FOLLOWING A 500-strong public meeting, councillors in Preston, Lancashire, were set to discuss an historic proposal to twin the city with the besieged Palestinian town of Nablus on Thursday of this week. The proposal is the culmination of the campaign led by Socialist Alliance councillor Michael Lavalette, who will propose the motion. It will be seconded by Labour councillor Elaine Abbott.
It is common for towns and cities in different countries to twin with each other. Councillor Lavalette explained the reasoning behind twinning with Nablus at last week's public meeting:
'The people of Nablus suffer daily from the Israeli occupation. Twinning is our way of offering the hand of solidarity and telling the Palestinian people that they and their struggle are not forgotten. If we were twinned the road signs at the entry to Preston would proudly declare 'Twinned with Nablus'. This would be a great expression of our support to all visitors to the city.'
Veteran campaigner Tony Benn and anti-war MP George Galloway are supporting the move. Galloway's message to the people of Preston read, 'More than 20 years ago, I was responsible for the twinning of my own city of Dundee with Nablus and I can assure the good people of Preston that they are acquiring a fine and noble twin.'
Supporters of the proposal say that the twinning will draw attention to the Palestinians' suffering under Israel's siege of Palestinian towns and cities. In particular, they wish to draw attention to Israel's 'apartheid wall' built on Palestinian land.
Mark Hendrick, the MP for Preston who has recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Palestine, said, 'Palestinian people are being cut off from their land at every opportunity and are having an oppressive wall built through their territory, and not around their territory as the Israelis claim.'
Local mosque leader Imam Farook Kazi has voiced support for the proposed twinning. 'Twinning will allow us to make contacts with the people in Nablus,' he said. The mayor of Nablus sent an e-mail to councillor Lavalette saying, 'Given our situation, we appreciate this kind initiative from you as an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people.'
SUFIA MAKKAN, campaign to twin Preston and Nablus
ABOUT 140 people attended York Palestine Solidarity Campaign's first public meeting. George Abendstern from Jews for Justice in Palestine gave a very informative history of Israel and Palestine.
Fatmeh Hilu, a survivor of the Sabra and Shatila massacres, gave a very moving account of her experience as a ten year old girl in the camps. Activists also spoke about their visits to the Palestinian Occupied Territories this summer.
EXETER PALESTINE Solidarity Campaign organised a bazaar of Palestinian arts and crafts for Wednesday of this week. This initiative by the newly formed group follows the West Country premiere of the film Jeremy Hardy v the Israeli Army, which was attended by over 300 people and was introduced by Jeremy.
Campaign organiser Amal Choueri says, 'We want to continue to raise awareness of the awful conditions that the Palestinian people live under.'
EXETER STOP THE WAR COALITION