Please visit Ali's blog and spread the her message.
Ali will be available for talks once back. Any interested contacts gratefully received.
About my role with EAPPI:
EAPPI is a World council of Churches Programme, set up in response to an appeal by the Palestinian churches in 2001 to come and see what is happening to the Palestinian population (both Muslim and Christian). EAPPI sends internationals to serve in the West Bank, providing protective presence, monitoring and reporting human rights abuses and supporting Palestinian and Israeli organisations in their non-violent efforts to end the occupation and bring about a just peace based on International law and the implementation of UN resolutions.
I am one of five internationals in the Bethlehem team. Our work covers both the urban area of Bethlehem municipality and the surrounding 41 villages - a total population of 194,000 Palestinians. We are one of eight EAPPI teams (a total of 36 EAs) working in various locations around the West Bank.
The situation is very bad in the Bethlehem governorate and across the whole of West Bank at the moment. There has been a significant increase in the number of incidents of aggression by the Israeli military and settlers against the Palestinian civilian population. My team has been submitting incident reports to the UN and others almost every day - mainly related to incidents in the villages surrounding the city. Settlement expansion continues all the time despite the so-called 'Peace talks'. People here believe this is a deliberate and orchestrated strategy by the Israeli government to incite frustration and violence from the Palestinian population so that the talks will be ended and their failure blamed on the Palestinians again. Last week three Palestinian men were shot dead in the South Hebron Hills. Some of our Palestinian friends here agree with the Israeli view that these men were involved in an violent group, but nevertheless these killings have caused huge anger across the entire Palestinian community because they were basically extra-judicial executions with no attempt at arrest or due process. The general belief here is that the killings were a part of the Israeli propaganda strategy rather than a response to an immediate threat.
There are 41 Palestinian villages in Bethlehem governorate. There are also 22 illegal Israeli settlements with up to 60,000 settlers each and dozens of settlement outposts. Almost all the villages are severely threatened by loss of land to the settlements and the route of the Segregation Wall. Some like An Nu'man are already a lost cause, totally surrounded and isolated by the Wall and settlements with all access restricted by an Israeli checkpoint. Much of the Wall has yet to be completed. It seems apparent that the Israeli authorities are waiting to finalise the wall route to allow maximum settlements expansion and land grab. It is clear that the plan is to join up these settlements with Jerusalem and this will effectively cut the West Bank in two, severing road links between north and south and cantonising the Palestinian population.
last Monday we were called to two incidents where olive trees had been destroyed. The IDF visited one farmer in the village of Al Jubba and grubbed up 93 olive saplings - the man who is the legal registered owner of the land had replanted the field for the fifth time last year. Before we had finished there we were called to Tuqu' village and arrived to find a team of settlers with chainsaws cutting down about 60 mature olive trees. The settlers were protected by a large force of soldiers and border police. We and the farmers could only look on helpless against this show of state sponsored vandalism. Our only weapons were our cameras and our pens. This was the culmination of several weeks of aggression by Israeli settlers from Teqoa settlement and called a vigilante group Women in Green, led by Nadia Matar. See my next blog for more on this.
Despite everything we continue to be amazed and inspired at the generosity of the many Palestinians we meet every day and their determination to resist non-violent. But the repeated refrain we hear from them is 'why doesn't the world care about us?'
EAPPI Bethlehem Team 50