Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Oxford again - 2

The other speaker at the Sabeel Conference was from Palestine, which is as it should be. 

There are places in the West Bank where the Wall does not follow the 1948-67 Israeli border but cuts deeper into occupied territory, most often where there are already Israeli settlements or where these are soon planted.  Sometimes Palestinian farmers are cut off from their fields by the Wall.

There are also places where the Palestinian farmers who cannot demonstrate documentary proof of ownership of land which their family may have farmed over generations are declared to be in illegal occupation of what is then declared ‘state land’, again land which is often settled.  Sometimes olive groves are uprooted or fired in this process. 

There is no possible bias in recording this: both Palestinians and Israelis sources would set out these facts in a similar way.

Bil’in is such a place, more widely known than most through the documentary 5 Broken Cameras.  Here Iyad Burnat (whose brother Emad filmed the footage) and a committee participate in weekly non-violent demonstrations.  He spoke quietly and determinedly about the situation and activities which the film had already shown us. 

For me, almost the most heart breaking thing was the sense of victory that the Wall had had to be moved back a short distance and the neighbouring settlement had not be allowed to grow bigger, which in the end seemed to make no realistic difference at all. 

His perspective is that the Geneva Conventions forbid the settling of civilian population in occupied territory, that farmers are deprived of their livelihood and that some external people have even been concealed in the demonstrations to throw stones and thus make them look like violent protest.  The Israeli military perspective is that no filming should even be going on in an area which has been declared a closed military area.

Meanwhile, here is the inscription on the grave of the Sisters of the Holy Childhood; I’ve read the 1911 census return for the Sister’s house and the majority of the names overlap. 

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