza.'

To get involved in raising solidarity for the Palestinians contact the Campaign for Palestinian Rights. Visit www.palestinian-rights.com

Debate. What is the future for Zionism? With Tariq Ali (writer and broadcaster) and Jonathan Freedland (Guardian journalist). Monday 18 February, 6pm, Peacock Theatre, LSE, Portugal Street, London WC2.


For Palestinians just getting clean water is difficult

'After 11 September Palestine went to the top of the agenda. Now it seems as if Bush has given Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, the green light to do what he likes.

Overall there are three and a half million Palestinian refugees. The majority still live in refugee camps. Nobody has the right to take away their right to return. Yet every Jewish person can go and live in Israel. Everywhere we went we saw soldiers with guns.

An elderly French woman on the international delegation said to an Israeli soldier, 'Seeing you here reminds me of when I was young in France and we took in a Jewish family who were fleeing the Nazis. Seeing you behaving like this reminds me of the Germans.'

He turned around and said to her, 'Does that mean you think we are like the Nazis?' ''Yes,' she replied. He just went berserk, waving his gun around. It's incredible. The Israelis are so blinded to what they are doing. The mood of the Palestinians was modified slightly by the fact that we were there.

I couldn't help wondering how awful it is for them when we're not there. In Palestine just getting clean or hot water or going down the road is difficult. But the more oppressed the Palestinians are, the more defiant they become. The younger people are very angry. The peace process was a fraud from the beginning.

The Israelis were still building settlements and killing Palestinians under previous governments. Sharon is killing more. How many Palestinians have to die? They are the most oppressed people in the world, living in refugee camps. As soon as the peace process collapsed all the media and political leaders blamed Yasser Arafat.

They said Israel had made many concessions-what concessions? The Palestinian Authority would have just 22 percent of land, most of it covered with Israeli settlements and roads. This has been going on for 54 years, and it has been misrepresented for so long.'


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Features
Sat 9 Feb 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1786
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